On the 22nd of May the remake of ‘Poltergeist’ will hit the silver screen 33 years (My mind boggles to think it was that long ago) after the original was released, so what better way to anticipate it’s impending release then to look back on the best horror remakes up to this point? I’m not going to lie, it was slim pickings but here is my Top 10 horror remakes.
10. Willard (2003, Dir. Glen Morgan)
Though the film was not labelled as a remake by those behind the film, it is very much a reworking of the 1971 film of the same name. Admittedly it is also a strange choice for a remake, a film that follows a social outcast who develops an unusual bond with rats. Strange behaviour and deaths ensue but with Crispin Glover and R. Lee Ermey in the cast they make it easy to watch. Both actors have appeared in a few horrors in the past decade, finding a new lease of life in the genre. It’s also a decent directorial debut from Glen Morgan, unfortunately he went onto to remake another horror film with ‘Black Christmas‘…needless to say he hasn’t been seen since.
9. Piranha 3-D (2010, Dir. Alexandre Aja)
What I loved about ‘Piranha 3D‘ was that it did what most creature features should do, have fun and be ridiculous. Sure there are plenty “so bad it’s good” monster movies out there but ‘Piranha 3D‘ demonstrates how much better they can be with a tiny bit of polish. To be honest, I don’t think you could remake ‘Piranha‘ and have it be a serious film, that would have been a disaster. What also elevates ‘Piranha 3D‘ is how pathetically poor ‘Piranha 3DD‘ is, as it shows you can’t just put some nudity and flesh-eating monsters into a pool and expect success. The 2010 remake had just the right level of humour, gore and semi-seriousness to make it a fun filled, exploitative blast of a modern monster movie. The murderers row of cameos helps as well.
8. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014, Dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)
There will be a theme that crops up in this list which you may pick up on, and that is I love a remake that does something different to the source material. There is no point in remaking the same film shot for shot, or even with similar motifs or themes. The ones that do are usually the cash cows with no heart or love for the originals. This is what made ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown‘ stand out for me. It could have easily remade the original film considering how little it would have been seen by the youth of today, but no it didn’t. Gomez-Rejon went with a meta sequel/remake for the film and incorporated the original into the storyline as a fictional film based on real events. This allowed to playfully toy with similarities to the original film whilst creating something newer, fresher and more relevant. The film takes place in the small town of Texarkana, where many years ago a serial killer went on a killing spree and was never found. Decades later the killer is apparently back, and the race is on to find out who it is. If you enjoyed the horror homages of ‘Scream’ then this is right up your street, and it’s quite a good ol’ Friday night film too.
7. Mother’s Day (2010, Dir. Darren Lynn Bousman)
This one flew under the radar when it was released, which is a shame because it’s quite the gut punch of a film. A very loose remake of the 1980 Troma film of the same name, it follows a group of friends who find themselves terrorised by three brothers and their mother in a house they used to own. It’s not incredibly innovative but it works, a tight space and lots of characters requires choice directing and a solid script to make it a tense watch, rather than waiting for members of the innocent party to be picked off one by one. The horror pedigree of the director, Bousman, who cut his teeth on the ‘Saw‘ sequels II to IV, adds to the film, and it’s decent cast of actors keeps the film intense. Rebecca De Mornay is gleefully sinister as the mother, also with good turns are the awesome Frank Grillo, Shawn Ashmore, Briana Evigan and Warren Kole. If your into your tense home invasion flicks then you can’t go wrong with this.
6. Let Me In (2010, Dir. Matt Reeves)
Here we have a film that defies my tendency to favour remakes that differ to the original. ‘Let Me In‘ is a film that straddles a very fine line between identical remake and respectful re-imagining. There are a few similarities to the first one in terms of pace, themes and shots but just because it is similar to a fantastic original film, does not mean it is any less of a film. The acting from Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz is outstanding and I don’t think there would have been any two young actors in Hollywood who could have had the chemistry they had on screen at that time. The original is still a stronger film but for those who are unable to watch a film with subtitles then ‘Let Me In‘ is a good alternative.
