Following the announcement of a remake of David Cronenberg’s gut-wrenching body-horror ick-fest The Fly, horror fans weren’t exactly abuzz with anticipation. Remakes are generally greeted with all the enthusiasm of a fart in an elevator these days, and after the remake of other squelchy 80’s horror mainstay The Thing was as bland as an oatmeal stain on a grey tie, people aren’t holding out much hope for this one. Slated by FOX to direct is J.D. Dillard alongside scriptwriter Alex Theurer, the team behind recent fantasy drama Sleight. In an effort to allay the cynicism, Dillard recently gave an interview talking about his ideas on how to make remakes work.
Dillard’s Emphasis was on the importance of using characters as the emotional anchors for any script:
“For me – and this would be about The Fly, but this is also about Alex and my approach to remakes because post-Sleight that has been the conversation for what a lot of big flashy studio gigs are – no matter what, we want to start with character. I think if you look at a lot of remakes, and the ones that may have not been as successful as others, I think often times the wrong pieces are remade. Having this conversation about bigger projects and IP, we really want to make sure we are following a beating heart first and foremost.”
Dillard also cited The rebooted Planet of The Apes franchise as a perfect example of remake storytelling getting it right:
“We talk about Apes as one of our favorite franchise remakes because its incredible to see what pieces of those films are being remade. It’s technically the broad conceit that’s being remade, but its a deeply emotional story that carries you through the franchise. It’s so weird: even watching the trailer for the new movie that’s coming out, I can look into Caesar’s eyes and remember the first movie, and that sensation is unparalleled for a franchise reboot for me.”
These are lessons that Dillard promises to learn when it comes time for him to start work on The Fly:
“Anywhere we go it’s coming from that point of view, just that we want the beating heart of the story to be our North star. And then action, fun and scale can be piled on, but I’ve started to realize my dream film experience is something with big scale that can also make me cry. And not cry for nostalgia, but to be emotionally moved.”
It’s pretty much standard procedure these days for the director of an unpopular remake to give an interview pre-empting their critics by talking about the “challenges” of remakes in general and recognising the flaws of previous offerings. We’ve heard it all before, and while there’s nothing in Dillard’s statements that we disagree with particularly, character and emotion are central to any successful script, you just can’t get past the fact that doing a remake is the lazy, safe option.
There’s no reason these high-minded ideals couldn’t be applied to an original project. Hollywood is awash with unmade scripts begging for a talented director to take them on. We have nothing against Dillard; he seems like a good pair of hands to have on the project, and we’re sure he can do the original justice (as long as he goes easy on the CG). Just once though, it would be nice to hear an up-and-coming director give an interview and say: “I’m doing this remake because it’s garunteed to make money. Hollywood will then trust me with bigger budgets so I can get on with the stuff I’m really here to do.”