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).