Talking Movies [Day of the Dead]: Dawn of the Dead (2004): The Director’s Cut


The Day of the Dead (or Dia de los Muertos) is a traditional Latin American holiday on which, every November 1st, the lives of deceased loved ones are celebrated with food, drink, parties, and a great deal of masquerade involving the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls). For me, this seems like the perfect excuse to look back on the long-running and ever-changing zombie genre that was largely popularised by director George A. Romero, which I devoted a great deal of my PhD thesis towards and which has often been used as a parallel to various aspects of society and culture.  


Talking Movies

Released: 25 October 2004
Originally Released: 19 March 2004
Director:
Zack Snyder
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Budget:
$26 million
Stars:
Sarah Polley, Jake Weber, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Lindy Booth, and Michael Kelly

The Plot:
When the world inexplicably descends into chaos and bloodshed following a sudden zombie outbreak, a handful of survivors are driven into the local shopping mall but, as the living dead furiously try to enter from the outside, it’s the distrust and dissension within the group that is the true threat to their survival.

The Background:
Ever since White Zombie (Halperin, 1932), zombies have long been a staple of horror cinema but their status as reanimated corpses who incessantly feed on the flesh of the living was popularised by director George A. Romero (despite Romero’s films avoiding the term “zombie”) in Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968). Not only did Night of the Living Dead inspire a vast sub-genre of horror works, the first of its five sequels, Dawn of the Dead (ibid, 1978), is largely considered one of the best and most influential zombie films of all time.

Zombies were popularised by Romero, whose works heavily influenced the genre.

Plans for a remake of Romero’s classic allegory for consumerism began with producer Eric Newman, who acquired the rights to the film and aimed to reimagine it for a younger, modern audience. The remake was written by James Gunn and marked Zack Snyder’s directorial debut, and separated itself from the original by increasing the speed and ferocity of its flesh-eating ghouls. While many often decry remakes, many of the most popular and iconic films are remakes and Dawn of the Dead proved to be a commercial success by grossing over $100 million at the box office. Though some regarded the film unfavourably upon release, an extended director’s cut was released on DVD later that same year and the remake earned some notable cult success and is often regarded as being just as good as the original.

The Review:
Like any good, self-respecting zombie film, Dawn of the Dead offers the merest glimpse of life before the outbreak before everything mysteriously and hideously goes to hell. Ana Clark (Polley) is an underappreciated and overworked nurse who, fatigued by her long hours, is more concerned with going home to her husband, Louis (Louis Ferreira), and her nice, normal suburban life than worrying about bite victims being admitted to the intensive care unit and emergency news bulletins.

Ana wakes up to find her normal, everyday suburban life has descended into violence and chaos.

As a result, when she awakens the next day, Ana is horrified to find that a local neighbourhood girl, Vivian (Hannah Lochner) has become a rabid, animalistic cannibal; she viciously attacks Louis, taking a chunk out of his neck and, though Ana tries to stop the geyser of blood, she’s unable to get through to the hospital and Louis chokes to death on his own blood…only to immediately return to life and attack her! Distraught and running on pure adrenaline, Ana is able to scramble her way out of the house…only to find her peaceful little neighbourhood has descended into violence and anarchy; fires rage all over the area, car crashes, explosions, and wrecks are everywhere, and the equally desperate and terrified victims of these animalistic zombies pose just as much of a threat as the undead.

Rhames delivers a solid performance as the surprisingly complex Kenneth.

Stunned by a car crash and overwhelmed by shock and fear, Ana is little more than a zombie herself when she comes across the shotgun-toting Kenneth Hall (Rhames); a big, sombre man who is just looking to reunite with his brother. Although he joins up with the main group of survivors, Michael (Weber), Andre (Phifer), and his pregnant wife, Luda (Inna Korobkina), and accompanies them to the nearby mall (which offers a modicum of protection from the rabid undead and a whole host of creature comforts to sustain them), he initially wishes only to check on his brother but quickly realises that no one is coming to help them and that they must work together to survive. Of all the characters in the film, Kenneth is easily my favourite; an intimidating figure with a no-nonsense attitude and a deep, gravelly voice, Rhames is great in the role and is much more than mere muscle as his character has a real depth of emotion and a significant arc where he comes to view his fellow survivors as his surrogate family.

Michael plays peacemaker and offers logical, practical solutions to keep everyone safe.

