Tyler Mane and Hanna Hall in Halloween courtesy MGM/Dimension Films
Question: So, what did you think of the Rob Zombie Halloween remake? One of the best, one of the worst, in between? And on that subject, what do you think are the best and worst remakes of classic horror movies? I thought the new Dawn of the Dead was awesome, and I like the John Carpenter version of The Thing even better than the original. Black Christmas and House of Wax were just pitiful. - Mark
FlickChick: Sad to say, Rob Zombie's Halloween wasn't screened for critics. In this instance, I'm keeping an open mind, since studios are notorious for not showing horror movies - good or bad - to critics. My colleague Ken Fox's review will be here starting Aug. 31, 2007, and I'll probably check it out over the weekend. I mean, I've seen every single Halloween film in a theater the week it opened. After nearly 30 years, why break with tradition now?

I'm generally in line with your thoughts. I think as far as sequels that never needed to be made go, Dawn of the Dead is pretty good, though I still prefer the original. Ditto the 2006 Alexandre Aja remake of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1978) and The Ring (2006; Ringu, 1998). I love both John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) and the original The Thing from Another World (1951).

I also love Werner Herzog's Nosferatu, the Vampire (1978), starring Klaus Kinski, which I think does justice and then some to the pioneering 1922 Nosferatu. And while I think the first version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is the best, I recently rewatched the 1978 remake and it holds up very well. The Invasion (2007, though it sat around for the better part of two years and was extensively reshot before it finally made it into theaters), the newest version, is absolutely awful - it definitely goes on my list of worst remakes.

Gus Van Sant's 1998 do-over of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) just strikes me as pointless. And much though I hated the 2005 remake of The Fog, I don't think much of Carpenter's 1980 original either. I also don't have much use for The Toolbox Murders (1978), and the remake,
Toolbox Murders (2003), is crap.

I think these remakes are fine, but I'd take the original(s) every time:

The Fly, 1986 ( The Fly, 1958)

The Grudge, 2004 (the Ju-On series)

The Blob, 1988 (The Blob, 1958)

Finally, for my money these are the most godforsaken horror remakes of all time:

The Wicker Man, 2006 ( The Wicker Man, 1973)

Black Christmas, 2006 ( Black Christmas, 1974)

The Haunting, 1999 ( The Haunting, 1963)

Village of the Damned, 1995 ( Village of the Damned, 1960)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2003 ( The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, 1974)

The Hitcher, 2007 ( The Hitcher, 1986)

When a Stranger Calls, 2006 ( When a Stranger Calls, 1979)

House of Wax, 2005 ( House of Wax , 1953)

Pulse, 2006 ( Pulse, 2001)

The Omen, 2006 ( The Omen, 1976)

Please weigh in!

Question: I've been reading about the new movie Bachelor No. 2 starring Dane Cook. Is it just me or doesn't the plot seem exactly the same as Mr. Fix It, which was just released in 2006 starring David Boreanaz. What's the deal? - Michele

FlickChick: Welcome to the wonderful world of Stag (1997) and Very Bad Things (1998).

But first, yes, the general plot of Bachelor No. 2 does seem to bear a striking resemblance to that of Mr. Fix It. The Baseline StudioSystem logline for Bachelor, a big-budget comedy directed by Howard Deutch and scheduled for 2008 release, is "Tank [ Dane Cook], a guy hired to take girls on horrible dates so they crawl back to the boyfriends they dumped, struggles with his libido and the meaning of friendship when his best pal needs his help with the girl [Alexis, played by Kate Hudson] who dumped him." Tank's dilemma, as I understand it, is that he falls in love with Alexis. The direct-to-video Mr. Fix It is about Lance Valenteen ( David Boreanaz), who makes a living setting up women who've recently dumped their boyfriends - researching everything about them, bumping into them "accidentally," getting them to fall for him and then treating them so badly that they go back to their exes. Then he falls for his current gig, played by Alana De La Garza. No question, the premises sound awfully similar.

