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May 16, 1999

For every "reworking" of a film that works (Nora Ephron's "You've Got Mail" comes to mind) there seem to be more than a handful of duds ("The Avengers," "Mod Squad," "Godzilla') that the paying audience has to painfully sift through ("They're 'Reworkings' Not 'Remakes,' " by Bill Desowitz, May 9).

And the problem continues to escalate when you combine the material with talented and proven directors and casts, and it still fails to draw an audience and/or a profit (Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake of "Psycho").

The studios will keep producing these remakes (reworkings, rehashes) until they stop seeing the money flow into their coffers. So it is up to the consumers to judge them with their pocketbooks.




I was looking forward to the upcoming remake (excuse me, reworking) of "The Haunting" until I read director Jan De Bont and co-producer Susan Arnold's comments.

According to De Bont, the way to scare people today is with complex visual and sound effects. I'd like to know if he feels any personal responsibility to scare his audience or if that's just a job for the special effects department.

Anyone familiar with the original "Haunting" knows that its lasting appeal is due to the fact that director Robert Wise (working, of course, from an excellent script by Nelson Gidding) understood that the strength of Shirley Jackson's story came from what was not shown, that letting an audience imagine what is behind a closed door is much scarier than showing it to them.

De Bont and Arnold are wrong in their assumption that today's audiences are too obtuse to enjoy nuanced, atmospheric storytelling and only appreciate loud, noisy "thrill rides." We just get way too little of the former and way too many of the latter.


Long Beach

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