Hollywood needs to get its head examined. The Hollywood Reporter says that StudioCanal wants to revisit Nicolas Roeg’s psychosexual horror classic “Don’t Look Now” from 1973. The Picture Company’s Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman, the coveted duo behind the upcoming “Escape From New York” and “Robin Hood” remakes, are already on the market for a studio home. No writer is attached, but THR reports that “studios are already expressing interest.”
I can’t think of a worse idea. What will it look like, to take one of the most scandalizing (and perfect) art films of the 1970s, and strip it down to PG-13 horror movie fast food? Roeg’s British original is famous not only for its jaggedly cut sex scene, with lots of armpit-licking and generously displayed cunnilingus, but also its very-’70s, charmingly dated experimental film aesthetic. It was as if Roeg was discovering the medium for the first time, throwing in Euro-style jump cuts, scenes-within-scenes, narrative loop-de-loops, lurid colors and a hopeless ending in the shadows of a watchtower that spits in the face of audience expectations. As a portrait of a broken couple (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) ambling through rabbit-warren Venice after the death of their child, the film’s searing depiction of loss cuts deep.
Will the project actually make it off the ground, or remain in horror reboot limbo? Precedent doesn’t bode well. Warner Bros. is still struggling to remake “Gremlins” again (again). That long-gestating “Rosemary’s Baby” film remake under Michael Bay fell through — phew — before ultimately going to Polish auteur Agnieszka Holland for a four-hour NBC miniseries starring Zoe Saldana that fell flat last Spring.
The way to do it, if they must, could be to go back to the original source material — in this case, a Daphne du Maurier short story — and expound upon it in event series form. (Italy is doing this for a television revamp of Dario Argento’s stylish cult film “Suspiria.”) No one needs another feature version of “Don’t Look Now,” just as they didn’t need remakes of “Carrie,” “The Omen,” “Pulse,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Psycho.” (“The Ring” and “Let Me In” were exceptions, lifted artfully from foreign horror pictures.) In May, we’re getting another “Poltergeist.” The endless recycling of titles only serves to underscore the sorry state of originality in Hollywood, and its commitment to taking the lowest possible road. For the record, over 100 remakes have been made since 2003.
At the recent Riviera Maya Film Festival, “Gremlins” director Joe Dante spoke out against this trend. “[Studios] are so conservative about what they make because if it’s already made, they’ll make it again… Did we really need another ‘RoboCop’? There was nothing wrong with the first movie. Why make another one? Because it’s a famous title and because they thought they could squeeze some money out of it,” he said. “More often than not these remakes don’t work. I think you’re going to see a lot of upheaval, and a lot of changes in the next few years to a point where the studio system as we know it, which is completely broken, will have to rediscover itself.”
In the meantime, check out Criterion’s beautiful restoration of “Don’t Look Now” on Blu-ray.
Ryan Lattanzio is the staff writer for TOH at Indiewire. Follow him on Twitter.