While visionary directors like Jordan Peele, Mike Flanagan, and Ana Lily Amirpour continue to keep everything that’s great about the horror genre alive, most studios seem content to just keep reusing old clichés, either by ripping off earlier scary movies or outright remaking them.
We’ve seen the good name of a lot of horror classics tarnished by remakes that lost the heart and soul of the original, either due to lazy filmmaking or blasphemous departures from the source material. Unfortunately, the remake train will probably keep on chugging. Here are 10 Horror Movies That Should Never Be Remade (But Probably Will).
10 Rosemary’s Baby
Rosemary’s Baby is an important movie. Coming five years before the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, its story of a paranoid pregnant woman being told by all the men in her life what to do with her own baby was timely and socially relevant.
It was already remade as a four-hour miniseries for NBC that was abysmal, despite Zoe Saldana’s best efforts in the lead role, so let’s hope no one ever tries to recreate it on the big screen. It captured the feelings of a specific moment in history, so a remake would undoubtedly miss the point.
9 The Shining
Later this year, we’re getting a film adaptation of Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s belated sequel to The Shining, starring Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Danny Torrance. Hopefully, this doesn’t lead to a re-adaptation of the original. So many scenes and shots and characters and sets and costumes in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining have become iconographic.
If a remake tried to replicate the iconography, it would be disappointing. If a remake didn’t try to replicate the iconography, it would be disappointing. There’s no use trying to redo a perfect horror film. Kubrick’s The Shining has so much rich detail and hidden meaning that you can’t watch it enough. Watch it a hundred times and you still won’t fully understand it. So, instead of remaking it, the studio could simply re-release it.
8 An American Werewolf in London
A remake of An American Werewolf in London, John Landis’ classic blending of horror and comedy – widely regarded by film buffs to be the most pitch-perfect combination of those two genres – is currently in the early stages of development.
Landis’ son, screenwriter Max Landis, has been hired to work on a retooling of the movie, which couldn’t be less necessary. Just because he’s related to the guy who nailed it the first time, doesn’t mean he’ll nail it this time. This is the guy who wrote Victor Frankenstein and Bright, so hopes aren’t sky-high for his remake of his dad’s masterpiece.
7 The Thing
John Carpenter’s ‘80s cult classic The Thing is already a remake itself, but it’s masterful enough, and made enough bold choices, to stand on its own. It’s been rebooted with a terrible prequel, which never should’ve happened, so let’s just hope that no one will ever attempt to remake it.
There’s no way to tell this story better, or even as well as it was before. Nothing could beat Carpenter’s tense direction, Ennio Morricone’s claustrophobic and ominous score, Kurt Russell at the height of his glory – and CGI would completely remove the soul from Stan Winston’s timeless practical creature effects.
6 The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs would be considered untouchable by film buffs, but given that it grossed over $270 million at the worldwide box office and launched a lucrative horror franchise, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some studio executive somewhere will have the bright idea to reboot it soon enough. But of course, that would be a terrible idea.
What made the original so great was the combination of Jonathan Demme’s inventive direction, Ted Tally’s taut screenplay, and most importantly, the career-defining performances of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. No remake, no matter who’s involved, could do those things better.
5 The Exorcist
The Exorcist has already been remade as a TV series, but the TV series wasn’t really a remake in the literal sense and it actually, against all odds, turned out to be really good. However, the movie should be left untouched.
It’s aged a little bit, as the scenes in Iraq drag on a little bit and it’s not as scary as it once was, but there’s a reason it became the highest grossing horror movie of all time back in 1973. It’s a rich, layered movie with well-developed characters and intensity that is ratcheted up expertly by director William Friedkin.
4 Don’t Look Now
A lot of the best horror movies use the conventions of the genre to explore the things that terrify us in the real world. Don’t Look Now begins with a couple’s young daughter dying tragically in an accident. From then on, the plot is tinged with a harrowing sadness as they travel to Venice to renovate a church and meet two sisters who claim their daughter is trying to contact them from beyond the grave.
There are seances and unusual sightings and there’s a real sense of dread throughout the movie, but it’s really about the psychological effects of the grief of losing a child. It needs to be left alone.
3 The Birds
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterfully made The Birds doesn’t sound scary on paper – a survival horror story about some people trying to avoid the wrath of a swarm of birds – but that’s a testament to his prowess as a filmmaker. The movie also has a very strong plot with the theme of complacency. All of its characters have become smug and self-satisfied by the time birds start inexplicably attacking them.
This isn’t just a horror movie; it’s a movie. Hitchcock’s Psycho has already been butchered with a shot-for-shot remake whose very existence, to this day, is a mystery. Please, Hollywood, don’t repeat this mistake with a remake of The Birds.
The Alien franchise as a whole should be left alone by directors who aren’t Ridley Scott or James Cameron, but the 1979 original should definitely, undeniably, absolutely never get remade. Initially, the studio just wanted to cash in on the space movie trend brought on by Star Wars with a haunted house movie set on a space station.
But Scott took the opportunity to turn it into as well-plotted, technically masterful, beautifully shot, and expertly paced as a haunted house movie set on a space station could be. Sci-fi horror movies tend to fail on both counts, but Alien is a masterpiece of both science fiction and horror.
Steven Spielberg’s career-launching suspense thriller about the hunt for a 25-foot great white shark has yet to be officially remade, but it has been bastardized by three increasingly terrible sequels and countless shark-based horror movies that have ripped it off.
When Spielberg made Jaws, innovative filmmaking techniques had to be used to get around time and money constraints. If it were remade, some studio suits would give the filmmakers unlimited access to money and they wouldn’t be able to stop themselves from blowing it all on closeup shots of a CGI shark. The Hitchcockian tension of the original would be completely absent.