Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Cape Fear (1991 version) (5 Stars)

Let's get into the old argument about remakes again. When I was a teenager the original version of "Cape Fear", made in 1962, was my favourite film. I found it so terrifying, much more than the so-called horror films that I used to watch on Friday evening with my mother. I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy the Hammer Dracula and Frankenstein films, but they were more camp than horror. "Cape Fear", on the other hand, sent shivers down my spine.

Then it was remade in 1991. I missed it at the time. I wasn't much of a film fan back then. Times change. I heard about the remake a few years later, and I groaned. How could such a brilliant film be remade? I didn't bother renting it on video. I just wasn't interested. Then I finally saw it by accident on television. What I mean is, the TV guide said that "Cape Fear" would be shown, so I sat down to watch it, thinking it would be the original version. It wasn't. I overcame my initial disappointment and didn't turn it off. And as it carried on I thought to myself, "Hey! This is good after all!"

Max Cady is a criminal who has spent 14 years in prison after raping a young woman. He holds his defence lawyer, Sam Bowden, responsible for his imprisonment, because he didn't defend him adequately. Now Max wants to make Sam suffer by raping his wife and daughter before his eyes.

"Cape Fear" is a good example of how a good film can be remade even better. The basic story is the same, but there's more of a psychological terror aspect to the remake. Max Cady uses his wiles to infiltrate the family. He attempts, successfully at first, to persuade the lawyer's daughter to like him. There's less of a good-vs-evil story in the remake. Sam Bowden is shown to be a man with vices, something which is only hinted at in the original. The religious aspect is more pronounced in the remake. We see Max Cady speaking in tongues.

The strength of the remake is also in the actors. Robert De Niro puts on the best performance of his lifetime as Max Cady. When I watch him I really hate him, and I mean that as a compliment. Not many actors could make me feel so emotional about the character they play. Juliette Lewis is also outstanding as Sam Bowden's daughter Danny, who is a more important character in the remake than in the original.

The film is directed by Martin Scorsese. I know he's a famous director, but there are very few films of his that I enjoy. This is his best film, in my opinion, followed by "Hugo" and "The Aviator". Maybe I'm biased concerning the latter two films, because I've always liked films about films.

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