A few years back, on one of our glorious Myra Mondays, Mike Cucinotta and I watched Christopher Smith’s horror flick CREEP. It was a fun flick with a great performance by Franka Potente, who got chased through subway tunnels by a mutated weirdo. It had some good scares, and I’ve enjoyed Potente since I first saw her in RUN LOLA RUN. About a month ago, while perusing a listing of new arrivals at Netflix Instant, I was happy to see CREEP made the list. I looked forward to watching it again. There was only one problem. This was not the same CREEP. And I’m calling shenanigans.
This CREEP was released in 2014, and it’s not a remakebootimagining of Smiths’ film. Instead of subterranean chases and mutated weirdos, I “found” myself watching yet another flaccid found-footage piece of trash that followed an amazingly naive cameraman who visits, sight unseen, a cancer-ridden creep in the country. No Franka Potente, no Christopher Smith in the chair (and I like his catalogue). No monster. Just Mark Duplass and a functionally retarded guy with a camera who takes jobs off Craigslist from psychos who live in the woods.
The stupidity of this flick got me hot to begin with, but it was the naming chicanery that really pissed me off. It’s not uncommon when a flick takes the name of an older flick, especially if it’s a one-word title. William Lustig’s 1980 exploitation masterpiece MANIAC shares its title with a horror flick from 1934. But that’s 46 years between films. Smith’s CREEP came out in 2004. That’s 10 years between use of the title, which is not really a lot of time, when I think about it. I’ll speculate that the producers and Blumhouse, the micro-studio that released it, never checked to see if there was a previous CREEP. If I’m right, that’s just the kind of laziness apparent in the film’s plot and dialogue.
I, however, did my research and discovered this film is a Horror Movie Relocation Program victim. It’s original moniker was PEACHFUZZ. Though it doesn’t scream “horror,” which is likely the motive for the switch, at least it’s not a steal. And it has a little more personality, as it’s less generic. Once I found this flick had a previously unused title and cast it aside for a ripoff, that really raised my ire.
But CREEP isn’t the only example. Two weeks ago, THE GIFT opened. From what I understand, there’s not so much as a second of nude Katie Holmes in this flick. Oh wait, that’s because this isn’t the Sam Raimi THE GIFT from 2000, it’s the Joel Edgerton THE GIFT from 2015. Granted, that’s 15 years out, and as far as I know Edgerton’s flick didn’t have a previous title. But Raimi is a well-respected, popular filmmaker, both among horror fans and the mainstream. I would think out of reverence to him, people wouldn’t gank a title from his catalogue. But that’s not the case.
So why couldn’t Edgerton call his film something else? Perhaps something a little more specific to his film, even? Sure, as a title, THE GIFT is short, sweet and simple to remember. But it’s unoriginal, generic, and harmless, just the way Hollywood thinking wants all its product to be, in name and content. It’s telling that the trailer makes the film look like just another potboiler thriller, as hackneyed as the title it stole. Given that, the title fits the flick like a glove.
Oh, and remember how I mentioned Mike, and Myra Mondays in my intro? Don’t even get me started on this year’s ANGUISH, which cops its title from an oddball 1987 Zelda Rubinstein flick I once watched in Mike’s company. I’m positive that one’s not a remake.
The sad thing is, originality isn’t really hard to come by, but you have to want it. In fact, a fresh title helps a film stick out in the marketplace. Which is why when I wrote my first script, I made up the word “deadtention,” for a title instead of calling it ZOMBIE HIGH… which already exists.
The instructor in me is compelled to sum it up like this: One day, maybe Hollywood will craft titles that are specific to the films, and certainly for one-time only use. Until then…
IT’S OFFICIAL! YOU SUCK!!!