Readapting Rebecca? It Might Not Be Such A Bad Idea After All, Everyone Needs A Watch Buddy, And More!
In this Issue:
- Horror History: Readapting Rebecca? It Might Not Be Such A Bad Idea After All
- Image of the Week: Always Check Your Candy
- Tiny Bites – This Week’s Best Horror Headlines
- Things We Love: Everyone Needs A Watch Buddy
- Hey, That’s Us! – Shudder in the News
Readapting Rebecca? It Might Not Be Such A Bad Idea After All
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “All remakes are pointless.” Actually, stop reading if you’ve thought that before because this article probably isn’t for you. The anti-remake mindset pervades the brains of many people in the film community, especially genre fans, a group that is faced with countless remakes each year. 2020 is no exception, as we are now seeing a new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel Rebecca. That novel was famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940 and would go on to be the Master of Suspense’s only film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. This new iteration comes to us courtesy of British director Ben Wheatley, who is no stranger to suspense after having directed 2011’s Kill List and 2016’s Free Fire.
If, for some reason, Rebecca wasn’t on your high school reading list and/or you haven’t checked out Hitchcock’s film (or the 1979 BBC miniseries … or the 1997 PBS miniseries), here is a primer on the plot: a nameless protagonist is swept off her feet by dashing widower Maxim de Winter, whose wife, Rebecca, drowned just a year earlier. The new couple quickly marry and relocate to his enormous estate, Manderley, which is run by the insidious housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who refuses to let the second Mrs. de Winter take Rebecca’s place.
It is a classic tale that has been adapted near-perfectly by Hitchcock, famously having dueled with producer David O. Selznick throughout the film’s entire production process. You see, Hitchcock wrote a treatment of Rebecca that changed most things about the plot. Selznick, who was about to win an Academy Award win for Gone With the Wind, was a staunch believer that a film adaptation of a beloved novel should simply be a picturization of that novel:
“I don’t understand why motion picture people insist upon throwing away something of proven appeal to substitute things of their own creation…[Rebecca] will succeed in the same manner as the original succeeded if only the same elements are captured and if only as much as possible is retained of the original”
– A letter written from David O. Selznick to Alfred Hitchcock, June 12, 1939
Selznick eventually won the battle (and the war, since it is the producer who accepts the Oscar for Best Picture), and Rebecca was adapted almost scene for scene with the exception of one crucial plot point that the Hays Code wouldn’t let slide: Maxim couldn’t murder Rebecca without being punished in some way, so Rebecca’s death was changed to be accidental. Oh, and any hints of Mrs. Danvers’ lesbianism had to be left out, though Hitch did include a rather scandalous (for 1940) scene of the housekeeper fondling Rebecca’s translucent négligée. How that made it past the censors is anyone’s guess.
But hey, it’s 2020! We can have Maxim murder Rebecca! We can explore the possible lesbian relationship between Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers. We can explore the horrible ways that Maxim treats his new wife (so much gaslighting). Granted, these are things that the 1997 mini-series already did to moderate effect, but even 1997 can be seen as a prim and proper lady compared to a post #MeToo 2020. And since two of the three screenwriters on Wheatley’s film identify as female, there’s an opportunity to have a modern feminine viewpoint that we haven’t seen incorporated into this story.
At the end of the day, if you still choose to stick your nose up at yet another adaptation of Rebecca, the book still exists. Hitchcocks’ film also still exists. Those two mini-series still exist. This new iteration will not erase any of those from existence; however, if you have yet to experience Rebecca, then Wheatley’s version is meant for you. Come and visit Manderley for the first time. It’s going to be a ball (just don’t wear that damn white dress).
Trace has been a writer for the horror website Bloody Disgusting for the past 6 years and is also the co-host of their Horror Queers podcast, which looks at a different horror film each week through a queer lens.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Always Check Your Candy
Only 11 days left until Halloween, and we’re just as excited for this year’s spooky festivities as Tales From The Stitch’s Sam. Got your candy ready?
NEW ENGLAND HORROR, QUEER CODING AND MORE
The Guardian analyzes how and why horror tropes consistently creep into Black drama in this video essay.
Time Out put together a truly comprehensive list of what they consider the 100 best horror movies that’s peppered with classics, rarities, and great titles you may have forgotten about.
If you’re looking for other international horror titles you may have missed, Tor.com’s got you covered.
Need costume ideas? L’Officiel’s list of the 15 most fashionable horror movies could serve as prime inspiration.
This essay explores the presence of sex, subservience, and the challenging of gender norms in recent horror titles Shirley and Saint Maud.
The New York Times wrote about how horror anthologies are having their moment and the power of bite-sized scares.
Live in or around Los Angeles? Then these 21 spooky horror film and TV locations are practically screaming to be visited.
A recent experiment in terror had 50 people watch over 100 hours of horror movies while hooked up to heart monitors in order to find the scariest movie ever made.
Dig into the history of queer coding and not-so-subtle LGBTQ subtext in horror with this piece from Snack.
Buzzfeed wants to know how many of Rotten Tomatoes’ top 100 horror movies you’ve seen. Take the quiz and see how you stack up.
Struggling to find exactly the right horror movie to watch? Huffington Post has a suggestion for nearly any mood or setting, however obscure.
If you’ve ever wondered why so many horror movies are set in New England, this piece has some fascinating theories.
THINGS WE LOVE
Everyone Needs A Watch Buddy
We’re working with our friends at Adopt-a-Pet.com and FearFest to spread the word about pet adoption — especially magical and unique black cats — this Halloween. They’re everywhere this time of year but unfortunately aren’t as popular with adopters. Black cats are often left behind at shelters because of the color of their fur, something animal welfare organizations call “black cat syndrome.” (FYI: This happens to black dogs too.)
Our movies on Shudder are scary, but black cats aren’t! Look beyond the fur and help fight stereotypes by adopting your very own Binx or donating to Adopt-a-Pet.com.
FYI, the spooky cats above are available for adoption!
HEY, THAT’S US! – SHUDDER IN THE NEWS
Best Horror Movies of 2020, Ranked: New Scary Movies to Watch Now (Blood Quantum, Z, Scare Me, Spiral, The Mortuary Collection, and many more)