What’s the Point of American Remakes of Cult Classics?

io9 ran an interview yesterday with Matt Reeves, director of the American remake of Let the Right One In, a supremely creepy Norwegian vampire film. The interview delved into the differences of Let Me In from its source material — since many have said the trailer so far looks nearly like a shot-by-shot remake. It seems there will be differences with the new film, like a change in the perspective of the storytelling and fewer cats.

But this all makes me wonder where the impulse to remake popular foreign films into American ones comes from. We saw instant interest in remaking the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, for instance. Either American audiences really hate reading subtitles or Hollywood is really devoid of original ideas. When I think of remaking cult classics, I tend to think of the remake of Psycho, which was far inferior to the original. To me the most successful remakes of old or foreign films are the ones that have flawed source material so they can take great liberties.

Granted, there have been some great American remakes of Japanese horror flicks — The Ring is an obvious example. And the early feedback from the Let Me In screening at Comicon leads me to believe this film might be good.

Still, I have to wonder what the standard for remaking a foreign film or cult classic should be. When is it OK to just leave it to the arthouse crowd?