They say there are only a few stories out there in the world. Maybe that's why so many classic horror stories seem to have been remade as the fluffiest romances modern Hollywood has to offer. Here are just a few.
We're not entirely sure that the people who made these romcoms realized that they were rebooting classic horror stories. But probably they did, right?
Dracula was remade as Forces of Nature
With all that fuss and bother about vampirism and fly-eating mental patients, it’s easy to forget that Dracula was, at heart, a story about the cold feet of young couples on the verge of marriage. The three principle victims – Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra, are all about to get married, and are all fretting about aspects of their marriage. Dracula comes in and prevents, delays, or bedevils their marriage plans. In Forces of Nature, Ben Affleck, at the height of his popularity as an actor, plays a guy named Ben who must go on a journey just prior to his marriage. There he meets an enigmatic stranger (played by Sandra Bullock who definitely should play Dracula in the next Bram Stoker film), who delays his trip, forcing him to take a tour through a bizarre underworld during which he meets people who challenge his faith in marriage and tempt him personally. There are also some weird, hallucinatory semi-supernatural scenes that evoke the experiences of unreliable narrator Jonathan Harker in the book. (Plus there's a succubus doling out sexual degradation scene where Sandy strips Ben in a club for cash.) It ends with the banishment of the stranger and the re-commitment to the marriage, but both heroes are forever haunted by their encounter.
The Turn of the Screw was remade as The Nanny Diaries
Both these stories are about nannies, and nannies to creepy little boys that have recently gotten rejected academically. More generally, both stores are about being a relatively powerless young woman, stepping into a family situation in which everyone knows more than you, and realizing, with horror, “Wow, all of these people are assholes.” In The Nanny Diaries, the assholes are the actual parents, and in The Turn of the Screw, the assholes are (possibly) ghosts, but both appear and disappear mysteriously, and for seemingly no other reason than to traumatize the kid and make the nanny’s life hell. Both stories end with the loss of the child, one way or another, but more significantly, both stories end with scenes during which it’s impossible to tell whether or not the nanny is standing up for herself or losing her damn mind. Henry James’ heroine grabs the kid and screams at the ghost to go away, while Hollywood’s heroine ends up drunkenly shouting at a nannycam hidden in a stuffed bear. Only James kills off his heroine, but The Nanny Diaries shows the girl going off into the New York skyline having “found herself” – which is pretty much the modern day metaphor for dying and going to heaven. So they’re almost identical.
The Tell-Tale Heart was remade as Return to Me
Do I need to tell you why these two are the same? They are both about a heart that keeps beating after its possessor dies, and that ruins everything for the hero. In fact, I think Return to Me is even creepier, since the heart manages to get up on someone else’s legs (via a heart transplant) and walk back to the poor guy. Don’t get me wrong. If anything I think that organ donation should be mandatory, but that’s because I know this kind of stuff doesn’t actually happen outside horror movies.
Rebecca was remade as My Best Friend’s Wedding
In Rebecca, the one thing that the second Mrs. de Winter had going for her was the fact that the first Mrs. de Winter was good and dead. With the exception of Return to Me, modern Hollywood frowns on killing off first wives, even if they were only wives in spirit. As a result, poor Cameron Diaz has to deal with the shadow of the still very much alive Julia Roberts. All the cutesy impromptu chain restaurant singalongs in the world don’t help her, as her husband slowly falls under the sway of his “best friend.” The evil other woman is hardly an uncommon theme, but Rebecca and My Best Friend's Wedding are twins because both the novel and the movie, it’s only after quite some time that we realize that the first Mrs de Winter isn’t the angel she appears to be. That's where the movie "second wife," catches a break. She at least has the ability to go after the malevolent schemer with a salad fork, while in Rebecca the evil woman remains a disembodied force. Both stories end with the hero literally fleeing in order for the good guys to triumph. (Honorary mention in this comparison goes to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In that movie, though, it’s Maxim de Winter who has to get a clue and realize that Rebecca sucks.)
The Picture of Dorian Gray was remade as What Women Want
These two aren’t alike in story as much as they share the same they theme and spirit. They both have a hero with supernatural powers. Dorian Gray has the ability to retain his extraordinary youth and beauty. Mel Gibson’s character has the ability to read women’s minds. How do they react? While being held in a gentle net of sympathetic narrative they behave in ways that are almost transcendentally evil. Dorian is evil for evil’s sake – for a while. Meanwhile Mel uses his mind-reading powers to get one woman to sleep with him and to kick the main female character out of her job by stealing her ideas. It’s a good thing that the Helen Hunt was in advertising - and thus naturally unsympathetic - or the female audience might have rushed the screen and shredded it. Sadly, this is one of the times when a Hollywood ending on a romantic comedy simply doesn’t work. If the movie had stuck to the Dorian Gray plot, and had its despicable hero stab himself through the heart, it would have been a hell of a lot better.
The Phantom of the Opera was remade as Pretty in Pink
A poor, unpopular girl with daddy issues gets the attention of two guys. Through their attention, she comes into new prominence in the insular world they all occupy. The less handsome guy is devoted to her and able to offer advice and support, but is kind of a repellent manic creep. The other love interest is a rich guy who dearly loves her but is spineless and foppish enough to be equally repellent. She goes with the rich fop. Young readers and watchers have their own, firm opinions on which one the girl should choose. Older ones just wish she could have ditched them both, bought friendly dog and got a job in a coffee shop or something. Which story am I talking about? My point, it is made.
Frankenstein was remade as Annie Hall
The most obvious choice is one of the innumerable make-over flicks from the last three decades. Everything from Weird Science to Can't Buy Me Love to Pretty Woman counts. Pretty Woman probably comes the closest, since it can be argued that the business tycoon created a woman who completely trashed what he thought of as his life. Still, I think the best parallel is Annie Hall, about the two people who kind of make each other over and then get locked in each other's orbit. The life, death, and existentialism theme floats throughout the movie - and there are a surprising number of scenes of horror. Most of all, both movie and book are about how a person can obsess over another human being to the point of madness, and still be shocked and appalled that that special someone has a life and will of their own. Make that kind of miscalculation and time, distance, and repentance still won't keep the other person from tainting your life.
The Island of Dr Moreau was remade as Valentine’s Day
What the hell kind of subhuman monsters populate this godawful place? And will I make it out alive? The ultimate tale of suspense!