While I admit there’s a lack of fresh ideas in Hollywood, we live in an environment of knee-jerk remake and sequel hate. Every time there’s word of an impending reboot or continuation of an established property, the news is inevitably met with an avalanche of objection; so-called purists who instantly cry foul with proclamations like “You’re destroying the original’s legacy!” and “You’re diluting the franchise!” and even “You’re killing my childhood!”
I could understand this reflex-action if the sentiments expressed were true; of course, there have been deplorable, detestable remakes like 2011’s Fright Night and 2016’s Martyrs, not to mention infuriating sequels like Saw 3D and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the CHUD, but there have also been exemplary innovations like 2013’s Evil Dead and 2004’s Dawn of the Dead. So is there any weight whatsoever to the argument that bad remakes are damaging to a film’s franchise or legacy? Can we, at the very least, disprove the underlying assertion? I say, “Yes!”
Related Article: Top 15 Horror Movie Sequels as Good as (or Better Than) the Original
I’ve long sought a quick way of diffusing knee-jerk remake hate, and I believe I have found the answer; it’s what I have dubbed The Exorcist Calculation and it’s based on cold, hard mathematics. Let’s break down the claim the assertion that bad remakes/sequels degrade the original films into an algebraic equation. It would start like this:
ORIGINAL + BAD REMAKE/BAD SEQUEL < ORIGINAL IF BAD REMAKE/BAD SEQUEL NEVER EXISTED
This can be further shortened into:
O + BR/BS > O1
So basically, the assertation is that a movie with a bad remake/sequel is worse than it would have been had the sequel not existed. It’s as though each film in a franchise has a numerical value, and as each installment is added, its score is added for a new average. Thus, an original film’s legacy is marginalized by each lesser-rated sequel or remake. For the sake of argument, let’s look at the Wrong Turn franchise as an example. Perhaps a fan of survival horror feels that franchise got off to a strong start but became repetitive and uninspired. “Now, anytime someone mentions Wrong Turn, I just roll my eyes.”
According to the established equation, Wrong Turn (2003) would be a better film if Wrong Turn Parts 2-6 had never been made. Opinions can’t be argued with, but math is irrefutable. Unfortunately, with the Wrong Turn example, there’s no way to validate the initial postulation since there’s no established consensus regarding how good any of the Wrong Turn movies are; it’s simply too subjective.
In order to truly put the equation to the test, we need a film that is objectively good that also has a sequel that is objectively bad. Fortunately, there is a film with a sterling reputation that also has a sequel often regarded as one of the genre’s worst. That movie is The Exorcist and, at over 44-years-old, opinions regarding the film and it’s 1977 sequel (The Exorcist II: The Heretic) are firmly established.
According to the equation, The Exorcist would be a better film had 1977’s Heretic never existed; the fact that Heretic exists is a stain on The Exorcist’s legacy.
Now ask yourself: Does the assertion above sound even remotely true? Of course not! No one ever said, “You know what would have made The Exorcist a better film? If they’d never made the sequel.” Does a film’s Rotten Tomatoes score dive after a bad remake or sequel? Hell no!
Not only is The Exorcist still considered one of the most terrifying and compelling horror movies ever made, but the film spawned more than just one dud of a sequel. While 1990’s The Exorcist III has many merits, 2004’s Exorcist: The Beginning and 2005’s Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist are both fabulous disasters, and still The Exorcist remains paramount. This is the essence of The Exorcist Calculation as a means of combat knee-jerk remake hate. And just as 3 lousy sequels can’t dethrone The Exorcist, no amount of bad sequels or prequel can ever sully the sheen on 1979’s Alien or 2004’s Saw. The first Wrong Turn movie is just as good as it would have been had the franchise been a one-and-done.
The assertion that O + BR/BS > O1 is false! The Exorcist Calculation is true!
O + BR/BS ≠<O1
Please make a note of it!
It proves something else I’ve long asserted; that nostalgia is a prison. Horror fans need to relax when we get news of another remake, reboot, or sequel. I mean, it can’t actually hurt you and, no, it won’t have any retroactive effect on your childhood.
Do you agree with The Exorcist Calculation? Should horror fans resist the temptation to instantly hate anything based on films they already love? Let’s debate in the Comments section!