Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s: Why Don’t They Do It Like They Used To?, by David Roche
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
335 pages, Kindle Edition
Published February 2014
As a big fan of horror movies and someone who agrees with the sentiment that the originals made in the 1970s were more disturbing (and simply put ‘better’) than the remakes of the 2000s, I happily requested a chance to read this. Seeing the publisher is an academic press I figured it would have an academic tone, but didn’t quite expect the degree to which this is an academic treatment. Its main weakness in terms of appeal is thus that it has portions that are incredibly detailed and dry. Nonetheless, for what it sets out to accomplish, this study does a fine job and will have appeal to certain audiences, particularly certain sections.
The opening chapter serves as an introductory overview or summary to the work as a whole, covering the ‘question’ of the study, the approach to address it, and a brief summary of the author’s conclusions. The next chapters then contain analysis of the films that are considered in their broad purposes and interpretations. These are the chapters that are going to be of the most interest to an average horror movie buff. Even if you have seen all the originals and the remakes several times over, I suspect that there will still be interesting insights raised, particularly to interpretations of aspects of the films, that you may not have considered before.
Having already viewed the films helps. I’ve seen them all save for the Dawn of the Dead films (though I have seen the original “Night of the Living Dead” which comes up in discussion as well). I found myself skipping even the general analyses of the Romero film and its remake then, both because references were unfamiliar to me and I didn’t want some aspects of the story ‘spoiled’. I’ve seen “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” however, countless times, and appreciated its discussions greatly. To be fair, many of the analyses of this section are not Roche’s per se, but summaries and responses to a previous academic study on the topic he is taking up here.
The latter part of the book is taken up with chapters that go into increasing detail into the construction aspects of each film (most interesting to me discussion of the film scores), eventually becoming a literal shot-by-shot summary comparison and analysis between the films. These sections, being less about the plot as much as the process of making the horror films, would be of tremendous interest to anyone wanting to create a work of ‘horror’. Even discussing what the term ‘horror’ means and how that compares to ‘terror’ or other concepts, these chapters are noteworthy of interest not just to those wanting to film horror, but even to those who strive to write a work of horror or suspense.
So, although academic, there is plenty here for a general audience, particularly if reading selective sections. For the horror fan, it may even re-inspire you to watch some titles, as it did for me. Out of all the remakes, Roche appears to look most favorably on Rob Zombie’s Halloween. I recall thinking it had the strongest voice, but was more “Rob Zombie” than “Halloween”, truly his take on it, which had led me to really dislike the movie. With time and consideration of Roche’s book I think it is the one film worth reconsidering now with time of having some merit despite being a less ‘disturbing’ remake.