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10 Great Foreign Movies With Sub-par Hollywood Remakes

21 June 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Naomi Shakespeare

oldboy

Gene Siskel once said “If you are going to remake a movie, then remake a bad movie.” A piece of advice that Hollywood often ignores, doing reboots, remakes and re imaginings every other month of the year. One such type of movie that often gets encumbered with dull remakes are those that fall into the foreign film category.

It’s not to say that all remakes of foreign films are bad, and some of the remakes on this list are actually mildly enjoyable to watch. But in comparison to the original movies they are disappointing at best and shockingly abysmal at worst.

Here is a list of great foreign films with sub-par remakes:

 

1. Ringu (1998) / The Ring (2002)

Ringu (1998)

What’s the movie about: A reporter Reiko Asakawa is investigating a supposedly cursed videotape and manages to get hold of a copy of it. She watches the tape and shortly afterwards, the phone rings. A voice on the other end of the line tells her she will die in seven days. Reiko desperately tries to discover the origins of the tape in order to save herself.

Differences between the original and remake: The cursed videotapes are markedly different from one another. Ringu’s is short, creepy and to the point, whereas The Ring’s cursed tape looks like the music video for a popular prog rock band. The villain Sadako is left relatively unexplained in Ringu in order to keep her creepy and mysterious.

The Ring makes the mistake of giving her too much of a back story, which not only takes away all the mystery but also makes her more of a sympathetic character. That’s not what the audience wants out of its murderess little ghost girls.

Why is the remake sub-par: The Ring really paved the way for other J-horror remakes (in fact there are three on this list alone). The problem with the remake is this long running idea that gore equals horror in Western horror movies, and the Japanese have a completely different style, tending to go down the more psychological route.

Sometimes less is more. Ringu manages to maintain an incredibly sinister level of tension the entire way through its storyline and the dread the audience feels grows larger and larger the closer Reiko gets to the truth. Whereas The Ring settles for jump scares and an over reliance on special effects and violence.

For example, The Ring has added in a scene where a horse jumps off a ferry to its death, only it doesn’t just die, it gets shredded by the propellers and blood churns out in the water. It’s not really a scary moment and it adds nothing to the plot. The Ring isn’t a bad movie by any means, but it’s just not at the same level as the psychological terror of the original.

 

2. Ju-on (2002) / The Grudge (2004)

toshio-ju-on-the-grudge

What’s the movie about: Kayoko and her son are murdered by her husband Takeo. The trauma of the event causes Kayoko and her son to be revived as onryō, a traditional Japanese vengeful spirit and they, in turn, curse the house. Kayoko murders her husband as a ghost and then haunts, terrorises and eventually kills anyone else who dares to enter her home.

Differences between the original and remake: Ju-on has more of a desperate feeling to it. There is no escaping the curse, whereas The Grudge is more about the lead character attempting to destroy Kayoko before she can kill her. The Grudge also adds in a slightly tedious detective subplot.

Why is the remake sub-par: The Grudge makes the strange decision to keep the movie set in Japan but with a cast that is 99% white and American. In fact the only non-American characters are the ghost family (obviously), a female hospice worker and a detective who is looking into all of the weird murders in his district.

Takashi Shimizu directed both Ju-on and The Grudge which might explain why he chose to keep the movie in Japan, but unfortunately his style doesn’t really work that well with a heavily Western screenplay and it seems a little odd to see that many Americans in such close proximity to each other in a foreign country.

If The Grudge had been given more of a distinctive feel and moved further away from Ju-on it might have been able to stand up to the original, but in the end all it became was a watered down version of Ju-on.

 

3. Old Boy (2003, Remake 2013)

oldboy ending

What’s the movie about: Dae-Su is a foul mouthed drunk who bounces from bar to bar. One night he is kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years. He is suddenly released and his captor challenges Dae-Su to find him. He stumbles into a woman called Mi-do, who decides to help him on his mission and they fall for each other.

Differences between the original and remake: There are a lot of minor differences and one big difference. Some minor ones for example, in the remake he is imprisoned for twenty years, five extra than the original.

