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Hard Hollywood Lessons

After watching the movies Rings, and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, there is only one logical conclusion. Screenwriters think either their audience is stupid, or they have never actually watched any of the movies before writing the respective sequel.

One of the lessons Hollywood has the most difficulty learning is to just respect their audience. Countless re-boots, remakes, and franchise flops have been produced in recent decades, and most are absolute failures. The lack of success is frequently blamed on fickle audiences, critical reviews, or some other extenuating factor, but the primary culprit always evades recognition. Industry professionals either forget their original audience, or they believe their audience is comprised of idiots. It’s never the fault of those ruining the original.

For some reason, they often overreach their original accomplishments, and strive (often a little too desperately) for whatever political/moral lessons or teachings they believe they forgot to include earlier. It is unclear why they don’t simply create new works actually featuring said issues. Probably because no one actually cares or wants to hear it.

Fan bases are dedicated. They are loyal. They also know about the story, characters, and entities involved in the story. This means if it isn’t in the original, don’t force it in later. Don’t deviate from what works. Stop trying to spin the story in a different way. Just stop. No matter the motive or intent for doing so, it will come across as condescending, trite, and hapless. The audience you work so hard to amass will simply think you’re insulting them. The wheel has been invented. Fire has been discovered. Satellite maps have charted the planet. Stop decimating what has already worked. For example, many Star Wars fans do not acknowledge any installments not done by George Lucas. Why? Because the originals worked.

There are a plethora of other examples. Halloween is one such franchise. Despite the fact that the 1978 original has a solid story, strong characters, and a powerful villain, Rob Zombie completely destroyed the original mythology when he created his version. As if the first attempt wasn’t bad enough, John Carpenter, himself, has claimed he’s also going to do a reboot, and Myers will likewise no longer be a supernatural figure. Translation: nothing changes.

In the iconic original, Michael Myers came from a respectable, middle-class family. There was no logical reason for him to become the killer he was. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) saw this. He saw that Myers was indeed an evil, supernatural force. There is no question. Loomis’s dramatic fight in combating Myers left audiences wondering if the villain was human, at all. He fell out of a building, with six bullet wounds, and still walked away. Clearly, he wasn’t human.

Dr. Loomis also made a number of statements supporting the supernatural mythos.

 

(Loomis) “Just try and understand what we’re dealing with here. Don’t underestimate it.”

(Marion Chambers) “Don’t you think we could refer to it as him?”

(Dr. Loomis) “If you say so.”

 

[referring to a partially eaten dog]

(Sheriff Brackett) “A man wouldn’t do that.”

(Dr. Loomis) “This isn’t a man.”

 

(Sheriff Brackett) “No, not since 1963 when it happened. Every kid in Haddonfield thinks this place is haunted.”

(Dr. Loomis) “They may be right.”

 

(Dr. Loomis) “I met this six year old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes, the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.”

(Dr. Loomis) “He’s gone! He’s gone from here! The evil is gone!”

 

 

In essence, both Zombie and Carpenter want to create their own overly-logical version of what was never logical to begin with. Both attempts are/were destined for failure as the audience is made up of mostly fans of the original series. The professionals wanted to reinvent the wheel, and pretend it’s new, or somehow different than the countless serial killer movies done since the 1970s. Michael Myers was supernatural, even if only ambiguously so. He was impossible to kill. That was his “niche.” Reducing him to a mundane, run-of-the-mill serial killer is a death sentence for the story, and an insult to the fans.

Serial killers are never memorable without something that makes them unique. Hannibal Lecter was brilliant, sophisticated, and ate the rude. Jason Voorhees, like Myers, was also borderline supernatural, masked, and silent. Norman Bates was crazy, ran a motel, and kept his dead mother in his house. Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill, wanted apparel made from human flesh. Dexter Morgan was a law enforcement professional. Francis Dolarhyde was obsessed with William Blake in Red Dragon. Patrick Bateman was a polished Wall Street Investor. Remove any of those traits, and they fade into the standard serial killer noise. It ceases to be horror and is simply hard-core detective fiction.

Rings likewise attempted to redefine the back-story of the entity known as Samara. Fans already knew who Samara’s mother was. That was established in the second movie installment, and portrayed by Sissy Spacek. She was never the prisoner of a priest. She came to the convent when she was pregnant, where she remained when Naomi Watts went to question her. The movie was not religious. The characters were not religious. The “Evil Christian” stereotype has been in play since the 1960s, and is a hackneyed, overdone, and exhausted figure that now cheapens any work it’s in. For several decades, it’s been a go-to for lazy, unimaginative writers, or those who can’t find original means for creating character motivation.

The transformation in Resident Evil was unbelievably dramatic. The Umbrella Corporation ceased to be scientific entity and, you guessed it, was a religious conspiracy all along. It is as bad as it sounds. The back-story was likewise completely obliterated. Umbrella’s leaders, which have been subjected to the perils and dangers of the T-Virus for so many installments, were never actually subjected to the dangers of the T-Virus. In fact, these mythical “wealthy” beings have just been frozen until the cure is released. Although, nothing is ever said of how Umbrella will survive or prosper with all of its consumers gone.

So, what better to do with these shadows we know nothing about? Blow them up. Because the only thing we need to know is they are wealthy, and therefore are some kind of horrible. Because no society in existence has ever had wealthy, powerful people, and people who have more than others should automatically be exterminated. Class warfare is yet another stereotype far too frequently referenced in material, it’s poised to overtake the Evil Christian stereotype in a few years.

If this exemplifies the heights of screenwriters’ imaginations today, they should stop before they do lingering damage to any other iconic or beloved films. If you want to make your own story, make your own story. Don’t package it as a classic or popular film and expect audiences not to notice.

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