However, the mall is currently claimed as sanctuary by three security guards – C.J. (Kelly), Bart (Michael Barry), and Terry (Kevin Zegers) – who aggressive oppose the taking in of additional bodies and a reluctant, frosty truce is force between the two groups Michael, a former television salesman, attempts to keep the peace and bring some kind of organisation to the group; he’s not looking to give orders or be a leader but merely comes up with logical suggestions for the others, which are generally adhered to for their practicality. Kenneth, at first, stoically rebukes him and he’s able to appeal to C.J.’s ego and sway him into helping them by coming up with good ideas and attributing them to him, thus positioning him as a paper leader. Constantly adaptable and something of a father figure, Michael becomes close with Ana but their attempts at romance are hampered by the greater problems facing the group. Though lacking in formal training and physical stature, Michael is pretty handy in a tight spot and, thanks to his will to survive and adaptability, is able to kill his fair share of zombies when the moment calls for it and is the first to actively stand up to C.J. during a tense confrontation on the roof.

C.J. goes from a stubborn antagonist to a pivotal ally willing to risk his life to get others to safety.

C.J. is, initially, the film’s secondary antagonist after the zombies; ruled by his fear of the undead and paranoia, he stubbornly holds on to his fragile authority and begrudgingly assists the other survivors on the understanding that they will leave the mall as soon as possible, even locking them up to keep them from stealing stuff. While Bart has a perverse fascination with the undead and follows C.J.’s orders to the letter, Terry is far more reluctant but, while C.J. is a hard-ass when the others first encounter him, he eventually becomes a trusted and valuable ally, covering their escape, putting himself at risk to save others, and even sacrificing himself so that the others can escape. While an obnoxious and detestable character when he’s first introduced, C.J. became another favourite of mine through his redemptive arc; after being decked my Michael and humbled by being locked up with Bart, his attitude shifts noticeably and he becomes a pivotal ally in the film’s chaotic third act.

The survivors are forced to form a fragile society and work together.

Soon, the group is joined by a number of other survivors: Andy (Bruce Bohne) is trapped on the roof of his gun shop across the road and slowly starving to death and communicates with the main protagonists using writing, leading to a brief bit of entertainment amidst the chaos where he plays chess with Kenneth and they shoot zombies who resemble celebrities. A truckload of other survivors upset C.J. when they crash into the mall, which brings a diverse quasi-society to the mall and, with the zombies kept at bay, the survivors begin to bond, with Terry and Nicole (Booth) sparking up a mutual attraction and Steve Markus (Burrell) acting as a tertiary antagonist with his pessimistic and cynical attitude. The others are little more than shellshocked cannon fodder who exist to share stories of their lives before the world fell apart, stories of their experiences of the outbreak, and fall victim to zombie bites and attacks.

The Nitty-Gritty:
As in Romero’s original films, there is no explanation given for the zombie outbreak and the word “zombie” is never used; newscasters and governmental and scientific minds are baffled by the sudden outbreak and the closest we get to an explanation for the horrific events that unfold is from a televangelist (Ken Foree in a welcome cameo) who believes that “when there is no more room in Hell, the dead shall walk the Earth”. Like most zombie films, the cause and prevention of the outbreak takes a backseat as the survivors concentrate mainly on just that: survival.

Zombies are fast, aggressive, and dangerous monsters driven purely by instinct and hunger.

Like the Infected in 28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002), the undead in Dawn of the Dead are fast-moving, aggressive, and animalistic creatures; although the source of the outbreak is unknown, the virus is transmitted through bites: a single bite will kill the victim and then almost immediately reanimate them into a near-mindless cannibals. The only way to stop the zombies is to shoot them in or otherwise destroy their head; anything less results in them relentlessly pursuing their prey or becoming what is known as a “Twitcher” (where they simply thrash around in manic spasms). The zombies work purely on instinct, seeking out warm, fresh meat and guided by vestiges of memory to places they frequented in life, such as the mall, though they show no signs of intelligence or problem solving and simply throw themselves ceaselessly at their victims until they succeed or fall down. Even a single zombie poses a significant threat thanks to their incredible speed, strength, and ferocity but they are even more dangerous in large groups, where they resemble little more than a sea of blood-stained, mangled corpses bent on feasting on living flesh.

The threat of a zombie’s bite is the source of much tragedy and suffering for the few survivors.

