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Remake THIS!! Moriarty Learns That Roy Lee And Stephen Susco Hold A GRUDGE!!

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

First, a quick correction. Johnny Butane, one of the mutants over at CHUD appendage Creature Corner, wrote to let me know that my rage about Ryan Phillippe being cast as Leatherface in the new Michael Bay-produced remake of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was misplaced, since it was an April Fool’s Day joke that got picked up as real news by several other outlets.

Thank freakin’ god.

I also want to follow up on one of the other stories I wrote last time. I brought up the particular case of Vertigo Entertainment, a company I was unfamiliar with.

I was pretty stern in my disapproval of part of the business model as described by Michael Fleming in his original article. Vertigo is the company founded by Roy Lee and Doug Davison that has been busily acquiring the international ancillary rights to films from various Asian markets, setting them up to be remade by the major American studios even before a western audience has a chance to see the original films.

Much to my surprise, I got an e-mail from Roy Lee, spurred initially by my complaint that I hadn’t seen IL MARE, the film that was announced by VARIETY, triggering my article in the first place. Roy offered to let me see the original if I was interested, and said he’d like to talk to me.

Normally, when I write a piece in which I’m critical of someone, or I raise pointed questions about a project in which they are involved, they end up becoming way too defensive way too quick. I didn’t know enough about Vertigo last time to condemn them or not. I read that one Michael Fleming piece, and I reacted by asking questions. By wondering aloud.

And Roy Lee took the time to answer. He invited me to drop by the Vertigo offices in the Miramax building, and was so unflappably friendly that I decided that I had to go over and take a look at what he was up to. I figured at the very least, I’d get a copy of a Korean film I was interested in seeing. Sounded okay to me.

It was a Sunday afternoon when I managed to find the time to steal away. The building was pretty much empty. Roy greeted me dressed casually, to say the least. He’s young, one of those guys who could be anywhere from 25 to 40, but who still looks like a college guy just kicking it. As soon as I was in the office, he slapped a stack of five movies on the desk. I recognized a few of them as films that have either been set up already for remakes (IL MARE, CHAOS) or that have been generating buzz already (DARK WATER).

Actually, CHAOS was in the process of being set up as I was there, talking with Roy. He told me that Robert De Niro and Benecio Del Toro were both attached to the film, playing a man whose wife is kidnapped and the kidnappers, respectively. The original, KAOSU, was directed by Hideo Nakata, the same director who made DARK WATER and RING. The remake of RING, of course, is set for release later this year by Dreamworks. KAOSU, released originally in Japan in 1999, was pretty much an experiment by the director, a DV feature that didn’t really have a third act because it was never fully finished. Even so, the set up managed to intrigue Universal enough to get it picked up. There’s some interesting writers circling the property now, and we’ll see what creative team ends up eventually attached.

In the meantime, Roy’s gearing up with another film property that is actually about to be taken out and offered to the studios, and I was given a peek at the material early. Writer/director Stephen Susco, who is working with Roy to develop this mysterious and disturbing project, showed up to work on the translated subtitles for the presentation tape that’s going out this week sometime, and after he described the basic premise of the piece to me, he invited me to sit and watch a few sequences.

I’m still not sure if I’m glad I did or not.

Hiroshi Takahashi was the screenwriter of the original RING, and he’s been busy working on a television show. Only two episodes of it exist so far, but Vertigo Entertainment stepped in to work with Takahashi to not only develop it into an original Japanese feature, but also to co-develop the American version at the same time.

The project is called GRUDGE.

And chances are, it will fuck you up.

”We want to do something that you can’t shake off, that you can’t just forget about after two hours in the theater,” Susco said to me, his enthusiasm infectious. He’s a long time horror fan, just like Roy is, and as I spoke with them about their approach to horror, I was greatly encouraged.

The premise is simple: there’s a house in a Japanese neighborhood where something took place, something so awful that there is an energy that hangs about, a malevolent rage that has no focus. It’s so toxic, so violently furious, that anger begins to spread through the neighborhood like a virus, causing truly disturbing incidents to take place with anyone who has even a glancing interaction with the house. There’s no Freddy Krueger, no wisecracks, nothing campy or silly.

