Modern audiences may not recall the original 1970 British thriller this update is based on, but being a huge fan, I had fun comparing the two.
The remake is almost a carbon copy of the original, which was made by the same team behind the 1960s TV series The Avengers, writers Brian Clemens and Terry Nation, and director Robert Fuest (who would later make the cult classic The Abominable Dr Phibes).
Both feature two attractive young women cycling through foreign climes. In the original, Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice play nurses Jane and Cathy, who – dressed in little more than skimpy shorts and loose blouses, and with not a word of French between them – decide to spend their summer vacation touring the Gallic countryside.
In the update, Amber Heard (Drive Angry 3D) and Odette Yustman (Cloverfield) play American tourists Stephanie and Ellie biking through Argentina’s rugged landscape. Like the girls in the original, their attire consists of little more than sport bras and bikinis, and neither knows any Spanish.
This inability to communicate in a foreign tongue is at the heart of the dramas. Both films also share the same plot and similar characters. In the original, it’s Dotrice’s Cathy who goes missing after an argument with her friend, while it’s Yustman’s Ellie who has that ill-fated role in the update.
With only one road that Ellie could have taken, Stephanie immediately suspects foul play and contacts the police. But the local police chief (César Vianco) doesn’t seem to take her seriously, so Stephanie starts her investigation. Following her every move is Karl Urban’s mysterious Michael, who seems rather too eager to help. Is he just being a Good Samaritan, or does he have a more sinister motive?
Lucky for Stephanie, Michael is actually searching for his girlfriend, who also went missing in the area. Without giving too much away, the villain of the piece also happens to be the same in both films. However, where the original ends, the remake kicks off with a twist that will leave you breathless.
With an attractive cast, stunning Argentine scenery, stand-out cinematography and first-rate pacing, Marcos Efron’s feature debut packs a real punch, delivering real scares and Hitchcockian suspense in a manner that respects the original source material.
With the current trend in remakes – the shot-for-shot Aussie thriller Long Weekend and the lame Last Man on Earth retread I Am Legend spring to mind – this is actually a worthy update of a 1970s cult classic. Finally! But I do hope this doesn’t give anyone ideas about re-imagining Fuest’s Dr Phibes – now that just cannot be touched!