Remember when I wasn't going to talk about remakes? You should; it was just last month.
I wasn't going to say a word about the spate of remakes and reboots currently making their way through the cinematic swamp towards audiences everywhere, because I simply didn't have the strength or heart to deal with the subject again.
Well, things have changed. (“ Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman)
The trigger was the release of the film POLTERGEIST, and the very perceptive review by my human companion Shane Dallmann, a critic whose knowledge and expertise I'd referenced before. (You can read his excellent review HERE, along with the comments generated.) By all accounts, as I surmised when I first saw the previews during IT FOLLOWS, the film is pretty much a waste of time; rent the original if you so choose. (And seeing the publicity on the film, including the dreaded “Oh-look-my-daughter-is-sitting-in-the-corner-of-her-closet-and-crying-I-must-go-help-her-OH-NO-IT'S-NOT-MY-DAUGHTER-IT'S-A HORRIBLE-THING-INSTEAD-AAAAHHHH!” scene which made nobody jump in sheer surprise and unexpectedness, did nothing to whet my appetite for this latest effort.)
But…in reading the comments on Mr. Dallmann's review, I was struck by an observation, one I had never considered before, and it opened up a stream of thoughts that I wished to explore further. The comment, in part, is as follows:
“Geeky fanboy producers make the movie they wish the original had been, unaware they are using that self-same original as a template upon which to layer their unfiltered…horror-porn.”
Fascinating, to quote a beloved SF character. This is something I'd never previously considered. The common trope of remakes is that they're made simply to cash in on familiar titles or films from a previous era, with the idea that they will be financially viable because of the established recognition factor. In other words, strictly a monetary decision.
But what if this gentleman is correct? It certainly makes sense; the youngsters who'd grown up on these films in their youth are now in positions of authority. It logical that they would turn to these beloved memories as inspiration for their own efforts, and, indeed, if there was any sense of dissatisfaction with the earlier films, there would indeed be a desire to “top” what was done before, or “finally get it right ”…at least in their opinions.
If that sounds too complicated…well, it implies that the impetus for the remakes need not necessarily be entirely avaricious.
The idea of creating a work inspired by another previous effort is an old, established literary tradition, not at all disparaged. Many a fine author has been influenced by another's efforts and created something wondrous in response. In the genre of the Dark Fantastic there are numerous examples:
The great H. P. Lovecraft was hugely influenced by the masterful writings of Edgar Allen Poe, and although he carved out his own place in the field, many of his best works are acknowledges pastiches of Mr. Poe's stylings, most notably his classic “The Outsider”.
Bram Stoker's classic and groundbreaking novel “Dracula” has inspired more adaptations than almost any other literary work, but it's also inspired others to try their hand at the vampire myth. Perhaps the most famous version is Stephen King's “'Salem's Lot”, which is a conscious variation on Stoker's novel set in present day Maine. (And for all its Gothic sensibilities, it's good to remember that Mr. Stoker himself considered “Dracula” a “modern” novel, contrasting the vampire legend with the current advances in science.) The parallels include the gathering of the brave vampire hunting group, the vampire's use of a minion to lay the groundwork (Renfield in “Dracula”, Straker in “'Salem's Lot”), the search for the many coffins, the staking of a female protagonist, and the forced drinking of the vampire's blood to achieve desecration.
“Dracula” was also the inspiration for Richard Matheson's classic novel “I Am Legend”, which put forth the possibilities that if one vampire was scary, then a world filled with vampires would be even scarier. (This “ratcheting up” of the Horror quotient with excess is the same thought process behind the new POLTERGEIST and many current remakes; the reason it worked so well for Mr. Matheson is his sure hand guiding the plot and knowing what he really wanted to say, which wasn't about simply increasing the mayhem.)
And in one of the most famous examples of inspiration, George Romero has often stated that he's indebted to “I Am Legend” in his creation of his DEAD mythos with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD and other films in the series. He was struck by the vision of a new, chaotic society rising from the ashes of an apocalypse that he planned his work as a testament to Mr. Matheson's, choosing to focus on the society as a whole rather than the one individual as “I Am Legend” does.
