Cinema originality dying
September 18, 2006 —
I had a friend tell me the other day that The Hills Have Eyes is one of the scariest movies they've seen in a while. I was shocked. From what I saw of the previews, it looked atrocious; the original wasn't impressive and the reviews ranged from lackluster to horrible. I rented the movie and watched, roughly, the first thirty minutes. Essentially, I got to the five to ten minute grotesque rape scene and turned it off.
Horror movies of the last decade have been holistically mediocre. Every time I get my hopes up, I watch it and find myself, yet again, let down. Friends will tell me this movie or that movie was really great. I watch it, find more disappointment and think: "Maybe I'm just missing something." But, I am not. The plots are often quite similar, the killing is quite gory, the psycho killers have a remarkable likeness to each other, etc.
While, for the majority of the last decade, I have ignored this continuing push of inanity within the genre, I can no longer. Horror, in film, is often where film "artists" get their start. The horror genre has been a breeding ground for indie films. I have, in fact, seen auditions for such films in Michigan several times in the last few years. And so, my concern grows because I am beginning to see the trends from the last decade of horror films seep into mainstream movies - which is a somewhat good, but mostly very bad thing.
Indie films have been becoming much more popular over the last few years. These movies that are often considered "artsy" have worked their way into broadly successful "cult" hits. Examples of these are Garden State, Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind, and most recently Little Miss Sunshine. While on one level, this is a positive effect, on another, it is quite the opposite. Larger audience appreciation for these indie films means one thing: loss of meaning.
I've discussed Eternal Sunshine with people who don't really understand the overall concept of the film. Furthermore, the original screenplay for the movie was edited to make it more accessible, less pessimistic and - ultimately - less profound, which defeats the purpose. I can't speak for every indie movie that has been created in the last few years, but I wonder if more of them have also suffered editing because of the growing success.
That is the only double-edged effect that I've found. The other effects all seem to be negative. For instance: remakes and sequels. The horror genre is notorious for both. I understand the thought process behind "everything's been done," but, at this point, it is getting rather incessant. The Hills Have Eyes, The Omen, Amnityville Horror, House of Wax, The Ring, Pulse, and others are all remakes. Some of them remakes of previous American made films, other are remakes of foreign films.
The idea of sequels is rather self explanatory: Ocean's Twelve, Charlie's Angels 2, Disney's endless supply of sequels to every movie they have, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, etc. There was, at one point, talks of a Gladiator sequel...or prequel? When epic dramas start spawning sequels, you know there is a problem. Additionally, there have been more and more remakes as of late, and often times, remakes of movies that are only twenty years old - or sometimes less. The remaking of foreign films is seeping in as well. The Departed, due out in October, is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong crime drama Wu jian dao (Infernal Affairs).
I'm not saying that all of these films are horrible. I probably even own some of them. The issue is more that originality is slowly draining out of the world of film, and where originality is at its strongest, it is losing its overall meaning or purpose. As a Creative Writing Major, I know that being original is no easy task, but I don't intend on rewriting Lord of Flies either.