Remakes are a dime a dozen these days, and horror remakes have especially found a niche of being easily marketed to a built-in audience of die-hard fans. But just because classic horror films are remade numerous times a year doesn’t mean the end result is any good.
In general, most remakes are unwarranted, but there are a few out there that work. And by work, I mean they improved on the original movie’s concept or story, and deliver a better version. On the other hand, there are a number of horror remakes that simply don’t work – remakes that provide nothing new or innovate, and worst of all, the end result is so bad that it soils the original.
With Platinum Dunes, the minds behind some of the decade’s biggest horror remakes, releasing its remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street this week, it’s the perfect time to separate the good horror remakes from the bad. Note: The remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Ring, and Dawn of the Dead are not on this list simply because they didn’t improve or best the original. They are, however, still great movies.
5. House of Wax
This is as much for my distaste of Paris Hilton as it is my love for Elisha Cuthbert. The Ghost House remake of the original House of Wax was far better than it should have been, with extra splashes of the red stuff and an overall meanness that you simply don’t see enough of in horror cinema today. Not only that, this remake took a one-note concept and somehow turned it into a slasher film with awesome kills and the brutal death of that hated hotel heiress. The original was hokey B-movie fun, but director Jaume Collet-Serra did a bang-up job making the new version a fun slasher flick in a post-Scream world.
4. The Last House on the Left
Wes Craven’s original Last House on the Left is a dirty little movie filled with savage violence that hits even harder due to its low-budget feel and documentary-like look. The news of a remake was answered with an astounding “WHY???,” but nonetheless, to everyone’s surprise, not only was the remake a good movie, but it was better than the original. ‘
The quality was superior, partly due to its sharp look and interesting camera angles, the tension was built stronger, and the finale was more satisfying (yet just as gruesomely violent) than Craven could have ever hoped for. Director Dennis Iliadis took out the bumbling sheriff and deputy of the original (which was added for much-needed comic relief, but failed miserably), and kept it 100% hardcore. A solid horror/thriller through and through, featuring one of the most savage and uncomfortable rape sequences ever filmed.
3. The Hills Have Eyes
Another Wes Craven remake should have me more excited for the new take on A Nightmare on Elm Street, as once again a new director took the sub-par concept of atomic inbreds in the desert and smashed it into the face of audiences everywhere in a flurry of blood, teeth and bone. Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes is intense, suspenseful, bloody, and filled with enough violence that I’ve vowed never (and I mean never) to step foot in the New Mexico desert ever again. The remake blew the original out of the water on every level, from the cinematography to the dusty atmosphere and the gut-churning special effects.
2. The Fly
David Cronenberg’s The Fly proved to the world that eating Twinkies can be gross, Jeff Goldblum has more strength in his bicep that most people have in their entire body, and Geena Davis – as gorgeous as she is – still has the capability of giving birth to a squirming and ever-so-slimy man-sized maggot.
Easily one of the grossest films ever made, The Fly is a staple of the 1980s in both its impressive special effects and its general statement about technology. While the story of a scientist and his teleportation machine that accidentally transfuses his DNA with a housefly isn’t original (it’s a remake, remember), the way Goldbum slowly but surely turns into a giant insect is. From his infatuation with sugar, to the loosing of teeth and fingernails, and even the disgustingly natural way (for insects, at least) of vomiting on his food before consuming it, The Fly is the definition of gross, and that’s exactly why it shines as brightly as it does.
1. The Thing
The common thread with these heavyweight contenders of best horror remakes is the way they make you forget about the original films they’re based on. And this is never more true than with John Carpenter’s The Thing, starring the great Kurt Russell and his beautifully groomed beard.
If there was ever a movie that proved that an all-male cast set in the middle of the Antarctica could not only work, but scare the pants off you, it’s The Thing! From Carpenter’s rhythmic and hypnotic score, to the amazing effects of the Thing as it transforms from dog to person to bizarre spider head creatures, Carpenter’s remake had it all and then some. And best of all, The Thing still stands up today, even as we inch towards its 30th anniversary mark.
A great film with great performance from everyone involved, it’s no wonder Hollywood decided on a prequel rather than a remake – a remake could never do a film like this justice (and a remake of a remake just sounds silly, even by Hollywood standards).
5. The Fog
Interesting coincidence that John Carpenter’s The Thing is our best horror remake, while the remake of his 1981 classic The Fog is one of the worst. Directed by Rupert Wainwright and starring TV’s Thomas Welling (Smallville), Maggie Grace (Lost) and Selma Blair, The Fog remake is a slap to the face of anyone who’s a fan of the original. Lame characters, atrocious attempts at comic relief – and worst of all, some of the tackiest CGI fog ever created for the big screen. Welling might be Clark Kent, but he’s certainly no Tom Atkins, as could be said about the rest of the cast. But what makes this mess of a film one of the worst remakes ever is that it perverted the original story and concept so badly that not even today’s teeny-boppy PG-13-happy audience could get into it.
4. The Hitcher
Platinum Dunes doesn’t generally make bad movies… I think of them more like average movies that could be worse. That is, until they remade Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher. On paper, it sounded like a solid idea: switch the protagonist from male to female (that Sophia Bush is quite the looker), cast Sean Bean in the Rutger Hauer role, and let the chips fall into something awesome. The end result was far from it. Designed solely to please the MTV generation and nobody else, the new Hitcher focused on car crashes and the lead couple bickering, instead of building tension and suspense, resulting in the longest 80 minutes ever put to celluloid. It looked great, as all Platinum Dunes films do, but holy crow was it a mess.
Train scores points for not only being one of the worst remakes ever, but for also being a film that actually seemed to remake two films at once. Initially conceived as a remake of Terror Train but later dropping the association once the script resembled very little of the original, the film also plays like a remake of Hostel, only set on a train. Thora Birch headlines this straight-to-DVD flick that hit the torture porn circuit about 3 years after torture porn was cool. Showcasing violence for violence sake and an absurd story about a torturous killer on a train (there’s only so many places to go or hide!), the film falls flat on every level.
2. Prom Night
The original Prom Night‘s concept is so easy, so basic, and so perfectly set up for a remake that it’s baffling how badly they screwed it up. A teen and her friends are stalked and killed on Prom Night – except in the remake Prom is at a hotel, and the killer (and his motivation) is extremely lame. They throw any sense of easily obtainable suspense out the window for a handful of boo-scares, and (maybe worst of all) they dumb it down to a PG-13 rating, taking away the gratuitous nudity and violence that a movie like Prom Night is intended to showcase! And while Brittany Snow is hot, she doesn’t hold a flame next to Jaime Lee Curtis in the scream queen department.
1. The Stepfather
“From the makers of Prom Night” should have been the first hair-raising sign that The Stepfather remake was going to be a total waste of a movie and a discredit to the original. That said, things were looking up when the cast was announced: Penn Badgley, Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward and Amber Heard. “Maybe this remake will stand a chance of not sucking?” some of us dared to think.
But to confirm all thoughts and theories, not only was The Stepfather remake bad, it was one of the worst remakes ever released on the big screen. Without even a smidgen of the suspense and intensity of the original, the remake appeared to have done its best to try and be as boring as possible. From the opening “shocker” to the umpteenth family dinner sequence that wanted to leave us on edge (but rather gave us cause for some shut eye), The Stepfather is as bad as a horror remake gets. Not only does it NOT capture the essence of the original, it was boring and totally forgettable.