Taking old ideas and trying to spin them in new ways is not a groundbreaking idea for horror movies in Hollywood. When it works, we can get great films like Evil Dead and The Ring, movies that understand what made the originals compelling, but are also able to add new ideas to the mix. More often than not, however, audiences and fans are left with hollow retreads of the films they love, sloppily churned out to make a quick buck on a franchise name or current trend.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong with remaking a horror film. Bad casting, direction, or even sound design is enough to turn any aspiring hit into a lackluster final product. Some remakes went even further than that, tarnishing the names of the original films by changing backstories and adding superfluous story beats. Whatever cinematic sins they committed, the films on this list are the 15 Worst Horror Remakes And Reboots Of All Time.
15. Cabin Fever
The original Cabin Fever was a surprise hit when it released in 2002. The directorial debut of modern horror maestro Eli Roth, it became an instant classic due to the director’s trademark dark humor and heaps of gory thrills. While it may have been just a simple twist on the “Teens in a Cabin” trope, it cemented Roth as a visionary filmmaker with a unique flair.
Fourteen years after the original Cabin Fever debuted, director Travis Z made the decision to regurgitate the original film almost beat for beat. Except this time, it was missing any of the trademark wit that made the original film entertaining. It was also poorly cast, lacking any of the compelling performances from the source material. Finally, the evergreen sign of lazy direction in search of shock value, it was made more gory and grotesque than the first outing.
Unsurprisingly, audiences and critics were not interested. Currently, the film sits at an abysmal 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, a rare achievement that lands it the honor of being one of the worst — and most pointless — remakes of all time.
After the American remake of J-Horror opus The Ring made it big at the box office in 2002, Hollywood scrambled to remake whatever other moderately successful Japanese horror films they could get the rights to. Some films, like The Grudge, were pretty passable facsimiles of their source material. But more than a few of them were downright terrible, ignoring everything that made those films interesting in favor of churning out forgettable box office fodder. One of the worst examples of this phenomenon was Pulse.
A remake of the Japanese film Kairo, Pulse looked to have a lot going for it. With a script partially penned by Wes Craven and featuring talent like Kristen Bell, it seemed set to be a pretty decent horror flick. Sadly, the end result was an awkwardly directed schlock-fest that focused more on its shallow leads than the satirical elements that made the original relevant.
Like most horror films in the mid-2000s, it was also followed by two hastily produced direct-to-DVD sequels, poor box office performance be damned. Somehow, they managed to be even worse than the first remake.
When the Spanish zombie-horror film [REC] hit western shores in 2007, it was praised for making the Blair Witch-esque found footage horror genre scary again. Not to miss out on a growing fad, Hollywood immediately set to work on a remake which would release only a year later.
That kind of turnaround might be impressive if the film was any good, but it wasn’t. The remake, entitled Quarantine, told the same story of a group of people trapped in a virus-infested apartment building. It utilized the same first person perspective of the original, and it even had a talented cast including Jennifer Carpenter and Jay Hernandez. The only thing missing was the talent of a good director. Filmmaker John Erick Dowdle had previous experience in horror movies, so one might expect that he would be able to adapt a fairly simple horror film. Instead, the promise of a good American remake dissolved before the audiences’ eyes in a shaky mess of predictable jump scares and nauseating camera work.
To be fair, there are some solid performances from the leads, and an incredibly memorable ending sequence. But these minor victories can’t stop the film from feeling like another failed horror remake that misunderstood what made the original so good.
12. Friday The 13th
The thing with Friday The 13th films is that they were never really all that outstanding to begin with. While they may have been instrumental in the proliferation of the ’80s slasher genre, almost every entry in the long running series was critically panned upon release. Audiences, on the other hand, kept flocking back for more of the franchise’s trademark mixture of sex, gore, and stupid teenagers, which would lead to the franchise’s cult classic status.
It seems like such a basic mixture would be hard to get wrong, though somehow, the 2009 franchise reboot managed to miss the target anyway. Instead of the campy, self-aware horror that made the franchise iconic, Friday the 13th 2009 played it straight, trying desperately to make Jason a deep, sympathetic character. Add in a handful of unlikeable teenage stereotypes and some gratuitous sex, and Friday the 13th became a tonal mish-mash, unable to pull any of its various elements into a semblance of entertaining slasher horror.