Instead, there are sequences of stark, brutal horror that shocked me with their intensity. I saw two scenes from the film, and even out of context, they were enough to rattle me. If someone is smart enough to give Susco a low budget and simply let him go away and remake this movie with an unknown American cast, he could well come up with something that will scare people in a way they aren’t used to being scared by a movie. This has a chance at being something truly, memorably terrifying.

”But wait,” you say. “Wasn’t Roy Lee the enemy just last week?” No. Not really. I was deeply concerned about the idea that none of the films he’s optioned would ever make their way into release in the U.S., but that’s not true at all. Instead, Lee seems to genuinely believe that his remakes will pave the way for viewers to seek out and see the originals, which will have various releases, all depending on name recognition.

I ended up talking with Michael Barker, one of the heads of Sony Pictures Classics, when I was at the Ebertfest this past weekend (my travel diary is forthcoming), and one of the things we talked about was the real costs entailed in any sort of release, even a limited one, and the returns that exist for certain niche markets. It infuriates fans of Asian films to hear “there’s no audience” from distributors regarding their beloved originals, but in some cases... hell, in most cases... it’s true. There have been some great, brilliant Asian films that have gotten decent releases in recent memory, that had excellent reviews, that ended up simply making no money. It takes a strong marketing campaign to even get the audience to recognize the title of a foreign film in many cases.

With GRUDGE, I want to see this remake happen. Yes, it’s true. There are remakes I’m interested in. I don’t think they are without merit across the board. I think GRUDGE could be brilliant as an American movie. It’s going to be offered to Dimension first (Vertigo has a first-look deal with them), but after that, Vertigo is free to take it anywhere. And I’m sure it’s going to get snapped up. I hope so. I would love to sit in a theater and watch an American audience try to deal with the images I saw. There was that genuine shock of transgression that I get so rarely from horror films made by pretty much anyone except David Cronenberg.

Later this week, I’m going to do a much larger “Remake THIS!!” with reviews of some of the originals that Lee is working with, including CHAOS, DARK WATER, and a tearjerker that may just be the most effective weeping machine ever committed to celluloid. I’ll be talking with Roy Lee and some of the other writers/directors involved with his projects (hopefully), and I’ll be digging into the mystery behind THE NAKED JUNGLE remake at Alphaville, and the reason Roy Lee was startled to see it mentioned directly above his film in my last column.

Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 1, 2002, 7:57 a.m. CST


    by DannyOcean01

    'This has a chance at being something truly, memorably terrifying' A quote from you M, in reference to the proposed remake of Grudge. Hmmmmmm isn't it already great in the original Japanese format? I'm so sick and tired of having to hear about these films having no audience in America. What retarded audience are these films being marketed to. The kind who only like movies that are slopped infront of them like animal feed? And anyway even if the remake does capture the ferocity you mention. Do you think these audiences will allow it to be shown wide. No, these dumb fucks in the preview screenings will throw in laughs and make a happy ending. Let's face it, Hollywood won't be happy till it's eradicated any mention of a movie machine other than itself.

  • May 1, 2002, 8:21 a.m. CST

    one problem

    by BurlIvesLeftNut

    American filmmakers have no spine, Moriarty. So this GRUDGE movie will be some PG-13 blabberfest with well-known stars because that's how you make bank. I agreed with you when you first brought this up last time. I think the American public should be given an opportunity to see these movies. If the movies have enough appeal to draw a crowd, then why remake them? If they don't, then the decision could be made to remake them, but I seriously think the originaly should be given a push first. I see NO reason why a GREAT film, foreign or not, needs to be remade. Of course I am not in the business, so what the hell do I know.

  • May 1, 2002, 8:30 a.m. CST

    Trouble is, the American version will be watered down, and Sum 4

    by Lance Rock

  • May 1, 2002, 9:04 a.m. CST

    Actually Sum 41 and Macy Gray are on the Spiderman soundtrack...

    by Kampbell-Kid

    I nabbed a free promotional copy from work... talk about god aweful. Does anyone put any thought into soundtracks anymore? Soundtracks clearly tell these days how hollywood is a business and not to entertain cuz they are trying to nitch a certain market. Especially when the market they are trying to nitch, the music is just way off! They take films like Spiderman and put on Rock No-Names. Danny Elfman's score was crap also... no theme, it sounds like Planet Of The Apes mixed with Batman Returns choir.

