Remakes have been so ubiquitous that joking about them no longer seems funny – propose a remake of a universally admired film in jest and it simply comes across as a grim prediction. Of course this isn’t always a bad thing. Occasionally we get movies like Evil Dead or We Are What We Are in which the creators had a genuinely good idea for how to treat a beloved cult classic.
Nine times out of ten however, these retreads look like Pulse, When A Stranger Calls, The Omen or April Fool’s Day; boring, purposeless cash-ins trading on a brand identity rather than engaging with any of the ideas or themes that made the originals phenomenons. These are the 11 Worst Horror Remakes.
The Hitcher (2007)
Shot through with an MTV-derived, teen-friendly style, complete with ten-years-too-late music cues, Dave Meyer’s The Hitcher does away with everything that made Robert Harmon & Eric Red’s original so chilling.
Gone is the sense of isolation that made the horror much more insidious – the lonesome hero is now a teen girl and her bland boyfriend. Gone is the dream-like treatment of the killer – in the 2007 film he’s an unstoppable killing machine who would have been caught ages ago, considering the trail of violence he leaves in his wake. Gone is any sense that we’re watching a horror film with any number of possible outcomes – this is a race to a boring conclusion we know because we’ve seen the much better original. Resolutely unfrightening, its biggest crime is wasting a turn from the excellent Sean Bean as the Hitcher himself.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Among the many crimes perpetrated by Samuel Bayer’s remake of Wes Craven’s game changing A Nightmare on Elm Street is a fundamental misreading of the metaphor of central ghoul Freddy Krueger. In the original there is a purposeful ambiguity about his crimes vs. the punishment he was handed by the parents. It isn’t what he did – it’s that the parents took the law into their own hands and Krueger in kind took revenge on them through their children. Here he’s been reduced to garden variety pedophile; which doesn’t even work as a plot-point now that his victims have all grown into adulthood.
Children of the Corn (2009)
Made for TV, this reinterpreting of Stephen King’s book and the 1984 movie adaptation (which was still producing sequels when someone got it into their heads to start over) barely exists in any meaningful sense.
A squabbling married couple accidentally hit a child with their car and become ensnared in a cultish doomsday scenario. The film’s problems start with its leads overplaying their underwritten roles, extend to awful special effects, and close out with a bunch of children who can’t quite find their way to acting, let alone acting scary.
The Wicker Man (2006)
The 1973 Wicker Man’s greatest accomplishment is trapping its rational hero in an air of uncanny mystery, taking away his and the audience’s bearings while building incredible tension about something sinister happening.
Given the unenviable task of remaking The Wicker Man, Neil Labute evidently thought audiences couldn’t handle a sustained air of tension, so he added explosions and made hero Nicolas Cage punch and kick women on his way to a climax so preposterous and hamfisted that it’s fueled memes for almost a decade. Replacing mystery with action isn’t a problem per se – just try to make sure the mystery didn’t belong to one of the most beloved horror films of all time and that action itself isn’t unintentionally hilarious.
I Spit On Your Grave (2010)
For decades Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Grave has fought for its legacy against cultural handwringing over whether it glorifies its sensitive subject matter: rape.
It doesn’t, but its bold treatment of a repugnant idea has always made people uncomfortable. Not helping? This remake, which sexualizes its idea through post-Saw aesthetics and putting a scantily clad woman on all the promotional materials. Critics of the original could finally celebrate; the 2010 remake – also about a woman who methodically kills the four men who raped her and left her for dead – is finally the disgusting glorification of torture and abuse they’d always believed the original to be.
Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho is, intentionally or not, a deconstruction of our culture’s preposterous need to remake everything. By hewing so close to the original (though not as close as the filmmakers claimed at the time) that the whole film can’t possibly exist as anything other than a deja vu machine, you wonder what the point of such an exercise can be.
The answer? There is none. Van Sant’s Psycho is an arthouse prank, proof that good material is only as good as the sure hand at the helm of such a film. Van Sant lets too much air into his film, perhaps on purpose, which makes it far more goofy than unsettling.
When Paco Plaza and Jaume Balagueró made [rec], it felt like, suddenly, a crop of new found footage movies could be a viable creative endeavor. It was terrifying, relentless and satisfying. But by the time its American remake showed up a year later, audiences could be forgiven for wishing the found footage thing would just go away already.
Quarantine, which takes [rec]’s story of a journalist trapped in an apartment overrun by zombies and cranks up the shrillness to 11, failed in every way its source succeeded. What on earth was the point of playing all these scares twice? Anyone who was going to be impressed by [rec]’s efficiency was going to be turned off by Quarantine’s lame retreading of the same ground.
Piranha 3D (2010)
Joe Dante and John Sayles sent up Jaws in style with 1979’s Piranha. Their film, a deliberately miniature version of Spielberg’s small town shark drama, still managed to be genuinely upsetting and unsettling as a horror film, without veering away from their tongue-in-cheek anti capitalist message.
Alexandre Aja, who had only just remade Into The Mirror and The Hills Have Eyes, turning both into soullessly slick gorefests, had no interest in satire. His only goal was to gross people out. Piranha 3D, about a bunch of prehistoric fish freed from their lair after an earthquake, is just one dismemberment after another. There are no jokes, no wit, no characters worth caring about, no business calling itself a remake of one of the great ’70s horror films.
The Haunting (1999)
Jan De Bont’s The Haunting was the first of the great big pointless retreads that threw money at art and hoped people wouldn’t notice they were being scammed. Robert Wise’s original, about four curious ghost hunters looking to tame the angry spirit of a haunted house was a lesson in withholding the shocks to get greater power out of fewer set pieces.
The ’90s Haunting was a lesson in what not to do. Jan De Bont wastes little time before assaulting the audience with pyrotechnic displays of ghostly powers, awful CGI statuary and decapitations. And worse than misreading the original’s sensitivity and subtlety is the fact that this Haunting is so unconscionably boring.
My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
A higher gore quotient can be a credible reason to redo an old film. Remaking a film from the golden age of slasher movies just to add more nudity and violence seems… misguided. But that’s just what Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier did. Oh and they put it in 3D, highlighting in all the worst ways how bad CGI-enhanced murder looks when on a budget.
Sleazy but not fun, My Bloody Valentine 3D doesn’t have half the imagination it needs to sustain its wafer-thin idea, which barely kept the 1981 original afloat. That film had real menace. This one just has a few jokey murders and a general air of lazy bawdiness.
We didn’t even get around to The Amityville Horror or The Stepfather! What else did we miss? What are some of your guilty pleasure horror remakes?
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