Harlan Ellison has used inspiration from others for some of his most powerful work; this includes his short story “Nedra at f:5.6” (a homage to Fritz Leiber's classic tale “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes”). In perhaps his most famous example, he had long admired Robert Bloch's story “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” and asked for a sequel for his groundbreaking anthology “Dangerous Visions”. Mr. Bloch complied with his story “A Toy for Juliette”, yet Mr. Ellison had some other thoughts on where the story should lead. With Mr. Bloch's permission, he continued the tale as his award-winning story “The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World”. Both stories can be read as stand-alone works; taken as a pair they offer a rich examination of violence in society and psychotic behavior that is not easily forgotten.
And Richard Matheson has taken inspiration from others in his efforts as well; his novel “Hell House” is a variation on Shirley Jackson's classic haunted house examination “The Haunting of Hill House”.
Even the original POLTERGEIST can lay claim to inspiration. No less a genre observer than Gahan Wilson, in his review in “Twilight Zone” magazine, suggested that POLTERGEIST's creators were moved to make the movie after being dissatisfied with how similar material was handled in the original THE AMITYVILLE HORROR.
All of this is an honorable means of using similar themes to different outcomes. Each of the artists described, intrigued by thoughts and concepts put forth in a previous work, take stock and think, “What can I do and say with that idea?” Each effort is successful because of the clear vision of what the artists wants to bring to his individual interpretation; indeed, in some cases the new interpretations can overshadow the original inspiration.
The problem, as I see it, is when the vision isn't truly clear, and the ‘inspiration' becomes water thin. If the new attempt is simply a desire to make things scarier (for want of a better term), if the attempt simply slavishly follows what small details interested the inspired in the first place without considering the greater work as a whole, then it becomes either a game of one-upmanship (which can become tedious in the extreme very quickly) or acts as a pale imitation of what was done before much better.
Everyone's a critic. Whereas that used to simply be a saying, today it pretty much stands as fact. Log onto any website, whether it's a film tribute site, a Horror site, Facebook, Amazon, anything, and you will find people pontificating about this or that television series, movie, book, comic, and what have you. The reviews may be insightful or amateurish, but they exist without any hesitation or sense of self-consciousness. Everyone has an opinion, and nobody is afraid to share it anymore, for better or for worse.
As with anything else, there is both good and bad in this. It's nice that people feel free to express themselves honestly, and good critical feedback can help many an artist in their lifelong journey of self-expression. On the other hand, it should be abundantly clear that not every opinion is equal. The Internet seems to level that playing field, but in truth that's an illusion. There are many bad, uninformed and simply foolish opinions, but unless a person is intimately familiar with those offering their opinions (and the anonymity of being online makes that extremely difficult) then all opinions are to be taken with equal validity.
And quite often, this is the death of Art, for when Art is determined by committee, it can quickly become the homogenous indistinct efforts that were (and still are) often seen on broadcast television. True Art is often the vision on one or a particular group of individuals, and while the performing arts are indeed a group endeavor, there must be one person at the helm of the ship if anything cohesive and interesting is to be produced. (Such as Rod Serling, Joss Whedon, David Cronenberg, Christ Carter, Gene Roddenberry and other individuals of note.)
Ideally, the artists does listen to criticism – and then disregards it if he finds it contrary to his own beliefs. He doesn't slavishly follow every suggestion or request, but searches out his own path. He is aware that not all opinions are equally important, but some must be paid attention to if he is to grow as an artist, even if that opinion diverges from his own. (Stephen King refers to that individual in writing as the Ideal Reader; the person to whom the manuscript is first given on its completion, and whose opinion influences it's editing and final disposition the most – in his case it's his wife Tabitha King, a noted author in her own right.)
But there is a school of thought, particularly among the film and television studios, that consensus can be achieved through special screenings and sneak previews. Many films are often edited based on audience reactions to these screenings, and while the concept of cutting a film down to eliminate slow parts and fill any plot holes is very helpful (Stanley Kubrick would often base his final edits on the initial screenings) it becomes an issue when the audience seems to go against the very nature of the film's intent – perhaps the ending might be changed to make it more optimistic when the screenwriter wanted a harder, more somber conclusion, or a character who's very popular suddenly dies, and the audience rebels against this even when it's imperative to the overall story arc (as happened to William Goldman in his screenplay of THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER).