The inevitability of death from a zombie bite is a source of great tension and tragedy in the film; when Ana first theorises on the bite being the source of the infection, Michael pragmatically decides that it is best for any amongst them who have been bitten to be immediately executed, which brings him into brief conflict with Ana. Ultimately, he chooses not to kill Frank (Matt Frewer) in cold blood and instead allows him to die peacefully and be put out of his undead misery by Kenneth. Similarly, the revelation and horror of the bite’s potency drives Andre into a deep denial; he starts to brush off offers for help from Ana and the others and his obsessive desire to keep Luda safe, even when she’s succumbed to her infection, leads to his death when he desperately tries to keep his little monster baby from harm.

Tensions, fear, and paranoia is high but, eventually, the survivors come together as a unit.

While the original film was largely an allegory for consumerism and greed and held a mirror up to a society that was already a form of brainwashed zombies thanks to advertising and excess, the remake is more concerned with the survivors indulging in excess once they establish a delicate, makeshift society. Tensions, paranoia, and fear are high because of the gruesome events unfolding around them but, with C.J. and Bart locked up and isolated from the group, the remaining survivors quickly bond and share their life stories and experiences. Eventually, C.J. becomes a part of the group when Bart is attacked and helps them to fortify a couple of buses to take them away from the mall when they realise that it’s just a matter of time before more of the zombies breach their defences.

The remake is more action-packed and gruesome than the original but no less allegorical.

This is, primarily, where Dawn of the Dead separates itself from the original (for the better, in my opinion): it’s much more action-packed, the pace is much faster, and the gore is far more ghastly (Bart, for example, is attacked by a zombie that’s missing its legs and scrambles along an overhead pipe!) Nowhere is this seen more in their desperate escape from the mall in their spruced-up vehicles, which, for all their efforts, are nearly toppled over by the zombie hoards and one is easily overturned by the presence of a single zombie. Tension definitely ramps up when the group leaves the safety of the mall as, exposed out in the open, they are constantly at risk even when no zombies are around and, in the film’s last frantic minutes, they lose more of their group in their escape than they arguably would have if they had stayed put and tried to fortify the mall.

The Summary:
I’ve watched a lot of zombie films in my time; I’ve seen all of George A. Romero’s movies and researched the genre, and the concept, extensively for my PhD. However, as much as I respect and admire his influence on the genre, I can’t say that I’m really that big a fan of his films; yet, while I feel that they haven’t really aged all that well, the allegorical messages and subliminal horror of his zombie films remains as relevant as ever (if not more so given the state of the world these days), it’s just let down a bit by the pacing. As a result, I am a big fan of the Dawn of the Dead remake; it’s grittier, much more action-packed, and the effects are far more convincing and horrific. While zombie purists may decry the faster, more aggressive zombies, I actually much prefer it since it makes for a much more frightening and formidable creature; plus, they do shamble and shuffle along when converging on the mall and only explode in a burst of speed and ferocity when flesh is nearby. Best of all, the film retains Romero’s trademark bleak undertones not just in Andre’s macabre fate but also the conclusion of the film, which sees characters both beloved and obnoxious giving their lives so that the few that remain can survive only for them to meet what appears to be a horrific end during the end credits.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Are you a fan of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead? How do you think it compares to the original and other zombie movies? Do you like fast-moving, aggressive zombies or do you prefer the traditional, shambling, more allegorical depiction of the undead? What do you think caused the zombie outbreak and how do you think you would react in such a scenario? Which of the characters was your favourite and which death affected you the most, if any? What is your favourite zombie film and what do you think of the genre in general? How are you celebrating the Day of the Dead today? Whatever your thoughts on Dawn of the Dead, and zombie films in general, feel free to leave a comment down below.

10 FTW: Surprisingly Good Horror Remakes

We’ve heard it all a thousand times by now: “when will Hollywood stop with the remakes!?”, “Why can’t Hollywood come up with new ideas!?”, “Remakes suxxorz1!!” Honestly, while some films should never be re-made and some remakes do baffle the mind, remakes aren’t the plague of cinema that a lot of people like to think they are. In fact, some are pretty damn good.

If you’re one of those bleeding heart Twitter people, though, who just like to decry remakes in general, maybe you should take a moment to consider this small list of horror remakes that are not only surprisingly good but, in some cases, actually surpass their originals:

Halloween
10 Halloween (Zombie, 2007)

We’re kicking things off with quite the controversial choice here. I’ll argue until the end of time that John Carpenter’s Halloween (Carpenter, 1978) is the forefather of all modern horror, particularly the slasher genre. It’s a subtle, atmospheric piece with a fantastic, mysterious antagonist and the truly frightening prospect that random unspeakable acts of horror can happen in a suburban environment. Rob Zombie’s take, however, is a loud, frenetic, uncomfortably gruesome take on the property. Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch/Tyler Mane) is an incredibly disturbed young boy from a violent and abusive family who becomes a remorseless, emotionless, unstoppable tank of a killing machine. Zombie delves right into his own take on Michael’s backstory, presenting in grotesque detail the exact events that turn Michael into a nigh-supernatural killer.

