Sets and the City: summer of the remake

A Ferris wheel on the waterfront? Don’t worry, the ‘Lakeside Amusement Park’ was just a movie set at Cherry Beach for the horror flick Silent Hill: Revelation 3D coming out Oct. 26.

The set of Silent Hill: Revelation at Cherry Beach.

In a bygone era pleasure parks were very popular in the Beach. There was even a Ferris wheel at Munro Park way back in 1898, not long after George Ferris built his original ride for the 1893 World Exposition in Chicago.

You may stumble upon long, white trailers on our streets this summer with blockbuster remakes of Carrie and Robocop on the go. Hollywood studios are always on the lookout for the next big ‘franchise’ that appeals to a young audience. Think ‘high concept’ vampires, aliens, superheroes, pirates, wizards and zombies.

The producer of Chicago and Resident Evil, Don Carmody, is hoping to start a new vampire series to rival Twilight. Adapted from the urban fantasy books, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) starts filming in Toronto on Aug. 20.

We may think of Toronto as a city of arty movies, but our billion-dollar film industry has been propped up by two huge productions at Pinewood Studios in the Port Lands. The monsters of Pacific Rim won’t arrive until next summer, but you can revisit Total Recall on Aug. 3. Who can forget the shutting down of Lakeshore Boulevard East for two days last July? There’s no trip to Mars and Arnie won’t be back, but let’s hope this ‘reboot’ is worth it.

Road closures are nothing new to Toronto. During filming of Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), there was a memo to some downtown employees: “Tonight Adelaide Street will be closed to traffic and filled with wreckage. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Some tourists emerged from the PATH below to the street-level world, looked at the carnage and quipped, “How long were we underground?”

University of Toronto at Scarborough is ready for its Hollywood close-up. In June, Jake Gyllenhaal sported a scholarly beard at UTSC for his role as a history teacher in An Enemy.

The ‘Meeting Place’ at UTSC starred as a prison in Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) and as ‘New Shanghai’ in Total Recall with Colin Farrell trying to fight the future and remember what is real. It’s fitting that the UTSC motto is “Tomorrow is created here.”

Critics have not been kind to Toronto-lensed ‘brands’ such as Police Academy, Saw (I-VII) and Resident Evil, but they are box-office gold. Studios play it safe, ‘recycling’, easy as 1, 2, 3. If it bleeds, it leads. If it sells, you’ll see it again…and again. Do we trade our brain for popcorn at the multiplex door? The director of the Godfather trilogy, Francis Ford Coppola, says “Big films today are processed like a hot dog.”

In the Resident Evil sci-fi horror series, Toronto is ‘Raccoon City’. (Raccoons do think they own the place!) Repeated zombie outbreaks have led to hordes on Prince Edward Viaduct and the blowing up of City Hall. In Dawn of the Dead (2004) the undead came to Ashbridges Bay.

Toronto is zombie-friendly. We even have a zombie walk. Evil has been resident in our fair city for years, helping to keep the film industry on its feet after the 2003 SARS epidemic. Action heroine Milla Jovovich figures, “it does take a lot of love to make the evil happen!” She will once again take on the zombie apocalypse in Resident Evil: Retribution opening Sept. 14.

Last year an accident on the Evil set at the old Hearn Generating Plant left some extras hurt. It must have been a shock for hospital staff to treat actors made up as zombies covered in blood.

Cue the pig’s blood for the Carrie remake (filming at Jarvis C.I.) with Chloe Moretz stepping into the telekinetic shoes of Sissy Spacek. In the 1976 cult classic the fake blood was actually corn syrup and food colouring. Spacek slept in her ‘bloody’ clothes for 3 days of filming and got an Oscar nomination.

Author Stephen King is skeptical about the new Carrie: “The real question is why, when the original was so good? I mean, not Casablanca or anything, but a really good horror-suspense film, much better than the book.”

I’m holding out for the prequel to the remake of the adaptation. Watch for Sets and the City 2: Police Academy 8.

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