Here’s the thing. It’s fashionable to bash remakes from their very first announcement as unnecessary and doomed to failure, but there have been more than enough good (and even great) ones to know that’s just dumb. No remake, whether good or bad, has the power to alter the original which will always be available to watch and enjoy. Of course, knowing that doesn’t change the knee-jerk reaction you feel when a particularly fantastic foreign film is snatched up and scheduled for American consumption.
Kim Jee-woon’s deliciously brutal I Saw the Devil has been on the path towards an English-language remake since its release in 2010, but details as to who would actually be involved have been up in the air until now. The Wrap just revealed – and producer Keith Calder confirmed via Twitter – that the team behind You’re Next and the recent The Guest will be writing and directing the film. Adam Wingard will direct from Simon Barrett’s script, and while we’re still more than a year away from a finished product there’s reason to feel both excited and concerned… while still remembering that Kim’s original will always be here regardless.
My immediate thought after first seeing the film back in 2010 was that I loved it, and my second thought was that the inevitable Hollywood remake would never be able to reach and maintain the level of brutality and nihilism on display. A U.S. film simply wouldn’t go into the dark corners that Kim’s film calls home. That’s not to say the film doesn’t feature its fair share of black humor, but the overall tone and the journey undertaken by its “hero” are miles away from typical American fare.
Wingard and Barrett make fun movies. That’s not a criticism as, faults and all, You’re Next, The Guest and the V/H/S series are solidly entertaining exercises in genre playfulness. They’re exciting, thrilling and enjoyable flicks. They’re fun. But that brings me back to a remake not hitting the original’s tone. The disintegrating morality and parade of victims in I Saw the Devil aren’t fun. More importantly, they shouldn’t be. That said, we’re obviously a ways away from the remake seeing the light of day, and there’s no reason that Wingard and Barrett couldn’t rein in their sense of humor if they chose too.
Which in turn brings me to another thought. Remakes don’t need to be an exact or even highly similar replica. In fact it’s probably preferable that they only carry over the core of the original while finding their own voice for the rest. A “fun” I Saw the Devil would be a different beast all together, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically a bad thing.
The Wrap’s “exclusive” news announcement dropped today, but producer Adi Shankar actually released a Youtube video a few days back announcing the news, and there’s enthusiasm, confidence and face paint to spare. Shankar’s been behind some great and dark films (The Grey, Dredd, A Walk Among the Tombstones) and even his “duds” (Machine Gun Preacher), are far from terrible so his involvement is promising too. Check out the video below.