Even the gory kills left little impression, the cardinal sin of the slasher genre. Tame even by the standards of the original franchise entries, Jason’s latest outing seemed limp in comparison to contemporaries like the Saw franchise. It was not a good look for a comeback, and the franchise has languished in development hell in the years since.
The impact of Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal thriller Psycho cannot be overstated. It shocked audiences upon its release, and it’s credited by many as being the birth of the slasher genre. It’s a masterpiece of horror that still holds up today due to its impeccable direction and strong storytelling. So when Gus Van Sant remade the classic film in 1998, it didn’t surprise anyone that it couldn’t reach the heights of the original.
Updating a classic is almost never a good idea. With so many things that can go wrong, from the casting, to the direction and soundtrack, it’s nearly impossible to catch the same spirit of the original while inserting new creative energy that’s remotely worthwhile. Gus Van Sant’s Psycho is the best proof of this one can find.
With a miscast lead in comedian Vince Vaughn’s Norman Bates and a more contemporary setting, Psycho tried to modernize the formula. Given Van Sant’s directorial choice to make it a shot for shot remake of the 1960 original, however, it couldn’t help but feel stuck in the past. It ended up being a confusing mess of a film, and it rightfully went down in history as a warning sign to anyone else who might want to modernize the classics.
The original Martyrs was controversial upon its release, and it was (arguably) not a fantastic film to begin with. Divisive due to its pervasive violence and oppressive tone, the French horror film nonetheless received some acclaim for its strong direction and memorable performances. It became something of an arthouse horror cult classic in the US, and it’s a solid enough psychological thriller if one can stomach the more violent elements.
The Western 2015 remake simply wasn’t a worthwhile endeavor. Falling into the common trap of being a near shot-for-shot remake of its inspiration, Martyrs is also not nearly as well written, taking any of the compelling dramatic elements of the original and replacing them with weak torture porn drivel. Yet even that wasn’t a competent element of the film, as the violence is tamer in the Western version than the French original.
Martyrs 2015 did manage to do one thing right, and that was keeping the depressingly bleak tone. Unfortunately, without any of the violent impact or strong characterization of the original, it made for a dreary and drawn-out slog that didn’t resonate with audiences or critics.
9. Nightmare on Elm Street
Arguably one of the best horror films of all time, Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street turned a stale slasher genre on its head when it released, and introduced one of the most iconic film villains of all time in Freddy Krueger. Like most horror franchises of the era however, it was run into the ground with a seemingly endless stream of pointless sequels, and the series went into hibernation in the late ’90s.
It’s safe to say that Freddy’s big 2010 comeback should have been much bigger and better than it was. While Jackie Earle Haley’s Freddy Krueger was a worthy villain, almost every other element fell flat. Like most modern retreads of classic films like Friday the 13th and Halloween, it tried to make a franchise relevant again by simply regurgitating elements of the older films, just with better special effects and darker camerawork.
There’s a laundry list of everything the Nightmare on Elm Street remake does wrong; poor pacing, bad acting, unappealing characters, and most controversially, a change to Freddy’s backstory, turning the affably endearing serial killer into a pedophile. While it was probably envisioned as deeper storytelling, it comes off as forced edginess.
Even Freddy himself is less likable. Gone is the fourth wall-breaking, joke-spewing nightmare machine brought to life by Robert Englund. Instead, audiences were given the more insidious version played by Jackie Earle Haley. While he does a commendable job reinventing the iconic character, it’s just not the version audiences wanted to see.
8. The Wolfman
Ever since the golden age of movie monster horror, Hollywood has struggled to make the icons of the era relevant again. It’s hard for filmmakers to make antiquated characters like Dracula and The Mummy relevant while trying to bring something new to the table. Nowhere is this more evident than in the 2010 remake of the horror classic The Wolfman.