The infamous hammer fight scene that was filmed in one shot has been completed destroyed for the remake and a scene in the original movie where Dae-Su eats an octopus alive has been replaced in the remake by the guy just looking at an octopus instead. The ending is markedly different to the original.

Why is the remake sub-par: The ending of the original Old Boy has Dae-Su’s captor Woo-jin reveal that, as a direct result of Dae-Su’s actions when he was young, Woo-jin’s sister killed herself, so in an elaborate revenge scheme he has used hypnotic suggestion to lead Dae-Su to Mi-do in the hopes that they would fall in love, because Mi-do is actually Dae-Su’s daughter.

As revenge schemes go, it’s pretty brutal. Woo-jin threatens to tell Mi-do but Dae-Su placates him by cutting out his own tongue. He then leaves and visits a hypnotist so he can forget that Mi-do is his daughter and they can be together. In the remake, Spike Lee completely removes all of the movie’s teeth and instead opts for a soft ending.

There is no tongue removal and instead of choosing to be with his daughter romantically, instead gives her some wealth and disappears from her life. Spike Lee has picked an incredibly violent movie with a harsh storyline and attempted to smooth down all of the edges, removing everything that make the original movie so unique.

 

4. Nathalie (2003) / Chloe (2009)

Nathalie (2003)

What’s the movie about: Catherine believes that her husband is cheating on her, so she hires a prostitute called Nathalie to have an affair with him and report back to her. During this process Catherine and Nathalie get closer and closer until eventually they have sex with each other, causing Nathalie to fall in love with Catherine.

Differences between the original and remake: There is a genre change from art-house erotica to more of a thriller drama. The endings are also hugely removed from one another and the main reason that the remake isn’t that great in comparison.

Why is the remake sub-par: In the original movie Catherine reaches the end of her relationship with Nathalie having regained her husband and Nathalie is left to deal with her unrequited feelings for Catherine. Chloe takes a big step away from this softly spoken ending and instead spirals into a bizarre and ridiculous single white female-esque twist ending.

Chloe, in a fit of jealously, sleeps with Catherine’s son and then threatens to stab her with a hair pin. Catherine responds by pushing her out of a window. Chloe grabs onto the window frame but then deliberately lets go and falls to her death. T

he entire point of Nathalie was for Catherine to get over her sexual hangs up and be able to comfortably have sex with her husband without feeling shame or taboo, and for Nathalie to realise that there is more to having a relationship than sex. Chloe devolves all of this complexity to a silly, almost offensive, thriller twist.

 

5. The Eye (2002, Remake 2008)

The Eye

What’s the movie about: After being blind her whole life a concert pianist Wong Kar Mun regains her vision from a cornea transplant. However she begins to see ghostly apparitions and believes the eyes are to blame. She attempts to track down who they originally belonged to in order to free herself from the horrifying visions.

Differences between the original and remake: There are small bits where the storylines differ and they are both shot in different locations. The Eye was originally shot between Hong Kong and Thailand whereas the remake bounces between America and Mexico. The main difference is more tonal than anything else and a minor change to the ending.

Why is the remake sub-par: The original version of The Eye moves at a far more sedate pace, choosing to reveal things slowly to the audience. The remake, by comparison, is really frenetic, fast paced and kind of all over the place. The remake also has the classic Hollywood desire of a happy ending.

In the original movie, an accident has blocked the road, Wong sees dozens of ghostly silhouettes and she realises that everyone on the bus she’s travelling on is going to die. She runs off the bus and tries to warn everyone, but understandably they think she’s crazy and they stay on the bus, dying horrifically in a gas explosion, which causes glass to ruin Wong’s eye sight once more.

In the remake, Wong, or rather Sydney as she’s called, manages to save the day, rescuing everyone off the bus and a little girl trapped in a car just in the nick of time, before losing her eye sight in the same way. It’s the need to wrap everything up in a neat bow that ruins the Western version of The Eye. The original has a fairly depressing ending, but not every movie has to end happily and in this particular case, the movie was better off for it.

 

 

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  • Jiian Cruz Francisco

    Sigaw (2004) / The Echo (2008) 😀

  • joe

    La femme Nikita (1990) /point of no return (1993)

    • Vincenzo Politi

      The charisma of La Femme Nikita was totally absent from the American remake.