When this happens, when the creation of Art becomes a practice on the level of a choose-your-own-adventure manual, it's fated to suffer, particularly when one of the functions of Art is to occasionally make the viewer uncomfortable and cause them to think along lines they might not otherwise be willing to explore.
Popularity can also be a straitjacket in an effort to create Art. George Romero gained fame for his powerful DEAD films, and his loyal fans are legion. They can be devoted and utterly steadfast, provided he continues to supply the films they became fans of initially. But when he's sometimes tried to stretch himself to creating other works, or when he doesn't fulfill the fans' expectations of what a true DEAD film is, they can be equally unforgiving, and quick to demand “Give us what we want, and only what we want!”
Two of his films from the 1990s, THE DARK HALF and BRUISER, were attempts to go beyond his DEAD oeuvre; the first film was greeted with disinterest and the second with actual hostility. Neither reaction was merited. THE DARK HALF was, in my opinion (and take it as you will, considering the theme of this essay) a fine adaptation of Stephen King's novel, not one of the greatest adaptations nor one of Mr. Romero's best efforts, but a fine, solid bit of macabre entertainment with a strong central performance by Timothy Hutton. (Two, in fact, but that's another matter.)
I found BRUISER to be a thought-provoking, wonderful bit of Dark Fantasy and allegory, the story of a man who literally becomes faceless in the soul-crushing circumstances of his family, social and business life. It was a metaphor, an intriguing one, and although it had some clumsy moments here and again as it approached its denouement, the bile released on the film in fan columns and on websites was absolutely baffling to me. It was (and remains) a fine, intelligent, adult Horror tale, and I can only attribute its reception to the fact that it simply wasn't another example of flesh eating, chaotic Walking Dead mayhem. The Romero fans knew what they wanted, and this wasn't it, no matter how worthy it might have been otherwise.
The same situation occurred with the latest DEAD film, SURVIVIAL OF THE DEAD. The outrage expelled on this movie from the Horror community would have you believe that it was a completely wasted effort, a total fumbling of a one talented individual who had long lost his ability to create a worthwhile cinematic effort.
SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD contains moments that ring as some of the most dominant and heartbreaking of any of Mr. Romero's other DEAD films: the Dead family members chained to beds in their spare rooms, the lovely Dead daughter whose one remaining link of memory – riding her beloved horse – sustains her day-to-day existence, and the terrible final fate of that horse, the animated corpses walking across the bottom of the river, the enslavement of the Dead and their final revolt, and, most powerful of all, the final image of the two Dead patriarchs, filled with nothing but the mindless remnants of their long feud, standing apart beneath a full moon, instinctively firing shot after shot at each other with empty weapons. Could there be a more potent image of the complete, irrational uselessness of blind hatred?
I won't argue that SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is on the same artistic level as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD or DAY OF THE DEAD; it has serious flaws, not the least of which is a focus on characters from a previous film (the only time that Mr. Romero used characters from one DEAD film in another as a direct sequel) that we couldn't possibly care less about (I kept wanting to get back to the island families and their conflicts). But I will say that it is a worthy film, and one undeserving of the critical shellacking it got from the Horror community.
What happened? Obviously it didn't meet the expectations of the fans; they wanted more gore and mayhem instead of a careful, thoughtful Western-styled examination of hate and violence. They wanted more victims, blood and effects. But Mr. Romero has never been interested in simply that kind of mayhem; he's always used it as allegory for the breakdown of society. The gore and garish violence associated with many of the so-called “zombie” films today came from the offshoots, the “inspired” homages and the low-budget efforts that had little going for them as far as genuine ideas and had to rely on grue to make their points.
In the end, under the democratic principle of critical consensus, he “didn't give the audience what they wanted,” and suffered for it. But I feel the loss was more the community's than Mr. Romero.
Some years ago, my human companion Bob made a series of short films featuring myself, all based on stories that I tell. It was a fun and exciting project, and in all four 30 minute movies were completed. (I hope very much in the near future to get them released at least on my YouTube channel for your enjoyment.)
