OPINION: A Discussion on Re-watching Movies
We’ve all done it. It’s been a long day at work and to unwind you scroll through your Watch List and nothing takes your fancy, instead you land on a movie you’ve watched perhaps 158 times but you click play anyway. Why do we do it? Well, because it’s familiar – and there is nothing wrong with that. Re-watching your favorite movies is a normal thing to do. Us humans tend towards the familiar, thus when we know how a narrative is going to pan out we are often enjoying the film more than when we don’t know how it will end.
The same goes for watching the movie version of a book you’ve read. You know the plot - Harry saves Hogwarts and all is right in The Wizarding World - but you have a voyeuristic need to see it on screen and to find out if the screenplay is true to the original story. There is no wonder in why movie franchises of popular novels make so much money, it’s because the writers and directors have placed a world and its characters in front of you knowing the story will be well received.
Re-watching your favorite movies is very much on the same lines. Recently I re-watched Katherine Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987); the movie is a vampire-Western which I have screened countless times, however I can’t resist watching it just once more (and I know it won’t be my last viewing either). Waiting for your favorite scenes and noticing new aspects to the characters is all part of the fun of re-watching movies. For example, in your premier viewing of Near Dark you are unaware in the first scene that May is a vampire. However, on a second viewing the script hints at her being un-dead:
Caleb: Can I have a bite?
Caleb: Just dying for a cone…
Following a discussion about the movie Se7en (1995), I re-watched the David Fincher neo-noir crime thriller (SPOILERS). Everyone who has seen this movie knows the ending is one of most terrifying in cinematic history. “What’s in the box?” you scream with Mills as your heart falls out your chest. You know what’s in the box, you’re scared of what’s in the box, however you put yourself in that position for a second time by re-watching the movie.
Re-watching films with different people provides a different cinematic experience, too. The first time I watched Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003) was with my father. Watching The Bride fight her enemies and get revenge on those who left her for dead was exhilarating, my favorite scene where The Bride faces The Crazy 88 continues to one of my favorite cinematic moments years later. My second viewing of the film was with two friends, both of whom were also re-watching the movie. Funny comments over the scenes which had mesmerized me before were the focus of my attention, not what was happening on screen. As countless film theorists have discussed in the past, an audience’s reaction to what is shown on screen is partly subject to the audience’s surroundings. Such situations cause a person to re-watch a movie surrounded by different people or simply alone. This is yet another reason to re-watch a movie: to show it to a different audience.
With all this having been said, re-watching a horror film is never the same as the first time, no matter who you are with. The jump scares and gruesome plot-lines feel they are almost only intended to petrify a first-watch-audience. As Above, So Below (2014) is set in the Catacombs of Paris, the characters literally journey through hell to survive the narrative, however the second viewing of the movie is not half as scary. Having already known the outcome of the tale, I was disappointed to not react in the same way. But, this is to be expected; I was not anxious of the random telephone ringing and prepared myself for the parts I was originally frightened by. However, if a horror film really does scare you as intended, then you are not going to watch it again. For example, I will never re-watch Eden Lake (2008) – no Sir, not for me.
Perhaps the decision to re-watch a movie comes from your reaction to it in the first instance: events you wish to experience again, and events which you don’t. In many ways it is a similar situation as when returning to your favorite restaurant and ordering the same delicious meal: there will be no surprises, but you will enjoy yourself. You re-order a dish because it is good. You re-watch a movie because it is good.
However, throughout this discussion I have found myself referring to examples of different genres. I stated I would not watch most horror films a second time, but I would a mystery film, like Se7en. Perhaps this is the intention of the director, or perhaps it is simply the nature of the genre itself. No one viewer has seen Shrek (2001) just the once. It is a family film, thus it can be re-watched by any audience of any age at any time.
Overall, re-watching your favorite movies at the end of a hard day’s work is nothing short of human. Why not repeat an enjoyable experience? However, it is important to venture out your comfort zone and to your local cinema once in a while to check out new films which may just become one of your re-watchable favorites.