      • joe

        Agree 100%.
        I hated the ending of point of no return …they ended up happily ever after

        “You’ll never find her” … best ending line to a movie

  • gustavomda

    Hollywood has a creativity disorder and its producers can’t put their money on original projects for fear of not making enough money. Hollywood’s M.O. is to steal the good ideas and good professionals from all over the world and then make it seem as though they’re Hollywood ideas.

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      “Steal” is a very strong word.
      You have to consider that movies still very expensive stuff to make (one million dollar is a ridiculously small sum!). No Child’s play. Artists must understand that.

      • gustavomda

        Hollywood movies are very expensive. Period. Spielberg predicted in the 90s that the industry would implode if moviemaking got more and more expensive as time passed. And that’s exactly what’s happening. So I expect the implosion to happen anytime soon.

        • Jules F. Melo Borges

          That’s a simplified version of the scenario. Movies got cheaper, so now, a Medium budget can do a lot more than before, and that’s partly a result of the demand made by Blockbusters to push their Top-notch technologies. Still, big budgets (Like the name indicates) requires certain control over the content in order to attract more people. That’s the “Hollywood” we always talk about. After all, distribution and Ads still expensive like always, and movies are having less and less screen time before the next one comes and movies got to keep pushing. It’s the high demand for a lot of money in a shorter time that’s going to endanger the system.
          I suppose we could live in a world with Independent movies only if the big industry continues to recess, but that would also mean a stagnation for moviemaking technology. Do you prefer films that depend on the Videogame industry or something else to push the boundaries? We need megalomaniac filmmaking for the good of the whole business.

          • gustavomda

            I disagree. We don’t need multi billion dollar movies. The diversity we need comes – as it always has – from independent, non-American cinema. Hollywood merely adopts it.

          • Jules F. Melo Borges

            Well, I couldn’t disagree more.
            CGI (Which includes big monsters to small corrections) and Digital filmmaking made everything cheaper and allowed for so many independent filmmakers to start. Also, from Lighting to Editing, everything has been pushed partly with the help of those Big movies whose demand asks for constant new improvements.
            An Independent movie can’t afford that, so the result can only be stagnation. Ask any old-school guy, he will say how complicated, expensive and frequently frustrating movies could be. You see now those movies (The good ones of course) with good eyes, but the production was frequently hellish and sometimes impossible (A lot of stuff wasn’t made for technical impossibilities). You might not realize, but Independent movies from the past were extremely limited (Creatively too) or had to wait for Years to gather enough money and resources for a decent result. The possibilities are amazing now, but this type of filmmaking don’t push boundaries, only use them.

  • Carlos Cordero Madrigal

    SOLARIS, for Crying out Loud!

    • Actually, Soderbergh’s version is actually pretty good and very different from the Tarkovsky version but the man who created the book didn’t like either version.

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      Soderbergh’s Solaris is not really bad. It might be inferior, but “Sub-par” is too much.

  • jann1k

    Das Experiment (2001) / The Experiment (2010)

  • Erin

    Spoorloos (1988) / The Vanishing (1993)

    • Gregory Spera

      The happy ending they stuck on the American version of ‘The Vanishing’ was an abomination.

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      Same director.
      You have to consider that the “American” version (Who must be happier and faster) is almost a practical joke from him.

  • Wings of Desire/City of Angels.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      That remake was a crime against common sense.

      • It was a crime against humanity.

        • David Valencia

          I agree, the remake is a travesty of a masterpiece. Funnily enough, Wim Wenders is a fan of the remake, and likes it quite a bit.

  • Alejandro Ramírez

    The gorgeous A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) and The Uninvited (2009) and also [Rec] (2007) and Quarantine (2008).

  • Art Vandelay

    The Departed (2006) completely missed the point of Infernal Affairs (2002)–that living with guilt is worse than death. And though it made the list, there was no mention of the same thing happening in the Grudge–the grudge was created because of the Japanese husband’s delusion that his wife was cheating, not because she actually was like in the remake.

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      Well, blame the director. Is the same guy.