After completing two of them, Bob was getting tired and decided that he wouldn't direct the third one; he would produce it and allow another filmmaker to take the reins. (He also thought it would be interesting to see what somebody else's eye might bring to the films.) After some thought he chose an individual that will remain unnamed. That person seemed excited about the possibilities and read the script, which was based on my story “The Devil's Pocket”.
“The Devil's Pocket” is a story about the power of legends, a psychological tale that implies more than it shows. Two brothers have heard stories about an abandoned quarry with a cursed past; called ‘the Devil's Pocket', youngsters are taught to avoid it because the Devil himself may live there, and never to visit it at night. The boys being curious decide to explore that forbidden place, and several strange events occur. The listener to the story and the viewer of the film are lead to consider whether the place truly is cursed, or whether the boys' fears made their imaginations play tricks on them; it end deliberately ambiguous.
When the potential director read the script, he asked if he could suggest changes to the story, and Bob was more than willing to listen, since one, this would have been the director's project, and he should definitely have some input, and two, a fresh perspective often makes for a more creative and successful project. There was a meeting with Bob, his assistant producer and the director.
After listening to the suggestions, Bob was very concerned. There were extensive changes suggested that removed all ambiguity and subtlety in the story, making the terrors full-on and visceral, which completely changed the intent of the original. While that was troubling enough, Bob's assistant pointed out that many of the changes were familiar moments and scenes being used in current popular Horror films. (As one example, there was an effect planned of a demonic creature crawling up the side of the boys' house.) It seemed to her that, in trying to rewrite the script, the director had called up several people and asked them what they wanted to see in a good Horror film, and they replied with tropes that were already becoming overly familiar.
The film was in danger of becoming simply a “Horror's Greatest Hits” collection of unrelated scenes, and after some serious discussion, the director decided not to helm the project, and the script remained as originally written. Bob ended up directing that effort as well, and to the gentleman's credit, when he saw the finished film he apologized and said he now understood what we were trying to achieve with the more suggestive story. There were no hard feelings, and everyone went on with things.
But it demonstrated quite graphically the danger of Art by Committee that I fear ruins many a potentially fine film or story today. Or say rather, not Art by Committee, but Art by Consensus, staging actions and including scenes that offer absolutely so surprise because the filmmakers grew up watching and loving certain types of Horror movies and wanted to make their films exactly the same way.
How many zombie films have there been in the past dozen years that are almost unwatchable because they're all exactly the same story, more or less? The filmmakers grew up loving the DEAD movies of Mr. Romero and want to put their own spin on things, and that minimal point is where things are acceptable. But they don't put their own spin on things; they simply repeat what was done before, over and over and over again, possible bumping up the gore and grue (Which is good for budding makeup artists but not so good for moviegoers that want something fresh) but doing little else.
There's the “a canister of your-fake-chemical-name-here getting into the environment and starting the plague” scene, the “my loved one becomes a zombie and I can't kill him/her because of my love so they end up killing me/my family members/total strangers” scene, the “authorities from the government/military/shadowy conspiracy organization closes of the town to begin quarantining it” scene, and, of course, the various scenes of chewing, gouging, eating, flesh-tearing, veins-in-the-teeth and eyeballs dangling scenes. It's all by rote, so much so that viewers can usually predict within fifteen minutes of watching these films what's about to happen next. And this is the death of true Horror, because to be genuinely scared one must not know what's coming!
It's been suggested that those fans don't really want a true Horror movie; they want a comfortable set of iconic images that they can watch with a feigned interest, ritual moments as comfortable as an old song playing on the radio that they can sing along to. The archetypes are so pervasive that every haunted attraction in America has its own “zombie apocalypse” moment or section, and the tropes are now played for satire on shows like the recent IZOMBIE. (Which I enjoy because of the writing and characters, not the situation; as far as I'm concerned that's simply background white noise.)
By slavishly following what made their hearts beat wildly, the new filmmakers, rather than creating homages to the earlier efforts, have hastened the enshrining of clichés and started the genre down the path to disillusionment and boredom.
