Directors remake their own films for several reasons: a bigger budget, dissatisfaction with the initial results, a chance to land a gig in the lucrative U.S. market. Add Japanese director Takashi Shimizu (whose first Hollywood movie, The Grudge, opens October 22) to the list of filmmakers in that last category. But before heading to the multiplex to see the deadly deeds happening inside a haunted house, check out Shimizu's original Japanese version of the film, Ju-on: The Grudge, which screens at the Cleveland Cinematheque this week.
And don't fault Shimizu for wanting a second chance; he's in good company. Directors have been revisiting their films since the silent era (German Paul Wegener made three versions of the Jewish fable The Golem before he got it right in 1920). Here are three prime examples:
· The Movies: The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II (1981, 1987)
The Story: A bunch of kids holed up in a cabin read from the Book of the Dead, which promptly unleashes hell on them.
Why It Was Remade: Spider-Man's Sam Raimi likes to call the second chapter of his horror trilogy a sequel, but it's really just a spruced-up remake. A bigger budget meant better special effects (love the battle with a severed hand) and better performances (star Bruce Campbell's B-movie legend was made here).
Which Is Better? There are plenty of eerie moments in the first film, but the 1987 version is faster, funnier, and more relentless with its gory imagination.
· The Movie: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934, 1956)
The Story: The manly half of a vacationing couple accidentally stumbles on information about an assassination plot. To keep him quiet, the killers kidnap his kid. A cross-country pursuit ensues.
Why It Was Remade: The granddaddy of all same-director remakes -- courtesy of fussy perfectionist Alfred Hitchcock -- began as an oh-so-British espionage thriller. Two decades later, Hitch, now an established and money-making Hollywood director, decided to revisit the tale and adorn it with lavish sets, vivid color, and Doris Day.
Which Is Better? While the original conveys paranoia and claustrophobia to a greater degree, the lush tones and more fluid direction in the remake are more on par with the master's style.
· The Movie: The Vanishing (1988, 1993)
The Story: A young woman disappears from a gas station while on vacation with her beau. When he finally tracks down her abductor three years later, he discovers the truth about her disappearance.
Why It Was Remade: When Danish director George Sluizer was given the opportunity to direct his first U.S. film, he reshot his creepy thriller as a standard seek-and-avenge flick -- without the mystery and chills that fueled the original.
Which Is Better? No contest. The original ending is a bleak conclusion to the shocker. Compare that to the remake's Hollywoodized can't-kill-the-hero ethos. Also -- there's no Kiefer Sutherland in the 1988 version.
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