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The Funny Thing About Matt Reeves’ “They Live” Non-Remake

The Funny Thing About Matt Reeves' "They Live" Non-Remake

I love when bloggers open a news post with something like “I hate remakes, but…” And by love, I mean it makes me laugh. But it’s really obnoxious. Almost as bad as when movie writers confess to normally hating documentaries, “but…” Or anything else along those lines. Anyway, the latest remake exception that everyone is getting excited about is not really a remake at all. Yet it understandably helps for readers’ reference to note that Matt Reeves‘ adaptation of Ray Nelson’s short story “8 O’Clock in the Morning” is almost like a redo of John Carpenter’s “They Live,” but not really. I have no problem with this acknowledgment of an earlier, loose adaptation (which also had other origins) and how it’s great that rather than rehash that version Reeves will be going back to the source for a whole new take. It’s what is also intriguing about the “Total Recall” non-remake, though that one is sticking with the same title, for familiarity sake.

Speaking of familiar, though, I had a sense of deja vu when I heard Reeves’ statement about his new project. And not just because the film is something of a repeat.

“thing I said was that we shouldn’t remake it. I read the book too and was completely taken with it and I was really intrigued how personal the story felt […] The original film will always exist and the novel will always exist and they’ll never go away. Hopefully, this will be another telling of that story that people will respond to and give us a chance.”

That is not a new quote. It’s from an interview with Reeves at Bloody Disgusting from some point around the release of “Let Me In.” That film was sold for so long as a remake that’s not really a remake. Because both Reeves and Swedish novelist John Lindqvist kept defending the second film as being more of a “re-adaptation” of the book rather than a rehash of Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In.” Of course, in the end, Reeves worked off both the book and the first film, and the result was widely criticized for being too similar to its cinematic predecessor. Many even refer to it as a near-shot-for-shot remake. Or at least scene-for scene. There’s a major debate about what the end-product truly is over at Wikipedia, too.

Now here’s the current, similar quote from Reeves on his “8 O’Clock” project, via Deadline:

“I saw an opportunity to do a movie that was very point-of-view driven, a psychological science fiction thriller that explores this guy’s nightmare…There could be a desperate love story at the center of this. Carpenter took a satirical view of the material and the larger political implication that we’re being controlled. I am very drawn to the emotional side, the nightmare experience with the paranoia of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or a Roman Polanski-style film.”

That has me just as excited as the “Let Me In” project did, but I’m also one of the people who appreciated the significant differences between Alfredson and Reeves’ films as opposed to focusing on the similarities. I think it would be hilarious if now Reeves did the same thing with this next film. Make it resemble Carpenter’s cult classic in some ways, if only for respectful homage, but again genuinely offer up a fresh perspective with a new context. This time, of course, Reagan America can not be a new context, as it was for “Let Me In.”

If you want a jump on Reeves’ adaptation, you can read Nelson’s story here. And watch Carpenter’s film in full below:

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