Platinum Dunes polished horror’s grimy past for a new generation

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Jessica Biel looks terrified successful a car.Jessica Biel successful The Texas Chainsaw Massacre New Line / New Line

Horror buffs are not a monolith. Broach nan taxable of Rob Zombie aliases A24 pinch a group of them and you’ll spot really wide opinions tin vary. But successful nan early 2000s, location was thing connected which each card-carrying fright instrumentality seemed to work together — a caller inclination that agreed nan full genre against a communal enemy, for illustration nan monster of The Architects of Fear. If you fancied yourself a existent scary instrumentality backmost then, location was a very bully chance that you despised Platinum Dunes and its statement of slick, profitable scary remakes pinch each fibre of your being.

Founded successful 2001, Platinum Dunes was a accumulation institution by Michael Bay, head of bombastic action blockbusters for illustration Armageddon, The Rock, and Bad Boys. The business scheme was to finance Hollywood movies connected little budgets, pinch a circumstantial attraction connected horror. Though nan institution greenlit a fewer original projects successful its early days (and yet recovered caller occurrence pinch The Purge and A Quiet Place series), astir of its resources were devoted to vacuuming up nan authorities to ’70s and ’80s classics and giving them a 21st-century spit shine.

Platinum Dunes remade 5 movies successful 8 years, opening pinch Tobe Hooper’s timeless slaughterhouse nightmare The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. After its screen type of that milestone did large business successful October of 2003, Bay turned his attentions to nan bastardization of different enduringly celebrated video-store staples: nan dubiously fact-based haunted-house chiller The Amityville Horror; nan cult ’80s stranger-danger thriller The Hitcher; and 2 of nan astir milked-dry slasher franchises of them all, Friday nan 13th and A Nightmare connected Elm Street. Dunes besides recovered room for a Leatherface root story, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.

Right from nan start, these movies were reviled, critically and successful instrumentality circles. Their estimation has not improved. The Chain Saw remake, which conscionable turned 20, remains nan easiest target, acknowledgment to what it precipitated: Much of nan larger 2000s scary remake inclination — a decade of regurgitated scares, a ruthless raiding of nan genre vaults — tin beryllium traced backmost to that movie’s robust box-office performance. Likewise, nan caller Chain Saw group nan template for nan Platinum Dunes do-overs to come. The crisp, air-brushed aesthetic. The mercenary repetition of cardinal shots and scenes and jolts. The sanding down of everything gritty and outsider-art weird astir nan originals. It each started pinch Marcus Nispel’s redundant travel to nan Texas boonies.

The color-corrected look of Platinum Dunes — a much atmospheric variety connected nan sweat-coated, magic-hour glow of Bay’s ain movies — had an ironic architect: It was cinematographer Daniel Pearl, who changeable nan original Chain Saw and was brought backmost for nan remake, who projected that they tack acold distant from nan raw, snuff-film graininess of Hooper’s film. “There’s nary constituent successful making nan nonstop aforesaid movie pinch nan nonstop aforesaid look,” Pearl would say earlier nan remake’s release, and he had a point. Why trace complete a masterpiece? Of course, remaking 1 astatine each poses thing adjacent to nan aforesaid question.

The Dunes remakes don’t precisely soften their recycled material. Most of them are each spot arsenic convulsive arsenic nan grimier movies they scatter successful a caller overgarment of paint. If anything, immoderate of them are really more explicit. The 2003 Chainsaw is successful galore ways nan assaultive gorefest nan title implies, replacing nan disturbing but not particularly bloody torment of nan original pinch tons of sharply photographed carnage. The existent point astir nan remakes is that they springiness each that unit a mall-friendly polish, shooting B-movie thrills for illustration manner spreads.

You could telephone it nan Bayification of horror, isolated from pinch very small of nan abstract, kinetic, frankly lunatic kaleidoscope qualities of his headache-inducing activity — nan worldly that’s earned nan head a pursuing among connoisseurs of mainstream trash-art. Most of nan films’ directors, for illustration Nispel and David Meyers and Samuel Bayer, trim their teeth connected commercials and euphony videos, conscionable arsenic Bay had. They seemed likewise obsessed pinch aboveground effect but without Bay’s signature quick-cut freneticism. They made movies for illustration they were still trying to waste nan assemblage something.

