"The answer is not in the avoidance of remakes. The plain fact is that remakes of very good original films sometimes fail because they have not been remade by people as talented as those who made the first versions." -- David O. Selznick, 1956.
The famed producer of Gone With the Wind and Rebecca was on a downward slide when he wrote the above in a memo to the president of 20th Century Fox. Selznick spent much of the 1950s repackaging and selling his earlier productions to studios, pocketing tidy fees for his efforts. The modern-day equivalent is Roy Lee. As explained in a profile in The New Yorker: "What Lee does for a living sounds simple enough, but no one in Hollywood had thought of it before. He watches videos of every Asian movie ever made, picks the biggest hits, and then, on behalf of their Asian distributors, sells the 'remake rights' of those films to studios here, so that they can be turned into big-budget American spectacles."
That article was published in June 2003, on the heels of the financial success of The Ring in the fall of 2002 but before the coming horror onslaught that included The Grudge, The Grudge 2, Dark Water and The Ring Two (all involving Lee), plus Pulse and others. Lee quickly expanded into other countries and other genres, but the most appealing remake target for Hollywood remains Asian horror, with The Echo (the Philippines), Shutter (Thailand), The Eye (Hong Kong/Thailand), A Tale of Two Sisters (South Korea), Alone (Thailand), The Ring 3 and The Grudge 3 all listed in various stages of production on Lee's upcoming slate alone.
Lee has an eye for good films -- the titles include several of my recent Asian horror faves -- and some of the remakes have involved the original creative talent, but horror needs a strong personality at the helm, and too often the Hollywood studio machinery has softened and homogenized what made the originals so distinctive. So why not go back and watch the originals? Or try others I've written about before (Audition, Freeze Me, Koma, Memento Mori, Alone), or seek out the ones I've gathered below. Some are harder to find than others, but all represent dangerous visions that are carried out with flare. Why not share your favorites in the comments section?