In many ways, the initial focus of the film acts as a kind of prequel to the events of Carpenter’s original, as the remainder of the film’s runtime is devoted to recreating Michael’s killing spree in Haddonfield, with the primary difference being that nearly the entirety of the film is told from Michael’s perspective. Sure, Malcolm McDowell, great as he is, cannot hope to compete with the fantastic Donald Pleasence but the film is bolstered by the incredibly cute Scout Taylor-Compton (who is arguably more attractive and relatable to modern audiences than Jamie Lee Curtis) and even appearances by Brad Dourif and Danielle Harris (and what an appearance hers is!) While it’s unlikely to be as iconic or influential as Carpenter’s benchmark film, for those who find the original and its sequels dated and slow, Rob Zombie’s remake is a much-needed kick up the ass that, for better or worse, dragged Halloween kicking and screaming out of obscurity.

Poltergeist
9 Poltergeist (Kenan, 2015)

I know, right? How could Hollywood ever even entertain the idea of remaking Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg’s 1982 horror classic? Well, they did, and don’t be mistaken; it’s not actually that bad. While it lacks probably my favourite scene from the original, where corpses rise from the Freeman’s unfinished swimming pool, the remake is just as terrifying and engaging as the original, with the added bonus of having a modern-day make-over that is far more accessible than the now-dated original. Don’t get me wrong, the original is still a classic, but Sam Rockwell and Kennedi Clements put in some great performances, easily on par with those of Craig T. Nelson and the late JoBeth Williams. Did Poltergeist necessarily need a remake? Probably not, and the fact that numerous haunted house stories since the original have all pulled from or mirrored Hooper’s seminal horror classic probably didn’t help to differentiate Kenan’s new take on the property, but I feel it’s a largely misrepresented film that is nowhere near as bad as some people think.

It
8 It (Muschietti, 2017)

Although I spoke about this film quite recently, it is deserving enough to make this list. Watching Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 miniseries, great as it is and as amazing as Tim Curry’s performance in that is, you can’t help but think that Stephen King’s novel deserved to be told without the restraints of a television miniseries. Focusing exclusively on the child side of King’s story, and bringing the events forward to the 1980s rather than the 1950s, Muschietti adheres closely to King’s text while still putting his own spin on events. Bill Skarsgård’s take on Pennywise is suitably unsettingly and otherworldly; what he lacks in Curry’s charisma he more than makes up for by being genuinely creepy and a fearsome menace. Muschietti also focuses on the friendship and troubles of his child protagonists incredibly well, anchoring them to the film’s central narrative and allowing King’s themes of childhood and loss of innocence to play out beautifully. With a lengthy runtime and concluding on a fantastic tease for a second chapter, this new version of It, while not without its issues (primarily regarding screen time for the many characters), did not disappoint in realising the gruesome potential that the miniseries could only hint at.

7 Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)

Released at the peak of Hollywood’s new-found fondness for zombie films in the early-to-mid-2000s, largely spearheaded by 28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002) and the God-awful Resident Evil (Anderson, 2002) and its decent-enough sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse (ibid, 2004), Zack Snyder’s remake of George A. Romero’s massively-influential 1978 film of the same name takes the general themes and premise of its source material and ramps them up with some incredible action, grotesque gore effects, and a much-needed modern day gloss. While zombie purists may lament the inclusion of the fast-moving, animalistic undead introduced in 28 Days Later, Snyder’s rapid editing and penchant for style over substance make the creatures more vicious and scary than in Romero’s original film. With some great supporting performances by the likes of Ving Rhames and Michael Kelly (and even a brief cameo by Ken Foree, repeating his iconic line from the original film), Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is a non-stop masterpiece of zombie cinema that never slows down to the snail’s pace that Romero’s introspective original prefers to adopt.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
6 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Nispel, 2003)

One of the primary reasons I was inspired to make this list, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974) was a film that desperately needed this remake! Seriously, the original might have been shocking and gruesome at the time but, since then, it has not aged well; it’s a slow, dull piece of cinema that drags on way too long, with questionable acting and a lifeless soundtrack. The only redeeming quality comes from the maniacal Sawyer family, and even they are a hooting, loud bunch of camp. Produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, which would go on to be responsible for a variety of horror remakes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is much better than it had any right to be. With an uncomfortable gradient, shocking soundtrack, and even some decent performances by Jessica Biel and Eric Balfour, Nispel’s remake downplays the cannibalistic nature of the franchise in favour of grotesque torture-porn levels of horror.