  • May 1, 2002, 9:19 a.m. CST


    by LeeScoresby

    Please. Most Americans are too busy working ridiculous hours to feed their families and stay afloat in a country that seems to be willfully bleeding them to go and seek out foriegn films the way so many people here seem to want them to. MOvies are EXPENSIVE. Especially in places like New York City (where I live, and where foriegn films are actually given a chance to succeed)I love a good foriegn film, but given the choice between Spider-Man and a japanese film called "Dark Water", I'm going to choose Spider-Man. That leaves me without the funds to go and see "Dark Water". Most of you would, too. It's tough enough to launch an American action movie these days, let alone a foriegn film. Outfits like Vertigo are actually helping to expose American audiences to the original films when they do their remakes. I might not ever have heard of "Ring" had I not heard about the remake and sought out the original. It's like bitching about Joe Madiejura (sp), the "manga inspired" american artist. You can argue that Marvel should have just hired someone with a "true" manga background to illustrate, but you'd be missing the point. His style paveed the way for so many Japanese manga artists to become successful in the states. Without him, we may never have seen such an explosion of interest in manga. Why can't this work the same way? Why am I even taking the time to argue this point? It's become pretty evident to me that many people who post here do so out of some deep-seated need to criticize anything and everything, with or without warrant and without the ability to see past their own self-induced film rage.

  • May 1, 2002, 9:46 a.m. CST

    Well I guess we can all speel soundly knowing that Moriarty has

    by Merry Slander

    This is so typical. I don't normally jump down peoples' throats here in TB. Hell, I rarely even post anymore because the conversation has deteriorated to such a degree (R.I.P. Lane Myers. Nonetheless, I have to ask, are we supposed to feel better because Moriarty has seen these movies? Great! Whupty-freakin-doo! I thought the point, which was never refuted in MO's new piece, is that the original films will be less likely to get a release if remakes are undertaken. I mean I'm glad that the head of Vertigo, after reading your critical piece was able to respond in actual complete sentences. Apparently he thinks his remakes won't hurt the chances of the original films in the American marketplace. Well, what the hell else is he supposed to say? Not that we can't look back to something like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to see a project that almost missed the opportunity of an American release because Tom Cruise bought the remake rights. Luckily we got the movie, and it was charming enough to negate the possibility of an immediate remake, and good enough to launch Guy Ritchie into the stratosphere (as well as Madonna's knickers. It is frustrating that though being written by Moriarty, who used to be known for some of the best and most thought provoking pieces on this site, the REMAKE THIS column is frequently dependant on MO's knee-jerk reactions to random news bits, without knowing much of anything about the background of a proposed project. I mean, who did not see that Ryan Philippe story as bogus? Well it filled column inches for ya didn't it? Now, instead of REMAKE THIS we are subjected to REVISE THIS as MO is forced to eat crow on various subjects week in and week out. Amusing on some level, but not what we all came here for. I'm not trying to harsh on you Mo, but what are we here for if not to engage in debate about not just films, but their audience, and their critics, just like you. Peace bro.

  • May 1, 2002, 9:58 a.m. CST

    sing it with me:

    by BurlIvesLeftNut

    'despite all my rage I am still just a LeeScoresby locked in a cage! despite all my rage I am still just a LeeScoresby locked in a cage!' Chill dude. While you comments about criticism on this sight are well founded, I think you would find that SO far the people who have posted to this board have thoughtful things to offer on this particular subject. Also, you comparison of 'Dark Water' to 'Spider-Man' doesn't hold up. No one is saying that foreign films need to be humongoid blockbusters. If you don't have the funds to see both movies, that's cool. Not everyone will, but there are people like me out there - people who would rather see both 'Spider-Man' AND 'Dark Water' and just skip a meal once in a while.