      • Art Vandelay

        Andrew Lau is Martin Scorsese?

        • Jules F. Melo Borges

          Grudge.

  • Ionut Apetri

    The girl with the dragon tatoo, Let the right one in

    • Mortimer

      That’s one of the rare cases where Hollywood version is actually the same quality as original. It’s even better. Tbh, original Swedish film wasn’t some great movie.

      • David DC

        What ? Original swedish film not a great movie ? You must be kidding ! It’s a great one instead and the remake is useless because it’s only “Copy and paste” from the original. Even if it’s directed by Fincher (that i love btw) that doesn’t make it great, except perhaps for the opening credits sequence.

        • Mortimer

          The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn’t remake. First, you have to learn what word REMAKE actually means and then come back here to comment.

        • Jules F. Melo Borges

          A Copy & Paste that overcomes the original with the style it lacks.
          Both draw from a book, but Fincher is a better director than… what’s his name anyway?

          • Mortimer

            Niels Arden Oplev. I think his new movie has a 0% rating on RT right now (o positive, 30 rotten). Just saying.

    • Michael George

      Fincher’s Girl and Let Me In were not sub par, IMO.
      Oldboy, however..Oh Boy!

  • Robert Paulsen

    Let The Right One In is a masterpiece. Let Me In (made in the USA)? Not so much..

  • Jeroen Ledderhof

    Nevermind…

  • wendell ottley

    I definitely second the idea that A Tale of Two Sisters and it’s remake The Uninvited should have made the cut. If we’re counting British films then The Wicker Man should also be here.

  • Vincenzo Politi

    Profumo di Donna (1974), remade as Scent of a Woman (1992). I can’t believe Al Pacino won the Academy Award for his overacted representation of an obnoxious blind man. Vittorio Gassman’s interpretation is far lighter and the whole original movie takes itself a bit less seriously and it is far less pretentious and more down to earth.

  • Phil

    The Departed/Infernal Affairs. In Infernal Affairs you like everyone, even the gangster, and sympathise with their plight. In The Departed everyone, even the hero, is a detestable scumbag and you can’t wait for them to get killed. Despite all that I still like TD, but I prefer IA.

  • Yojimbo (1961) / A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
    The Hidden Fortress (1958) / Star Wars (1977)

    Yes, I’m mostly kidding.

    • Joe Costa

      Seven Samurai (1954)/The Magnificent Seven (1961).
      Partly kidding–the 1961 pic was a pretty good movie by almost any standard, the 1954 Kurosawa classic is an infinitely better film, but, unfortunately, 3 hours long and with subtitles and in black and white.

  • Τάσος

    pusher (dir Nicolas Winding Refn) / pusher 2012(dir Luis Prieto)

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      The remake is sub-par, but the original isn’t “Great” either.

  • Allister Cooper

    Kairo and Pulse. List isn’t bad.

  • jesse100

    The Vanishing isn’t on this list? I question it’s credibility.

  • Emre Kara

    I think “The Ring” is better than “Ringu”. 🙂

    • Deadly_Moogly

      I agree : the Ring was a great movie!

    • Ted Wolf

      I found the American remake to have a longer creep effect on me. Perhaps it’s because the original might be a bit too steeped in Japanese culture whereas I related to the American version more.

      • Jules F. Melo Borges

        Nop. No excuse. The Remake is flawed, but still more competent, “Japanese” sensibilities aside.

  • Fernando Arenas

    Vanilla Sky/Abre los ojos; The return of Martin Guerre/Sommersby.

  • Fernando Arenas

    Shall we dance: The American version lacks the sense of shame in taking dance lessons that is essential to the Japanese film’s plot.

  • Jules F. Melo Borges

    “Ringu (1998) / The Ring (2002)” is against common sense. Many people think the remake is even better (Hideo even directed the sequel). I’m afraid your “points”, like saying the remake is full of gore (???), are pointless.

  • Alejnadro Pollo

    Funny games

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    I don’t think The Ring is especially good but it’s got nice wintry cinematography and Brian Cox so it’s not too shabby. Worst Hollywood stab at a great Japanese horror I’ve seen was the rancid remake of Kairo/Pulse.