While the film reintroduces Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski), one of horror’s most iconic figures, and even suggests a tragic backstory for the character, Nispel’s Chainsaw brought us one of the most despicable and significant horror icons in years in the form of Sherriff Hoyt (masterfully embodied by the great R. Lee Ermey). Hoyt, a tobacco-chewing, foul-mouthed sadist, drives the plot of this remake, raises its quality to another level, and his popularity was arguably responsible for the equally-enjoyable prequel, The Texas Chain saw Massacre: The Beginning (Liebesman, 2006). On a side note, though, am I the only one shocked that, including remakes and reimaginings, the Chainsaw franchise is made up of eight separate movies? Crazy!

The Blob
5 The Blob (Russell, 1988)

Now we’re getting somewhere! Irvin Yeaworth’s original 1958 film, starring Steve McQueen, was a campy piece of B-movie mush that has come to resemble a comedy more than a science-fiction piece. Channelling the likes of David Cronenberg and John Carpenter, Chuck Russell’s reimagining, however, takes the story of the bulbous alien lifeform to far more grotesque levels. Incorporating some incredibly disgusting practical effects, the population of a small town is literally dissolved by the titular amoeba. Although some of the composite shots are obviously dated by today’s standards, an entirely CGI rendition of the Blob would probably have aged incredibly poorly by now. Instead, The Blob retains a level of camp in its premise but, with its gruesome effects and no-nonsense attitude, is a great example of how effective and impactful practical effects can be.

Friday the 13th
4 Friday the 13th (Nispel, 2009)

We’re back with Marcus Nispel and Platinum Dunes for this masterfully well-crafted remake of not only the original 1980 classic but, also, the first three sequels. Similar to Halloween, for those who find the original movies to be dated and cut-and-pasted, by-the-numbers slasher films with very little to differentiate them from each other until Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (Steinmann, 1985) then this is the film for you! In fact, I often encourage newcomers to the franchise to watch this film and then jump straight to Jason Lives! Friday the 13th Part VI (McLoughlin, 1986); not because the continuity would tie together but, by doing that, you watch one kick-ass film with loads of gratuitous mid-2000s sex (which is far more graphic, enjoyable, and realistic than sex scenes from the 1980s) and horror imagery that sums up the first four entries of the franchise incredibly well and then you can delve into the enjoyable nonsense of zombie Jason Voorhees.

Beginning with the brutal decapitation of Mrs. Voorhees (Nana Visitor) and detailing how Jason (Caleb Guss/Derek Mears) witnessed her murder and grew up alone in the wooded forests of Camp Crystal Lake, as well as detailing Jason’s transformation from the lesser-known burlap sack look to the now-iconic hockey mask, Friday the 13th is filled with some incredibly gruesome kills as Jason uses bear traps, snares, and other tricks to entrap and kill hapless teenagers all over the shop. Add to that some strong performances by Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, and Jared Padalecki and you have an intense, non-stop horror film that, like Jason, comes at you a mile a minute. Honestly, the only bad thing I have to say about this film is that, despite making $92.7 million on a budget of $19 million, we never saw a sequel; even Rob Zombie’s Halloween got a shitty sequel!

The Thing
3 John Carpenter’s The Thing (Carpenter, 1982) and The Thing (Heijningen Jr, 2011)

Here’s some more controversy for you: I actually liked Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s version of The Thing. It starred Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who I absolutely adore, and, while marketed as a remake, was actually, ingeniously, a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 horror/sci-fi classic. Based exclusively on a brief scene from Carpenter’s film, van Heijningen Jr’s The Thing details how a Norwegian research team unearth an extraterrestrial craft and unwittingly awaken a shape-changing, parasitic alien lifeform and concludes with the survivors attempting to hunt down and eliminate the creature’s final form, which leads directly into the beginning of Carpenter’s The Thing.