And that's how we get back to the big-budget Very Bad Things - directed by Peter Berg and starring Cameron Diaz, a pre- Entourage Jeremy Piven, Jon Favreau and Christian Slater - and the made-for-cable Stag, with Andrew McCarthy, Mario Van Peebles and a pre- Entourage Kevin Dillon. The premises sound awfully similar: In both, the friends of a regular guy (Faveau in VBT and John Stockwell in Stag) arrange a wild bachelor party with strippers. A stripper is accidentally killed, and the black sheep friend (Slater in VBT, McCarthy in Stag) convinces the others that the only way to make sure that all their lives aren't ruined is to hide the body and pretend it never happened. In the aftermath, the friends turn on each other. Stag was made in 1997, a full year before Very Bad Things, and when VBT was about to open, the rumors began spreading that it had been ripped off from the smaller movie. In this case I've seen - and, as it happens, liked - both, and the fact is, the premise is the same but the films aren't. You couldn't tell from a prerelease synopsis, which is designed not to give everything away, but the story that takes up the whole film in Stag is actually only the first act of VBT.

So for the moment I'm going to reserve judgment on Bachelor No. 2 and Mr. Fix It. And if the movies do turn out to be similar throughout, you can bet there's a lawyer waiting to get right on it!

Question: Is the Golden Compass movie based on the first book or the whole trilogy. Also, have you read it and if so, did you like it? - Jason

FlickChick: The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, directed by Chris Weitz and executive-produced by his brother Paul (their previous collaboration was 2002's About a Boy), is adapted from the first book in Philip Pullman's acclaimed "His Dark Materials" trilogy. If it's any kind of success, I have no doubt that we'll be seeing The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

I have to confess that I've only read The Golden Compass, though I bought the entire set on the strength of its reputation. It's well written and smart, but it just didn't grab me, though I'm very taken with the warrior polar bears. I do, however, have to say that I've never been a fan of epic fantasy fiction - I got through two of the Harry Potter books, was left so cold by The Hobbit that I never cracked book one of to the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the only reason I've read as many of the Chronicles of Narnia as I have is because they were around when I was a child and beggars can't be choosers.

Question: I was a great fan of Jeffrey Hunter. I would like to know where and what his children are doing now. I think Steele is in film production, but that's all I know. Will you help me? Thanks. - Carolyn

FlickChick: An up-and-coming star of the 1950s whose movie credits include The Searchers (1955) and The King of Kings (1961), Jeffrey Hunter is today probably best know for having played Captain Christopher Pike in the first pilot for Star Trek. Born in New Orleans in 1926, the future Hunter - then Henry Herman McKinnies Jr. - was raised in Wisconsin. A high school athlete, he did a one-year hitch in the Navy (1945-46), graduated from Northwestern University and later attended UCLA. He was rechristed "Jeffrey Hunter" by 20th Century Fox and began his movie career in 1950; in an era of pretty boys ranging from Robert Wagner to Tab Hunter, he was one of the most handsome.

Hunter was married three times. He had one son, Christopher, from his marriage to actress Barbara Rush, and two biological sons - Todd and Scott - with his second, actress Joan "Dusty" Bartlett. Hunter also adopted Bartlett's son from her previous marriage, Steele Richard Bartlett. Hunter got married for the third and last time in 1969, to General Hospital actress Emily McLaughlin; they had no children and he died a few months after their wedding.

Christopher Hunter is a photographer, but that's all I could find out about him - except that his half sister on his mother's side is Fox News reporter Claudia Cowan. Steele Hunter (what a name!) is a grip and works steadily in movies; grips maintain and set up equipment on movie sets - it's a skilled technical position. Todd - who was named Henry Herman McKinnies III after his grandfather but called "Todd" from childhood - graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1992 and is a lawyer. He practices in Madison and seems to specialize in employment law. I couldn't unearth anything about what Scott does; if anyone knows, please speak up.

Jeffrey Hunter died during surgery at the age of 46 of complications from a stroke and the fall he took immediately after; an on-set accident some months earlier may have contributed to the stroke (though he had already had one earlier) and the fact that Hunter drank heavily during his later life may have contributed to general debilitation. Barbara Rush is still alive and working; her most recent credits include several episodes of TV's 7th Heaven. Emily McLaughlin died in 1991 and Joan Bartlett died in 2005.

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