Thanks to Bloody-Disgusting, we have some news regarding the remakes of two of Stephen King’s best loved stories, It and Pet Sematary. Unfortunately, along with Misery, these two are also probably the best King horror adaptations to have hit screens (but only because Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption dont count). They are certainly the two that scared the holy bejeezuz out of me the most when I first saw them, and every subsequent time. So news of a remake for both is something of a double-edged sword- part of me welcomes a new take on the stories, but the other part will always be suspicious of the Hollywood remake machine when the originals were good enough. The sad fact is that modern horror remakes largely don’t work.

Bloody-Disgusting have today reposted an interview that originated at fan-site Lilja’s Library with David Kajganich, the scripter charged with bringing both remakes to the screen. First Kajganich spoke of the Pet Sematary redo:

After I turned in my first draft, Paramount went through a top-down regime change and I was given a new executive who had creative ideas I just couldn’t stand behind. They wanted to appeal to younger audiences, so there was talk of making a teenaged Ellie the main character, and etc. It was really heartbreaking, but that’s how the process works sometimes. The studio was gracious enough to let me out of my contract and the project was dormant at the studio until very recently.

Hang on, a teen thriller remake?! Is he kidding? Thank God the project is dormant… but wait, he has more:

The current news is that Paramount has restarted the process with a new producer and writer (Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Matt Greenberg; both previously announced. I wish I could tell you something about their approach, or how it’s going, but I’m entirely out of the loop now.

Oh, no. Hopefully Paramount have the sense to kick out the executive’s “creative ideas” before the remake begins to circle the drain already. Everyone who has heard Kevin Smith’s Superman story knows that film execs and creative ideas just don’t mesh!

There is one scene in particular in the original Pet Sematary that still really gets to me- for everyone who has seen it, it’s the knife to the Achilles tendon moment. It is easily the most disturbing piece of cinema I have ever witnessed, and I still feel the tiny icey fingers of fear walk up my spine when I think about it now. The whole film just works for me as a good old fashioned horror flick.

So to be told that the remake was originally conceived by Paramount as a teen horror, with a teenage Ellie as the lead is a bit of a kick in the teeth. Hopefully the attachment of genuinely scary King adaptation 1408’s scripter Matthew Greenberg will indicate that it will in fact by a more mature project than Kajganich was lead to believe.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but in my opinion it is pretty damaging to only cater to a specific demographic within the horror genre- if it is scary it works, and having a more universal appeal means it will be seen by more audiences. The box office succes of Paranormal Activity has at least proved that.

The second, more exciting looking news from the interview is that Kajganich wants to give the original It adaptation a faithful and respectful remake for Dan Lin and Roy Lee (who will also oversee the new Lego Movie) at Warner Bros:

In all of my talks with the studio, it has only ever been discussed as a single feature film. The book’s length is clearly more suited to a mini-series—and I understand very well why they went that route the last time around—but I think the book’s content is really more appropriate for cinema. I told the studio from the beginning that I felt I needed to be able to write for an R rating, since I wanted to be as candid as the novel about the terrible things the characters go through as kids. They agreed and off I went.

Kajganich goes on to compare making the remake to the original  TV mini-series:

I think the biggest difference is that we’re working with about two-thirds the onscreen time they had for the miniseries. That sounds dire, I know, but it doesn’t necessarily mean two-thirds the amount of story. I’m finding as many ways as I can to make certain scenes redundant by deepening and doubling others. To me, this is an interesting process because it has the effect of thematically intensifying the whole, but it can lead to dramatic surprises. Certain scenes I thought would be crucial to the coherence of the whole ended up cut, while other scenes, which were somewhat cursory in the book, ended up being pivotal in the script.

I know I’m being vague, but there’s not a lot I can tell you at this point about the specifics, since we’re still very much in development on it. I’ll just say for now that we’re really swinging for the fences.

At least Kajganich’s passion shines through in his responses: if he is indeed the man to redo It, I’m happy enough- I don’t think there can be a better choice at this point. The writer had already gone on record at Dread Central to confirm that the new adaptation will honour the original King text:

The remake will be set in the mid-1980s and in the present almost equally- mirroring the twenty-odd-year gap King uses in the book- and with a *great* deal of care and attention paid to the backstories of all the characters. I think the real twist here is that my pitch to WB- which they’ve assured me they’re on board for- is that this will not be PG-13. This will be R. Which means we can really honor the book and engage with the traumas (both the paranormal ones and those they deal with at home and school) that these character endure… I plan to be very protective of the book… The reality, though, is that WB wants to do this as a single film, so I will have to kill a few darlings to make that happen. You have my promise, though, that I will do this with the utmost humility and respect for King’s work. He’s the King, after all, and I intend to continue to pledge to him my allegiance.

Obviously, the real sticking point is the casting. Tim Curry was insanely good as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, partly thanks to his almost unbearable theatricality, but mostly because he looks so darn odd. What price on someone like Jackie Earle Haley getting a call this time around? He certainly has the voice. Or perhaps a more left-field choice- Jim Carrey anyone?

It is penned for release in 2011.