5. Halloween (2007, Dir. Rob Zombie)
I have a feeling I’ll catch some heat for my choice here, but this remake is better than every Halloween sequel following ‘Halloween II’. This film and the original couldn’t be further apart in terms of execution, tone and violence which is why I think Rob Zombies version works. It doesn’t step on the original in any way and forges it’s own dark and twisted path. The choice to spend more time with Michael Myers as a young troubled boy transforming into a hulking homicidal machine is a chillingly uncomfortable one, and is a true definition of horror in a very real sense. I’ll admit there is a touch too much screaming throughout the film but that’s a minor aside. The characters are more three dimensional, with Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Loomis especially being less of a saviour than the Donald Pleasence version. Rob Zombies style of film making is not necessarily a one designed for the mainstream, and it does get rougher and bloodier than the original. However this remake is severed head and shoulders above the other remakes that feature iconic horror villains (I’m looking at you Friday the 13th!)
4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, Dir. Philip Kaufman)
We all know that ending…unless you haven’t seen the film, in that case stop reading my blabbering and put the frigging film on! This remake is one of the quintessential sci-fi horror films of all time, refusing to give up and go away, slowly infecting each person who watches it. Unlike the clones in the film, you’ll be conveying much more emotion come the end. I caught this at a young age and it had my jaw on the floor by the end of the film. I also quite liked Abel Ferrera’s version in 1993 but it just couldn’t live up to this one. Maybe it’s just the nostalgia for me but it has a solid cast of Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright and the late great Leonard Nimoy, and is a must see for any science fiction fan.
3. Dawn of the Dead (2004, Dir. Zack Snyder)
As one of the films responsible for the zombie saturated media that we live in today this remake was always going to chew it’s way into this list, dragging entrails and all. It’s no easy task to redo one of the most revered horror films of all time, and get away with it. With half the social commentary it’s not as academically strong as the classic original by George A. Romero, but it’s relevance in modern culture can’t be ignored. With plenty action, a wider cast and more dangerous threat it harbours a faster pulse that makes it one of the most exciting zombie films of modern horror. As long as you ignore the zombie baby, then your fine!
2. Evil Dead (2013, Dir. Fede Alvarez)
Admittedly I was unsure whether this is classed as a remake, reboot or sequel and as a result if I could include it, but I’m going to roll with it being a remake/reboot. The original trilogy of films are quite simply my favourite trilogy, so I was both nervous and excited going into this. What I experienced during the course of the film must have been the same thing that people in 1981 did when they saw the original. I was shocked, cringing, squirming in my seat and left beaten and exhausted, but loved every minute. It is a blood soaked, adrenaline pumping film of carnage and horror. Hope has no place in those woods. Copious gore aside, the setting was spot on, it was visually pleasing (when everything isn’t red) and it had some top class acting. I praised the deadites that Lily Collins dropped out of the film, as Jane Levy was a revelation is the afflicted Mia. This film will swallow your soul, at least you’ll enjoy it as it does it.
1. The Hills Have Eyes (2006, Dir. Alexandre Aja)
Though overall the horror community (I include myself in this) are typically quite cold towards the idea of remakes of hidden gems and classics from their beloved genre, there are many films throughout the genre that are worth remaking or updating. As much as I like the raw, gritty original by Wes Craven a remake is something that intrigued me. Happily, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and it is the perfect example of what makes a good relevant remake.
The director Alexandre Aja, in his English language debut (off the back of the great ‘Haute Tension‘ otherwise known as ‘High Tension‘ or ‘Switchblade Romance‘ depending on where you live in the world) retains many of the recognisable features of the original, whilst also taking time to add some back story to the mutants in the film. It’s not anything of particular depth but it works. The setting of fake towns where the mutants live is a great addition to the film, as well as some of the transformations that the characters undergo during the course of the story. The violence is certainly ramped up in comparison to the original, but the allowances for gore in films has changed in the near 30 years between original and remake. The only thing that may hold this version back is it’s shinier, higher budget aesthetics. The independent nature and appearance of the original is one of it’s finer qualities, giving it a more realistic feel which is a little bit lost with the remake. Regardless, in terms of horror remakes this is one of the finer hours spent tracking back through older films and is a fine, gory film for any horror fan out there.
Honourable Mention – The Thing (1981, Dir. John Carpenter)
The reason we have not included this film in the list is that it’s more an adaptation of the novella than the 1951 film ‘The Thing from Another World‘. If it was a straightforward remake, it’d easily be #1.
You may notice that not a single remake of an Asian horror film has found it’s way onto this list. I’m not bias against them, it’s simply because they’re all drastically inferior to the original film that they are remakes of. The 2002 version of ‘The Ring’ came the closest, but just wasn’t strong enough for me.
Sound off in the comments on what we got right, and what we got wrong!
Coming Soon…10 Horror films that we’d love to see remade.