On paper, The Wolfman sounds like a possibly solid remake. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Benicio Del Toro, and Emily Blunt, the film certainly wasn’t lacking onscreen talent. They didn’t even try to bring the story to the modern era, opting to set it in the 1800s. This one had a lot going for it out of the gate, but poor special effects, editing, and pacing would prove to be the downfall of this werewolf adventure.
It’s been a very long time since werewolves were relevant in the modern horror movie landscape. At the height of the Twilight franchise’s popularity, it is easy to see why someone would think a dark, gritty Wolfman reboot would be a good idea. Unfortunately, potential doesn’t always translate to good filmmaking. Hopefully, he will make a better impression when Universal reboots him again for their connected Monster Universe.
7. House of Wax
In the early 2000s, production company Dark Castle Entertainment made a slew of middling horror films, including House of Wax. A 2005 remake of the 1953 film of the same name, it seemed obvious they were trying to strike the same gold they hit with their House on Haunted Hill remake that came out just a few years earlier. That didn’t happen.
With shoddy casting and an inept script, House of Wax was a grating slasher affair that turned a minor ’50s horror hit into a generic early 2000s slasher film. While there are a few neat kills and special effects on display, it’s never enough to redeem the overabundance of mediocrity onscreen.
Paris Hilton, Chad Michael Murray, and Elisha Cuthbert headline this film, all miscast as various teenage cliches. The most egregious of these was, of course, Paris Hilton’s typical “hot girl”, who came complete with a striptease sequence.
There might not have been the same kind of appreciation for the original House of Wax that there was for Psycho or Nightmare on Elm Street, but that doesn’t make this remake any less wretched. Plodding, annoying, and generic, it’s a prime example of how not to remake an old horror film.
6. Rob Zombie’s Halloween
Psycho may have inspired the slasher genre, but John Carpenter’s Halloween was the film that turned it into a phenomenon. With subtle storytelling and an iconic score, 1978’s Halloween scared audiences everywhere and introduced audiences to Michael Myers. A truly iconic villain, Myers’ scare factor was entirely predicated on the fact that he was a faceless murder machine that couldn’t be understood or stopped.
Any subtlety in that original tale was completely undone with Rob Zombie’s 2007 reboot. Feeling the need to completely explain why Michael Myers became the serial killer we know him as, Zombie spent the first 45 minutes of the film showing his childhood, and then shoving the original film into the last half. What audiences were left with was two tonally different films crammed into one, and neither were interesting.
Also on full display was Zombie’s signature filmmaking style. Brutal, crass, and pervasively dark, it lacked any of the elegance or subtlety of Carpenter’s original vision. Everything in Rob Zombie’s Halloween is needlessly violent or perverse, for no other reason than for the sake of cheap shock value. Even main character Laurie Strode is turned into a horny, foul-mouthed teenage stereotype. It’s hard to root for characters to survive when the audience hates them so much.
5. Amityville Horror
A paranormal exaggeration of real-world events, the original Amityville Horror notoriously conned audiences into believing that the thinly written 1979 horror film was based on actual incidences centering around a haunted home and the family who was driven from it. Little more than a shallow imitation of better films like The Exorcist and The Shining, the film made for decent enough box office sensationalism despite being critically panned.
So when Michael Bay’s production company, Platinum Dunes, took on the 2005 remake of the same name, it’s safe to say the bar was already set pretty low. The production may have dropped the increasingly tiresome “inspired by true events” angle, but the cheap scares and well-worn cliches of the original lingered.
The Amityville Horror reboot covered all the bases, from Catholic exorcisms to blood dripping from the walls and creepy long-haired ghost girls. Instead of using these scares to craft a mystery audiences could invest in, first-time director Andrew Douglas was more concerned with assaulting viewers with a barrage of tired tropes in the hopes that something might have an impact. The result was a messy, incoherent film which couldn’t even improve on its already lackluster predecessor.
However, credit is due to Ryan Reynolds for his performance. Playing the family patriarch who becomes the focal point of the paranormal activity, his efforts to create a compelling character are commendable. The script didn’t give him a lot to do outside of turning him into a knockoff of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, but that doesn’t stop him from being thoroughly watchable throughout.
