Remake culture is a core pillar of the Hollywood machine. There’s simply no denying it. Whether it’s Disney excavating its own animation history to create “live action remakes” – or in the case of Lion King, computer generated remakes – or trying to mint new hits out of old classics, such films are a fast path from a tried and tested to idea to a hopeful hit.
Some of the most reliable sources of remake inspiration are Asian movies. However, such films often miss the mark so badly that anyone can see these failures for what they are. That hasn’t stopped Hollywood from announcing more. Just this week, HBO announced that it would be remaking Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, a black comedy that’s become a critical darling and an awards favorite.
Some remain optimistic that HBO, a network that prizes critical buzz it can sell its subscribers over anything else, will do its best. But that doesn’t change the fact that Hollywood remakes of Asian movies rarely fare well. Here’re just eight of Hollywood’s worst remakes of Asian films.
1998’s Ringu → 2002’s The Ring
The one that started it all. Hideo Nakata kicked off a golden age of J-horror with Ringu. Although it’s adapted from a novel by Kōji Suzuki, Nakata streamlined the story and established many visual and iconic tropes that remain a part of the East Asian horror vocabulary. The 2002 remake starring Naomi Watts was mostly faithful but ended on a weird, convoluted note.
2002’s Ju-On: The Grudge → 2004’s The Grudge
While East Asian horror fans have made less than favorable comparisons between Ju-On: The Grudge and Ringu, that didn’t stop Hollywood seeking it out in its endless hunger for trending films to remake. The remake features a decent performance from Sarah Michelle Gellar and boldly retains the original’s non-linear narrative, but that’s not enough to cover up the overall tepid premise.
2001’s Kairo → 2006’s Pulse
This extremely novel horror flick about ghosts using the Internet to invade the mortal world might sound bonkers on paper, but the sense of alienation and isolation and loneliness makes for a convincing scare. Despite a game performance from Kristen Bell, the remake simply deadlifts the sensational imagery of the original, replacing the anguished tone to a bunch of gotcha scares.
2002’s The Eye → 2008’s The Eye
A classical violinist who has been blind since the age of two can see following a successful cornea transplant. But with the gift of eyesight comes an ability to see restless spirits. The film spawned several remakes from other countries, but it’s the Hollywood version starring Jessica Alba that is the subject of widespread derision. It got so bad that the director David Moreau, disowned it, calling it “the worst” experience of his career.
2004’s Shutter → 2008’s Shutter
When Jane hits a young woman with her car, she and her photographer boyfriend Tun begin seeing shadows lurking in his photographs. As the hauntings persist, Jane uncovers shocking secret about their hit and run victim. The American remake from 2008 runs shorter than the original but that doesn’t stop it from being a colossal bore and one of many snoozers in Joshua Jackson’s filmography.
2001’s My Sassy Girl → 2008’s My Sassy Girl
So many years passed between the original My Sassy Girl, a kooky romantic comedy about an engineering student and the girl who drives him bonkers, and its remake that one wonders why Hollywood even bothered. While the original had its screwball charms, the remake tries at its best to b be spirited but can’t do much more than be incredibly schmaltzy.
2003’s A Tale of Two Sisters → 2009’s Uninvited
This South Korean film stylishly mashed up psychological drama with supernatural terror, resulting in a clever cocktail of tragedy and absurdist horror. The Hollywood remake, didn’t just change the name, it dulled the edges to secure a PG-13 rating making for a film that while reasonably moody, lacked some of the inventiveness of the original.
1997’s Perfect Blue → 2010’s Black Swan
Shots fired and let loose the airhorn. Although Darren Aronofsky’s suspenseful horror drama isn’t a remake of Satoshi Kon’s animated thriller Perfect Blue, they share themes and imagery. Aronofsky denies Kon inspired his film, but here’s the kicker: Aronofsky bought the U.S. rights to Perfect Blue a decade before. Sure it’s not stealing if you already have the rights, but artistic honesty is also a virtue.
What are some Hollywood remakes of Asian movies that you enjoyed? Sound off in the comments!