Let's look at that terrible daughter-in-the-closet scene from the new POLTERGEIST. No, I didn't see it in the theater; I caught the moment on a talk show when actor Sam Rockwell, an excellent performer, both in comedy (GALAXY QUEST, CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND) and drama (THE GREEN MILE, MOON) who deserves much better material than what he sometimes gets, was promoting the film. The logic of the scene is spacious; the daughter, who's been in distress, is sitting in the closet with her back to her father, not acknowledging his presence in the room when he enters and begins talking to her. Do children behave that way? The whole reason for her indifference is when the clueless father (who should know children don't act like that, much less his own daughter) walks over, concerned for her well-being, bends over (for the full jump effect) and can see the hideous being that's actually in the room when it turns to face him, hissing.
Unless you're under the age of ten and haven't seen a single scary movie in your lifetime, the terrible sight that turns and confronts him comes as absolutely no surprise; it's a cheap jump that the more accomplished filmmakers of the Dark Fantastic – David Cronenberg, George Romero, Roman Polanski, even the more mature John Carpenter – disdain. The only shock potential is the “terrible” face that confronts the father, and a slack-faced daughter with empty eye-sockets is somewhat low on the fright scale to more experienced viewers.
Contrast that with a similar scene from the wonderful Gothic chiller THE OTHERS, when the mother enters her daughter's dark bedroom and finds her playing on the floor, talking away as children do, calling to her mother (a splendid Nicole Kidman). The moment when the mother comes face-to-face with her daughter and discovers a blind, elderly woman sitting on the floor, speaking in her daughter's voice, is truly terrifying. (And it has the benefit of being completely logical; at the end of the film the blind woman is revealed as a psychic who at that moment had a connection with the daughter.) It's a study of skill versus imitation and cliché, with POLTERGEIST coming out short.
Does it matter? Are the fans discerning? I think so. THE OTHERS was a critical and commercial success, POLTERGEIST was a disappointment on both counts. It's probably not enough to stem the tide of remakes and reimaginings, but it's a glimmer of hope, and sometimes that's all viewers can cling to. This is an extraordinarily good time for the Dark Fantastic, with films as diverse and challenging as A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, IT FOLLOWS, EX MACHINA, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, THE BABADOOK finding their audiences and receiving accolades from genre critics and supporters. The time when audiences will be satisfied with rehashed anxieties may soon be a thing of the past. I can always hope so, anyway.
When I saw IT FOLLOWS, I was heartened by the age of the audience around me. Many were in their late teens and early twenties, the audience that POLTERGEIST desperately wanted. I was worried that the deliberate pace and quietly rising tension might be lost on these young people who have experienced more visceral shocks in their more popular movies. Yet when the lights came up, the collected release of breath was an honest reaction to the fear generated, and all conversation was excited discussion about how the movie had affected them No one had a disparaging word to say, and most walked into the night laughing nervously and looking over their shoulders in slight apprehension. Greater tribute could not be paid to David Robert Mitchell and his fine cast and crew. Well done, all of you!
It's difficult to remember right now, because his career has, if not exactly cooled down, then certainly levelled off in its maturity, but during the 1980s into the early 1990s Stephen Spielberg was the proverbial 800-pund gorilla in Hollywood: those in charge of the studios thought he could do no wrong, and let him do pretty much anything he wanted. And one thing he wanted to do, in addition to making his own movies, was to produce a series of expensive SF ad Fantasy films that, even though they were slick and superbly mounted, were basically B movies with A movie budgets.
Some of these films were quite successful, artistically, critically and commercially; among those I'd list the original POLTERGEIST, BACK TO THE FUTURE, HARRY & THE HENDERSONS and WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBITT? Others were less so; I don't think GREMLINS has aged terribly well, and doesn't seem as coherent and enjoyable as when I first watched it. I never really got caught up in the excitement generated by THE GOONIES, although it has its legions of admirers, and the less said about YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED, most of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE and the second INDIANA JONES film, the better.
But I think one of his worst efforts was the television series AMAZING STORIES, a show that premiered with great fanfare and, a little over a season later, sank unceremoniously without a trace. It was trumpeted as a return of quality anthology television, and much was made of the celebrities drawn to the show because of Mr. Spielberg's reputation: Martin Scorsese, Burt Reynolds, Bob Clark, Peter Hyams, Robert Zemeckis and Clint Eastwood all helmed episodes of the show. Alas, many bought into the Hollywood (and, sadly, popular) notion that the director is the one responsible for the success of a particular production, whereas the truth of the matter is that, without a solid, wonderful script for a director to work with, he might as well be fingerpainting.