1982’s Poltergeist was an incredibly accomplished film in its day. Written and produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Texas Chainsaw creator Tobe Hooper, it balanced fun and scares in equal measure to deliver a memorable haunted house flick that was still able to be seen by the whole family thanks to its kid-friendly PG rating.
In 2015, amid a renaissance for the haunted house genre brought on by films like Insidious and The Conjuring, a Poltergeist remake seemed like a good idea. If the film was able to learn from the successes and shortcomings of newer haunted house flicks, it could have breathed new life into a familiar tale.
Instead, Poltergeist was content to learn nothing and simply pay homage to the 1982 version. Where other haunted house films were doing their best to push the genre into new territory, the 2015 reboot of the Poltergeist franchise was a dull, tepid film that existed for no other reason than to cash in on a classic film at the height of a genre’s popularity.
3. Texas Chainsaw
While the name may not suggest it, 1978’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an intelligent film. Relying on a faceless villain with vague motivations, it elicited scares with a combination of disturbing imagery and the mere implication of violence.
2013’s remake of the series, simply titled Texas Chainsaw, has no interest in the kind of meticulous filmmaking that made the franchise a horror mainstay. A piece of generic teen slasher fodder, Texas Chainsaw berates the audience with a parade of telegraphed jump scares and senseless gore. While it doesn’t fall into the typical remake trap of simply rewriting a classic film to fit in modern theaters, it commits a far worse sin: it turns the villain into a hero.
The story centered around a long-lost relative of series villain Leatherface, who inherited family property after the last owner died, and decides to bring a group of her friends to go check out the place. As stupid as that premise already is, the really insipid elements of the story don’t come in until the end, where the main character and Leatherface team up, suddenly bound by the power of family. It’s a ridiculous twist which turns the iconic franchise villain into little more than an easily convinced attack dog, and was a huge disappointment for longtime fans.
2. One Missed Call
Of all the American knock-offs of J-horror films during the early 2000’s, One Missed Call reigns supreme as the worst. Nearly anything that could be wrong with a remake applies here. From annoying characters to amateurish directing and nonexistent scares, it’s a torturous cinematic experience that offers absolutely nothing to even the most forgiving horror fans.
It’s not like the source material was anything to write home about. Going by the same title in Japan, One Missed Call received middling reviews, mostly for its premise being similar to already established horror films like The Grudge and The Ring. While those films were understandably remade due to their popularity, One Missed Call felt more like Warner Bros. scrambling to cash in on a waning fad, a fact made even more obvious by the irrelevancy of J-horror remakes when the film hit in 2008, a full 6 years after The Ring.
It’s hard to overstate how bad One Missed Call actually is. Receiving a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, it is worse than most of the already awful films on this list. Bad horror films happen all the time, but celluloid cataclysms like this are rare, and should be avoided at all costs.
1. The Wicker Man
Many of the remakes on this list could be called “laughably bad”, but The Wicker Man takes it to the next level. A retelling of the 1973 cult classic, the 2006 flick is filled with unintentional humor, bizarre situations, and a scenery-chewing Nicholas Cage.
Given good material, Cage can be a great actor. He showed his chops throughout the ’80s and ’90s with action movies and dramatic roles alike. The problem is that The Wicker Man is full of bad pacing, writing, and character motivations. In the film, Cage plays a hapless detective who is drawn to a mysterious island to investigate the disappearance of his ex-fiancé’s daughter. He soon discovers that she is part of a ritual held by the island’s entirely female cult, and the film climaxes with a race against time to save her.
This might be an interesting premise for a thriller, but the film tries to be too many things at once. It wants to be a surreal mystery, a psychological thriller, and a redemption story, but it’s not competent enough to pull off even one of them. Instead, The Wicker Man buckles under the weight of its ambitions, piling on unintentional comedy throughout its 102 minute running time with laughably heavy-handed symbolism and heaps of overacting. It did give us some of Nicholas Cage’s best scenes, however, including him dressing as a bear and punching a woman in the face, and the famously overacted “Not the Bees!” scene.
Did we miss any laughably bad horror reboots and remakes? Do any of the films we mentioned deserve a bit more love than they’ve received? Sound off in the comments.
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