When I read the back cover of The Remaking (2019, Chapman) in the bookstore, it sounded like it might make a good horror flick. Suspected of witchcraft, a mother and daughter burned for witchcraft in the 1930s had me sold. I find the origins of urban legend appealing and generally makes a good story.
Your sin will find you.
The Remaking tells of an urban legend that’s resurrected about every 20 years. In the 1930s, Ella Louise Ford and her daughter, Jessica, live in the woods near Pilot’s Creek, Virginia. The townsfolk ignore the two except when they were desperate enough to try apothecary remedies. When a customer of Ella dies, the townsfolk grow angry and accuse the mother and daughter of witchcraft. The two were hunted down in the middle of the night and burned as witches.
In the 1950s, an old man at a campfire tells the story of his boyhood encounter with Jessica. Two decades later, one of the boys at the campfire assembles a cast for an upcoming horror film based on the legend and casts child star Amber Pendleton as Jessica. Amber suffers a horrific experience on the set, and it ruins her life. Twenty years later, Amber is offered a part in the remake of the film, suffers a similar experience, and becomes the target of a witch-hunt. In the end, Amber succumbs to the legend.
The novel has all the makings for a great tale of witchery and horror but fails to deliver. The story about Ella Louise Ford and her daughter Jessica has promise, and I expected it to develop more before the two of them were murdered. Not enough of the supernatural element was revealed for us to know if the two were witches or just eccentric folk. Even so, a second opportunity is lost when the old man repeats the story of Ella Louse and Jessica around a campfire. This scene becomes the backstory for a future film director, who is one of many characters in the novel, but it could have served to further the supernatural element in the novel.
The repetition in the novel overshadows much of the story and weakens the horror elements. The story focuses on how the events of the first film ruined the life of child star Amber Pendleton as her misery repeats every 20 years like a groundhogs day that ages each time it is relived. Two horror films, a podcast, and an interview cause the horror to repeat.
I could go on a feminist rant here, but I’ll keep it short. The real horror in The Remaking is the negative depiction of women. Ella Louise and Jessica live in the margins of society and are shunned, then burned as witches by a group of local men. Driven by an over-ambitious film director, Amber suffered trauma on the set of the first horror flick, along with her mother, and the actor who played Ella. Throughout her life, this experience led to Amber’s slow undoing. A second director looking for fame seduces Amber into remaking the film. He leads her to believe the remake is a chance for redemption, to live the life she should have instead of a life filled with misery and despair. The cycle repeats itself. Eventually, Amber becomes a recluse on the outskirts of Pilot’s Creek. She meets an untimely but predictable end.
As I read each chapter, the story unfolded much like a B-rated horror flick. I’m hooked on B-rated horror flicks, so I did find The Remaking entertaining. Like many of these films, the novel provides an interesting backstory based on horrific real-life events, but little thought-provoking reflection unless, of course, you read through a feminist lens.
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