The simple fact was that for a show called AMAZING STORIES, most of the stories were far from amazing. Some were good, several were OK, and most were mediocre at best. Because it was an expensively produced series (estimates of the budget per episode were upwards from one-to-two million dollars each) and special effects were used extensively, some of the weaknesses of the material were covered by the production values, something that occurred with the films produced by Mr. Spielberg during this time. But money can't buy quality all the time, and the show left many wanting.
(And to offset the cries of outrage from fans of the show, let me state that many episodes were indeed worthy of the series title. These include Mr. Spielberg's episode “The Mission”, Mr. Zemeckis's “Go to the Head of the Class”, Norman Reynold's wonderful “Gather Ye Acorns” and Mr. Hyam's “The Amazing Farnsworth”. Probably the best episode was one that didn't receive any advance hype, directed by the lesser known (but equally talented) William Dear: “Mummy Daddy”, a raucous, live-action Looney Toons extravaganza about a Horror film actor's attempts to get through the Southern backwoods to the hospital for his expectant wife's delivery.)
What went wrong with the show? And what was wrong with so many of Mr. Spielberg's film productions? Many pinpointed the fact most of the episodes were warmed-over moments that other Dark Fantasy series – THE TWILIGHT ZONE, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, THE OUTER LIMITS and ONE STEP BEYOND – had done originally, and better. And many of his film attempts were recreations of B movies that he'd enjoyed during Saturday afternoon matinees in his youth. He had the money and resources now to recreate his childhood favorites with huge special effects and professionally polished productions, but the charms of low-budget melodrama and monsters were lost in the glaze of corporate coffers; only the weaknesses remained.
And I fear that's what's happening today with the remakes that fail so dismally. Love is a wonderful thing, but love can be blinding as well, blinding to the faults and failings of a relationship, be they with a cherished partner or nostalgic memories. If, as an adult, you spend all your time trying to recapture or improve on a previous love and devotion, the result is sure to be unsatisfactory.
Many of the finest authors and artists still have a love for what first introduced them to this grand genre. Stephen King points to the Roger Corman creature features and Horror comics like “Tales from the Crypt” as his first love; Harlan Ellison thrills to the classic radio dramas of “Inner Sanctum”, “Quiet Please” and “Lights Out” and the pulp heroes The Shadow and Doc Savage for his sense of wonder. Chris Carter was a fan of KOLCHACK: THE NIGHT STALKER, and Rod Serling was long a fan of Horror and SF before the idea for THE TWILIGHT ZONE ever occurred to him.
But each of these, and artists like them, moved on from their initial inspirations when it became clear that there was so much more to their talents that they wanted to explore. Mr. King still has a love for one-reel Horror in black & white, but his passion has grown to include his life experiences. Mr. Ellison still reveres the classic drama dramatists, but his imagination was strengthened and influences by the magic realism of the Central American fabulists. Even Mr. Spielberg's latest works are more assured and mature; LINCOLN, except for the final ten minutes, was magnificent. (Although for my money his finest work may still be the classic JAWS.)
Perhaps those that greenlight and plot the current series of remakes will similarly mature. It's possible; the Beatles began as a fairly typical teen heartthrob quartet imitating their favorite rockabilly artists, covering Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Carl Perkins. There first singles that they wrote themselves were greatly influenced by those artists, but when they began truly trying to find their own voices and carve out their own territory in the music world, they grew into the most influential rock group in history, pointing the way to experiments unimagined by the first rock artists, and inspiring those in their wake, up until today (and probably into the future). The talent of POLTERGEIST might do the same.
A famous quote goes, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” With the Dark Fantastic, there's no need to do away with the sense of wonder concerning the macabre and magical; it's easily recaptured. There's no crime in inspiration, but it can never replace vision, or innovation.
“POLTERGEIST was a great movie, but …it would be even scarier if …” is a fine starting point. But if the idea never progresses far beyond that, what's left is simply a hollow echo, shouted into an uncaring and uninterested void, eventually fading into nothing.