  • You know, the bit at the end where he bends over and takes the corporate dick. All this Vertigo guy has to do is spin some bullshit PR and the online critic drops his boxers for the Disney wang. If Roy Lee meant a word of what he said, the theatrical release of each crappy remake would be accompanied by the direct-to-video release of the original. As for these remakes being good movies, the concept is insane. I can't imagine that anyone who's seen the original Ring would be excited about the upcoming remake. Ring wasn't the movie it was because of the story. Let's be honest, the idea of a cursed video tape is kind of silly. Ring was good because of Nakata and his cinematographer. The guy who directed the Mexican isn't capable of anything on the level of that movie. Why should we believe that any of these other remakes will be any more inspired?

  • May 1, 2002, 12:03 p.m. CST

    where to find these flicks....

    by exador

    a friend of mine in the office here, a chinese guy named raphael and I were looking at this site awhile ago... he noticed some of the buzz around these asian films and was a bit startled that I (or any of us) had even heard of them..... he told me that most of them had been out for ages, and could be picked up in just about any china town with a movie store........we're all waiting for these big hollywood releases, and all we have to do is go to chinatown and rent, i suppose it's safe to say that some might be illegal copies and whatnot but atleast there available.......speaking of which, i just noticed that Battle Royale can be found in Toronto!!! if anyone's looking for it, you can rent it from Suspect Video in Mirvish Village (beside honest eds)...... anyhow, for most of you probably this is all old news, but I had no idea.........neat what you can learn from your co workers..!!!

  • May 1, 2002, 1:04 p.m. CST

    GRUDGE sounds like a Richard Matheson story

    by Giant Fish

    Matheson wrote a story called MAD HOUSE, where a man's rage and frustration seeps into the house over the years, and finally bursts out and kills him. Great stuff, actually. I wonder why more of his stories haven't been made into films. As for the whole import issue; my hope is that in, say, five years, when DLP projectors are common in theatres, we will see more of these films on the big screen, since price tags on distribution copies will drop to a fraction of what it is today.

  • May 1, 2002, 1:24 p.m. CST

    I'm afraid this "Grudge" has already been done...

    by No. 41

    it was called "The Shining."

  • May 1, 2002, 2:07 p.m. CST

    Remakes and Problems

    by Specimen

    True, # 41, but in that case Abre Los Ojos has been done before and it was called Vertigo. Same with La Jetee/12 Monkeys. Essentially Vertigo remakes. You can rework a film and bring something new to the table. My problem with many of the remakes and with Mr. Lee's statements here is that most people aren't going to know to seek out the original, because nobody will know that these remakes were based on an original. Case in point: Ring, which is arguably one of the much better known of the films that Mr. Lee is procuring (and with good reason; Ring is an incredible horror film. Hideo Nakata does just about everything right, without resorting to cheap thrills. And I don't think that Gore Verbinski could make a video that is anywhere near as creepy and horrifying as the original killer video in "Ring"). I live in Seattle, where Ring was shooting. A location scout from Dreamworks came by Scarecrow Video (Best Damn Video Store in the NW) to see if it might be a good place to shoot (Now, if there were a killer video, they'd have it at Scarecrow, and most of the staff would have seen it by now, and recommended it to all of their friends.) So when the poor Dreamworks woman comes in and mentions that they're looking for a location for a shoot about a killer video, practically every one in the store knows the movie, and they just mention that "Ring" (the Japanese version) is one of the best horror films to have come out in ages. The woman, who is working on the remake for Dreamworks, was completely taken aback, as she had no clue that the American version of "Ring" was a remake. This doesn't leave me with much hope that people will seek out the original, if people who are working on the remake don't even know it's a remake.

  • May 1, 2002, 2:23 p.m. CST


    by Theta

    Is it me, or does "Grudge" sound a lot like James Herbert's "The Fog", which just has a broader scope?

  • May 1, 2002, 2:34 p.m. CST


    by Larry_Talbot


  • I think the American remake will turn out to be a much better movie considering all of the talented people involved. Plus, the original version just got way too silly towards the end turing into a convoluted mess. Having said that, I do believe that the mythology of the 'cursed' videotape is still a genuinely scary concept that could make for great horror film.

