In honor of Halloween, I’m spending the days leading up to All Hallow’s Eve pitting off foreign horror movies against their American remakes. Today we’ll look at a revision of a movie about visions:
Yogen (Premonition) versus Premonition
Warning. Spoilers! I’m typically assuming you’ve seen the American version of the movie, so hopefully I’m not spoiling much.
The original story. Workaholic professor Hideki urges his family to pull over during their vacation so he can upload a file for work. While waiting, he finds a newspaper that reports that his daughter was killed in a truck accident; seconds later, a big rig trucks plows through his parked car and kills his daughter. Three years later, Hideki is a living shadow: he hides from the outside world, barely interacting with anyone outside the minimal requirements of his high school teaching position. Nevertheless, he begins to experience time discrepancies and sees another death-foretelling newspaper clipping that ends up coming true again.
His estranged wife Ayaka, meanwhile, actively researches paranormal activity, specifically studying reports of “Newspaper of Terror” phenomena. She seeks Hideki out when she learns that those who experience this form of premonition invariably go mad and die; fears confirmed when a medium sees Hideki’s picture in the spectral newspaper. Together, they investigate another man who saw the newspaper; they learned that when he actively changed the outcome of a premonition, her began to turn newspaper-ink gray, and after a month simply faded away into a ink-stain. Hideki suffers from premonitions with increasing frequency and intensity; but he only acts on a premonition that would have killed Ayako. After changing the premonition, Hideki is suddenly plunged into a temporal hell: he is forced to relive horrible events of his past over and over again (while frequently being tormented by ghosts to boot). The worst is having to relive the death of his daughter over and over again. Eventually, he is able to save her at the expense of remaining in the family car, which is ten struck by the big rig, killing Hideki. His daughter sees the Newspaper of Terror fly by, with Hideki’s obituary in it.
The two movies. Release in 2004, Yogen (part of the “J-Horror Theater” anthology) is a decent Asian horror entry. In some sense, it covers the same terrain we’ve already seen here before — unexpected seeing of ghosts and the Cassandra effect; ghost images captured on film; curses with consequences; and so forth — but it still packages them with enough competence to be spooky. It’s not perfect by any means: for example, the central curse of the movie seems to be inconsistently affected: for the first half of the movie, the curse seems to consist of the occasional spectral newspaper clipping forcing its way into Hideki’s hand, and he only seems to catch a glimmer of the clipping’s message before it vanishes; then rather abruptly the curse suddenly seems to shift to Hideki merely continuously spurting off upcoming death statistics in great detail without the need for the paper at all. Apparently the curse also involves his “losing his sense of time,” but save for a scene in which he repeats a minor event twice, we really don’t see this.
Nevertheless, it’s still full of unsettling images and creepy sequences. Their discovery of the fate of Kigata (the dude who first changed a premonition), recorded over 32 video-cassettes, is disturbing and bizarre, and the final ten minutes of the movie in which Hideki is plunged into temporal hell, revisiting the death of his daughter over and over again, is both riveting and gut-wrenchingly sad.
Maybe this is the reason why the 2007 American remake Premonition decided to eject everything supernatural from the plot, and simply focus on those last ten minutes, expanding just that into a full length movie. Essentially, the American Premonition is the story about a woman forced to live a week of her life out of temporal sequence, and that on a Wednesday in the future (past?) her husband will die when his car is run down by a big rig. The revision is therefore no longer a horror movie, but a science fiction one.
It’s not that this immediately makes it a bad movie, although it certainly takes it out of contention for the vote as to which is the superior movie for Halloween. Unfortunately, Premonition is just no fun. It’s actually a relentlessly grim movie. Sandra Bullock shuffles around the entire thing scowling, grumbling, or drunk; and she finally gets proactive and attempts to change her premonition, she merely sets into motion the events that actually lead to her husband’s death (by decapitation, no less).
Let me restate that: the American version entirely misses the point of the original: that the horrible premonition can be changed, but at the cost of personal sacrifice. In the remake, the premonition is unchangeable; indeed, the steps taken to avert it actually cause it, so whereas the original version allows the cursed to die with dignity and peace, the remake forces them to live on with unbelievable guilt. (And in Sandra Bullock’s case, one new fatherless mouth to feed as well, since it’s revealed she’s preggers at the end.) Total bummer.
The verdict. The remake is disqualified! The original wins.