By Gaius Bolling (@g_reelz)
News dropped this week that Lionsgate has moved full steam ahead with a remake of The Strangers, with the new film starring Riverdale‘s Madelaine Petsch, Froy Gutierrez, and Gabriel Basso. Renny Harlin, who directed such crowdpleasers like Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Cliffhanger, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, is at the helm with production having already begun in Slovakia. With the remake news, we also learned that this would be the first film in a planned trilogy that Harlin will also be directing. Horror remakes come as no surprise, but I’m drawing the line at this one simply because there is no need to remake The Strangers. Saying that it’s too soon would be a vast understatement.
The first film was released in May of 2008 and became a bit of a surprise sleeper hit. The movie went on to gross $52.5 million domestically and $82.4 million globally on a $20 million budget. Starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, the film was an exercise in tension that followed a young couple staying in an isolated vacation home that is terrorized by three unknown assailants. The Strangers thrived on its simplicity and lack of definitive answers as to why the attack was taking place. The lack of motive or backstory made the film all the more chilling.
Despite the film’s box office success, it took ten years for the movie to spawn a sequel. The Strangers: Prey At Night wasn’t as financially successful, but due to its slim $5 million budget, its $31 million global gross made it a moderate hit. The sequel has also gained a bit of a cult following since its theatrical release with one scene in particular becoming a favorite amongst horror fans (it involves Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, a swimming pool, and a chilling stalk and chase sequence). The sequel lacked the surprise of the original film, but it was good enough that we didn’t need a whole reset. The fact that the direct sequel was released in 2018, a mere four years ago, makes it even more silly that this franchise is already getting the remake treatment.
The plot of the remake sounds different enough that it could’ve just been a third film rather than a remake. In the reboot, the audience will be following Petsch’s character as she drives cross-country with her longtime boyfriend (Gutierrez) to begin a new life in the Pacific Northwest. When their car breaks down in Venus, Oregon, they’re forced to spend the night in a secluded Airbnb, where they are terrorized from dusk till dawn by three masked strangers. It has the shell of the original film’s idea but the details differ enough that it’s not necessary for this to be a remake. This could’ve easily been a third installment that expanded on The Strangers as we have come to know them. In my opinion, that would be a far more interesting road to go down.
I suspect Lionsgate went the remake route because the notion of a new trilogy is likely more financially appealing. This seems to be a growing trend in horror movies, making planned trilogies from the jump and just greenlighting them based purely on the pitch. While making X, Ti West conceived the prequel Pearl with his star Mia Goth and he shot the idea over to the film’s studio, A24. They were so hyped by what he was already doing that they went with it. This weekend sees the release of his prequel Pearl which concludes with a post-credit promo for the third film in that franchise called MaXXXine. Given the limited budget of the films, A24 should see a profit from the three films once their theatrical and home media grosses are all taken into account. To a lesser extent, this also happened with the latest Halloween franchise. 2018’s Halloween came out and made a killing at the box office and, at the time, writer/director David Gordon Green, along with his co-writer Danny McBride, said that they had a trilogy in mind. I’m sure that was pitched to Universal Pictures and Blumhouse early on, and now we’re nearly upon the release of the third and “final” film of that franchise when Halloween Ends comes out in a few weeks. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Paramount Pictures had a similar trilogy discussion with the filmmakers behind the new Scream franchise. The second film has just wrapped filming and all signs seem to indicate that a third movie wraps up that film’s story.
I get the “why,” but remaking a film that came out in 2008 that had a sequel in 2018 drives home a bigger Hollywood problem. So many times we hear that there are no original ideas out there anymore and studios fall back on familiar IP because it’s safer and more financially viable. If we’re remaking films from the 2000s that means that we’re not really trying anymore. I’ll see the remake because I’m a diehard horror fan but I could’ve easily lived without the news that this was happening. It’s not a remake we needed or asked for.