Drawing loosely from both Christian Nyby’s 1952 B-movie classic The Thing From Another World! and the story that inspired it, Who Goes There? (Campbell, 1938), John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the quintessential examples of the effectiveness of practical special effects to the horror genre. Kurt Russell and Keith David lead the charge when their small Antarctic outpost is slowly assimilated by the titular alien creature, leaving the survivors to descend into distrust and anarchy as they struggle to fight off the ever-growing menace both outside and within their number. Carpenter’s film features some truly incredibly moments of practical effects wizardry, from a torso sprouting razor sharp teeth, to a severed head growing spider-like appendages and a dog literally splitting in two as tentacles blast out from its head; yet, while its similarly-impressive practical effects were tampered with in post-production, I never felt like Heijningen Jr’s The Thing was sub-par to Carpenter’s film. Instead, it works amazing well as a companion piece, allowing one to binge-watch both movies side-by-side and be suitably entertained.

Evil Dead
2 Evil Dead (Alvarez, 2013)

Similar to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Sam Raimi’s landmark 1981 horror film The Evil Dead was in desperate need of a remake. Sure, the stop-motion, puppetry, and practical effects were great considering the limited time and budget Raimi had available to him but, over time, neither they nor the acting have aged incredibly well. In fact, for me, Evil Dead II (Raimi, 1987), which retells the events of the original in its opening moments, already surpassed Raimi’s original film by leaps and bounds: Ash (epitomised by Bruce Campbell) is a far more capable, well-rounded character, the effects are much better, and the film adopts a quirky style of black comedy that was sorely missing in the original. Fast forward to 2013 and, rather than attempt to emulate Raimi’s black comedy style, Fede Alvarez approaches his remake with an intense seriousness.

The horror is brutal and horrendous to look at; there’s no laughing deer heads here. Instead, characters saw their arms off, are attacked by nail guns, get beaten by crowbars, and are forced to tear their arms off at the elbow in gruesome fashion. The plot is largely the same, with a group of largely likeable characters accidentally awakening an ancient evil, but the stakes are much higher; here, the evil seeks to take on a physical form and bring about the apocalypse whereas in Raimi’s original film it simply wanted to claim the souls of those trapped in the cabin. While it lacks a character as iconic as Ash, Evil Dead makes up for it with some truly difficult to watch moments that are both sickening and perversely entertaining; even Raimi’s controversial tree rape scene is included and utilised in a far more effective and plot-relevant way and that alone is reason enough to place this film over the original, in my view.

The Fly
1 The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986)

This is it, the quintessential argument that not all remakes are bad and that they can, in some cases, vastly surpass their originals. While Kurt Neumann’s 1958 film of the same name may be closer to the original story and is still a pretty decent piece of 1950s science-fiction, despite its now campy tone, Cronenberg took the idea of a man teleporting himself with a fly and took it to whole new levels. Before, the man bore the head and arm of the fly as a result of the accident and slowly deteriorated into madness; here, though, thanks largely to an absolutely stellar performance by the always-amazing Jeff Goldblum, Cronenberg details the physical and mental degradation of his main character, Seth Brundle, in painstakingly brutal detail. Brundle, a brilliant scientist, initially embraces his newfound physical attributes before realising that he has been stricken by an infection on a cellular level not unlike AIDS or cancer. Soon, his body deteriorates at an alarming rate, with top-notch special effects being employed to make Goldblum practically unrecognisable through heavy make-up and full-body prosthetics.

As he alienates those around him, Brundle’s mind also begins to depreciate; initially desperate to reverse the effects, he soon comes to believe that he was never a man to begin with and prepares a gruesome legacy for himself whereby he will merge his crippled body with that of his lover (a strong, heartwrenching performance by Geena Davis) and his unborn child. In the process, he not only dissolves his rival’s hand and foot with corrosive fly vomit but literally bursts out of the remains of his decrepit human skin to emerge as a grotesque fly-like creature, before finally, tragically, forcing his lover to end his torment. The Fly transcends boundaries; it is a horrific tale of science gone wrong, a body horror with terrifying consequences but, at its heart, it is also an extremely tragic love story. Cronenberg did what many fail to do with their remakes; he took the original concept and not only put his own spin on it but also transformed it into something entirely separate from the source material and yet vastly superior to it in many ways.

Arguably, remakes like A Nightmare on Elm Street (Bayer, 2010) (which attempted to put a unique spin on the franchise and ended up becoming a carbon-copy retelling of Wes Craven’s seminal 1984 original), Total Recall (Wiseman, 2012), RoboCop (Padilha, 2014) could really learn a thing or two from The Fly, and many of the remakes on this list. If you’re going to remake a movie, don’t just retread the same material as before; go back to the source, back to the text, and either produce a more faithful adaptation or extrapolate the core themes and general premise and produce a great movie, rather than a simple, insulting cash-grab.