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Horrific Television: Attack of the Remakes/Re-Imaginings

The old cliché “nothing is sacred” is alive and well in the world of television. In the past few months, several new TV series have been announced that are inspired by classic horror films. As usual, I’m skeptical (big surprise). That being said, I’m also hopeful for some of the projects. All of the announced series are based on films that I included in my list of 13 Favorite Horror Films, so I want these programs to be good.

The first of these remakes I heard about is a Hannibal Lecter-based show on NBC from Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller. Daisies is a fantastic series and it was cancelled far too early during it’s run a few years ago. However, it’s not exactly dark in tone, at least not in the way you’d want a Hannibal Lecter vehicle to be dark. Also, NBC is not exactly a forum for edgy, inventive television. With the exception of a couple comedies, the network is woefully boring and predictable. I hope the brass at NBC is allowing Fuller and his team some freedom in bringing Dr. Lecter to the small-screen. Hannibal needs to be frightening and sinister with a hint of charm like the film The Silence of the Lambs, not goofy or tongue-in-cheek. I also hope the series won’t be too much of a “cop show,” procedural and bland. The word is that Hannibal will be focused on the relationship between the titular killer and investigator Will Graham (previously dramatized in Michael Mann’s so-so film Manhunter and Brett Ratner’s surprisingly good Red Dragon). If every episode merely follows Graham’s pursuits of various serial killers, I don’t think my interest will be held for very long.

More recently, the Lifetime network announced it’s developing a series following Silence of the Lambs heroine Clarice Starling. Simply titled (for the time being) Clarice, the story will chronicle Starling’s time after her graduation from the FBI academy. At the end of Silence, she is shown at the graduation ceremony where she receives a telephone call from Lecter, so I assume the series will pick up from there. Starling is a tremendous character and it might end up being a great part for whomever is cast, but there’s one problem– it’s on Lifetime. There is nothing of quality on that network, so I doubt Clarice will rise above the usual dreck.

Next up on the list of remakes is a 10 episode mini-series adaptation of The Exorcist. The word is that newcomer Sean Durkin (writer-director of last year’s exceptional indie Martha Marcy May Marlene) will be in charge of the series. The story will supposedly focus on the events leading up to young Regan’s possession, as well as the horrible aftermath. There seems to be an issue with this project, however. The novelist and writer of the original Exorcist screenplay, William Peter Blatty, claims that he has his own TV project in the works and that Durkin’s is pure fabrication. Blatty asserts that he alone maintains the rights to The Exorcist property, so any attempts to produce a project would be futile. I don’t quite know who to believe in all of this, but a mini-series from either Durkin or Blatty would certainly pique my interest. The original film is truly a work of genius, but an attempt at fleshing out more details of the story might be something special to watch.

Lastly, the film that made me an instant Hitchock devotee, Psycho, might be coming to the small screen as Bates Motel. In what seems to be a common theme in both TV and film, the show will offer the backstory of Norman Bates and shed some light on what makes the ultimate mama’s boy tick. The part that intrigues me most about this project is that it will show what kind of person Norman’s mother was and what her relationship with her lover did to her son. If this is executed properly, it could be the most chilling and engrossing of all the aforementioned series.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I am skeptical about these projects. I love each of the films these future TV shows are based on, so I want the characters and storylines to ring true. However, if each of the four series end up being absolute shit, that won’t really matter. I won’t enjoy any of the Hannibal Lecter films, The Exorcist, or Psycho any less. That’s important to keep in mind when the onslaught of remakes seem to be never-ending. They almost inevitably never measure up to the original, but who cares? Just because James Marsden and Kate Bosworth made a miserable Straw Dogs film doesn’t mean that Dustin Hoffman’s incredible work in the original ceases to exist.

Of course there is an exception to every rule– if anyone tries to remake Kubrick’s vision of The Shining I’m going to cut someone.

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