A female confronts a man successful The Hitcher.Rogue Pictures

Narratively, nan Dunes remakes consciousness a small focus-grouped, too. They trim their slick brutality pinch weirdly sentimental revisions — small crippled points intended to appease a hypothetical multiplex audience. You tin almost perceive nan workplace notes. “Can nan Sawyer family person a cute, mutant kid, too, for illustration a small relative for Leatherface? What if Jason kidnapped beautiful women alternatively of conscionable butchering them? What if nan beleaguered leader of The Hitcher besides had a basking woman on for nan ride?”

The past of those films, by nan way, is astir apt nan worst of nan bunch. It takes a nasty oddball roadworthy movie and flattens its personality, emerging pinch a generic pod-person return on The Hitcher. Any comparison astatine each to nan original — nan astir left-field of nan Dunes acquisitions — does it nary favors. Likewise, nan Chainsaw remake would astir apt look for illustration watchable designer junk — it’s plentifulness aggravated astatine slightest — were it viewed successful a void. But it can’t flight nan protector of nan eternal gauntlet of panic it’s poorly imitating; there’s a ’70s cosplay value to it, for illustration watching models propulsion a costume party. Same pinch nan prequel.

By contrast, nan generic Amityville Horror — starring an unconvincingly superior Ryan Reynolds — benefits from rehashing a movie that was nary classical to statesman with. And though nan Friday nan 13th remake lacks immoderate of nan spirit of nan much endearingly dopey installments, it really isn’t overmuch better, worse, aliases moreover different than what came before. The F13 movies person ever been unabashedly lizard-brained. At nan very least, 1 tin constituent to a fewer bully kills successful nan remake (pity nan beautiful coed who gets a leaf done nan apical of her noggin), and isn’t that each we really inquire of Friday nan 13th?

At nan consequence of inciting a mob for illustration nan 1 that barbecues Freddy Krueger, fto it beryllium said that nan Elm Street remake is the astir absorbing of nan Dunes cycle. Yes, it lifts shamelessly from Wes Craven’s original, settling for nan stolen valor of copy-and-pasted scares — nan chamber massacre, nan gloved manus successful nan bathwater, etc. — complete doing overmuch caller successful nan dream-kill department. But it besides makes definitive nan accusation that Krueger is simply a kid molester, a queasy twist that supplies a caller benignant of dread that’s not successful Craven’s movie: Here, Freddy becomes a literal return of nan repressed, a monster rising from nan traumatized recesses of nan teens’ minds. That’s a provocative tweak and 1 that rescues this wide maligned movie from charges of purely lazy plagiarism.

Nu-Elm Street‘s intriguing edits aside, each of these movies are creatively dubious. They bring to mind tasteless remodelers, snatching up historical properties and coating complete their original molding. Or modern apparel companies trading phony “vintage” T-shirts. They make gleaming multiplex products from different era’s rougher entertainment. They are monuments to Hollywood’s deficiency of caller ideas and premier examples of commodified nostalgia.

Freddy bursts retired of nan wall successful A Nightmare connected Elm Street.New Line Cinema

There’s besides thing very 2000s astir ultra-slick popcorn movies this unpleasantly violent. Several of nan films Platinum Dunes remade felt unmistakably touched by Vietnam. The warfare is surely location successful Texas Chain Saw Massacre, pinch its grainy celluloid imagination of madness and senseless death, and successful Friday nan 13th, a image of teen bulldoze pinch viscerally anatomical gore effects by a erstwhile warfare photographer. In updating those movies for nan aughts, Platinum Dunes abstractly captured nan tone of a different wartime, a bloodthirsty modern America watching wide decease and demolition connected crisp video feeds. The remakes are for illustration processed nutrient for nan War connected Terror age.

There are galore reasons to dislike them, moreover nan ones absorbing successful their flaws. What dooms nan Dunes canon is what dooms each remakes of classics: There’s nary existent logic for them to beryllium beyond axenic workplace cannibalism. Most of them are simply needless, which is arguably worse than bad. Hatred for them nary longer seems necessary. They now look much for illustration relics than nan films they remake. They will beryllium forgotten. Fanbases will everlastingly elude them.

Most of nan Platinum Dunes remakes are streaming connected Max, if you’re into that benignant of thing. For much of A.A. Dowd’s writing, please sojourn his Authory page.