  • May 1, 2002, 4:14 p.m. CST

    disturbing...but good

    by rabid_republican

    Mori, I can remember only but a few scant months ago on how Harry ranted up and down that Hollywood was going remake crazy (being as all they're lacking in the fresh ideas department or at the very least "intellectually lazy"). An article like this points out the real trouble however. Namely, not remaking the right film. There's plenty potential here and you sound like you have the right idea with regard as to how this should be produced. Here's hoping it does well.

  • May 1, 2002, 7:15 p.m. CST

    Didn't Iron Monkey make money?

    by TheMatarife

    Perhaps I'm wrong, but I thought that was a good example of how you could release a Hong Kong movie in the US and make money. Not to mention the whole catalog of Jackie Chan dubbed ones that have been released.

  • May 1, 2002, 11:42 p.m. CST

    just like harry, another sell out

    by theemiracleman

    ditto on the attention giving to 'critics'. if we don't keep trying to EXPAND american tastes, all we'll ever get is half-ass remakes. REMAKING it isn't the point! SEEING THE ORIGINAL IS!!! AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

  • May 2, 2002, 12:16 a.m. CST

    *The* Walrus: What the FUCK are you talking about!?!?!

    by Cash Bailey

    I like to pride myself on being a fairly tolerant, even-headed talkbacker but your 'they should remake SUSPIRIA because the special effects now will actually make it scary' quote is possibly THE MOST IGNORANT, RIDICULOUS THING I'VE EVER READ ON THIS SITE!!!! Where do I start to school you on how fucked up that is? Of course, we all know just how scary CGI is, after such terrifying masterpieces as THE HAUNTING and RESIDENT EVIL. With SUSPIRIA Argento needed only bold expressionistic colours, his own visual artistry and the most spine-freezingly disturbed soundtrack ever composed to make SUSPIRIA a terror ride unparralelled to this day, even when watching a scratchy, 20-year old video copy. A major dream of mine is to actually see this movie in a cinema to get the full visual and aural force of Argento's extraordinary, visionary masterpiece. Of course, according to you, what it really need is Joel Schumacher to put some waxy flying ghosties into it to 'actually make it scary'. Now I'm not surprised that Harry doesn't like SUSPIRIA (not surprised at all, actually), and I realise that SUSPIRA is an aquired taste, but I never thought I'd read anything regarding this film as stupid as that. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • May 2, 2002, 9:43 a.m. CST

    Moriarty suckling at the teat of Satan?

    by Merry Slander

    One can hardly call 12 Monkeys a remake of La Jete. It is certainly not analagous to the Vertigo remakes. La Jete had been out for decades by the time 12 Monkeys was made. Moreover, Ja Lete is not a movie, so to speak, it is a succession of black and white still images, which tells, with no dialogue, the time twisting story that 12 Monkeys would later stage as a major motion picture. Moreover La Jete is only about 20 minutes long. No one who has seen the two could argue that they, while presenting the same thematic idea of a person witnessing their own death, do so in any kind of similar way. They are so different that I would hesitate to even call 12 Monkey's a remake. It is more of like an adaptation from a different medium. Just food for thought. And Moriarty, get off the tit!

  • May 2, 2002, 9:49 a.m. CST

    Oh, pfuck! He's Back!

    by EricAlan69

    Oh, EvilReader, mine ancient have returned to sow your narrow-minded, simplistic tripe again, and I'm all aquiver with nasty retorts. Please, someone, kill me. Soon. // e.

  • In direct response to Evil Reader: If you're looking for misogynistic ideas in pop culture, why the hell are you looking at Japan? Mainstream American films like Resident Evil and the 13 Ghosts remake are filled with misogyny and pointless gore, just like any exploitation movie. Besides which, we're not talking about Takashi Miike here. We're talking about Hideo Nakata and his imitators. These movies aren't known for nudity and violence. Ring, for example, has no actual gore. It also has strong female characters and no nudity. I would not be at all surprised if exploitation elements found their way into the remake.

  • May 2, 2002, 9:54 a.m. CST

    Well, Okay, *One* Query to EvilReader....

    by EricAlan69

    For someone so morally offended by the genre, you *have* to be watching all of these films that you condemn before expressing your sweeping judgements upon them, right? Have you actually ever liked a horror film, and admitted it? It just sounds like Roy Cohn all over again- condemning blindly what you guiltily crave in the proverbial closet.... // e.