I recently revisited a movie that was a remake of a great horror film – and one that has been remade itself. But it is a beloved horror film by fans and regular movie buffs alike. It’s a genuinely terrifying movie, folks. You should see it if you haven’t, but more on it later.
Anyway, this got me thinking about horror remakes and about how while the bulk of them are turds so big and wretched that they are nearly unflushable once looked at, there are actually some remakes out there that are great and even… dare I say it… transcend the originals. Others are merely decent fright flicks in their own right, even if they stray far from the source material. But in this day and age of watered-down tripe, it’s nice to have decency if nothing else.
So today we’re looking at my personal top ten, solid remakes, because there are more of them than we horror fans like to admit. We’re purists. I myself can get on a tall fuckin’ soapbox about how Rob Zombie’s Halloween takes all the mystery, and therefore the horror, away for mighty, mighty Myers. I also tend to hate remakes because I feel that many great horror scripts are sitting in rusting filing cabinets while beloved classics are being poorly remade, needlessly.
As Calvin and Hobbes‘ creator Bill Watterson once put it:
“You can’t really blame people for preferring more of what they already know and like. The trade-off, of course, is that predictability is boring. Repetition is the death of magic.”
I agree with Mr. Watterson, but some remakes, albeit few and far between, make us rethink the story they are founded upon, and really use the term re-imagining to its full potential. Those are the diamonds in the re-do ruff I care to discuss with y’all today.
Let’s check out my Top Ten Favorite Remakes…
10. EVIL DEAD (2013)
Calm down. This is nowhere near as good, funny, or interesting as the original Evil Dead trilogy. I don’t think anyone is arguing that, and if they are just hit them with a brick for me. What Fede Alvarez’s remake does offer though is buckets of gore, a lot of insane dismemberment, and even a gateway to the very real possibility of getting Campbell and Raimi together again to make that long rumored new installment. While not a great or even memorable movie, I appreciate that it ups the ante on radical, old school gore effects in this sad digital age, and that it might make some younger viewers curious about the originals. After all, getting a teenager to watch a thirty-two-year-old film isn’t easy, no matter how good we horror nerds tell them it is.
9. VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995)
Ah, John Carpenter. Beloved by all as a master of the macabre movie. I especially love Carpenter. He has long been an idol to me and is my favorite filmmaker, regardless of the fact that he made Ghosts of Mars. Many think of the 90’s as the beginning of the end for Carpenter, but I think In the Mouth of Madness is one of his best films and I really enjoy his remake of the 60’s sic-fi horror flick Village of the Damned. It is campy, for sure, but it stars Kirstie Alley and Mark Hamill for crap’s sake, so what the fuck do you want? About a group of psychic, alien brats, this film pits Superman (Christopher Reeves) against a legion of hellish preppies. Nice. Ideal viewing for life management classes in school!
8. MANIAC (2012)
I love the original Maniac as a dark portrait of 70’s New York – truly the Vietnam War of city life in American history. Joe Spinell is haunting, gross and gruesome all at once, and the film is brutally intimate with his brutally violent character. I expected to hate this Elijah Wood starring reboot, but I gave it a chance when I heard that remake genius Alexandre Aja was involved. While I still prefer the original, Franck Khalfoun’s remake does offer an incredible amount of visceral intensity and there are moments of shock and terror so intense in this film that it boarders on an attack on the viewer. That’s a good thing if you’re a true horror fan.
7. MY BLOODY VALENTINE (2009)
This one is a love it or hate it kind of film. People are either total purists for the original, which is admirable, or they really appreciate this new take on a a lesser-known slasher gem. I’m of the latter nerd pile. I love Patrick Lussier’s re-do of this cult classic – from the creative kills right down to the Tom-Atkins-as-a-cop stunt casting. This is an 80’s style horror movie made for 80′ horror fans by an 80’s horror fan. The only thing better from Lussier is Drive Angry, an underrated masterpiece of horror/action with a back from Hades style Nicolas Cage and a fully nude Charlotte Ross. Oh yeah. Also, there have been rumors of Lussier getting the green light for the next Halloween reboot. Let’s hope so. It needs a wise hand and even some therapy after Zombie’s mindless abuse.
6. 12 Angry Men (1997)
I know it is a HELL of a stretch to put this in the horror movie category. Yes, it reveals the horror of apathy, complacency, and conformity – but come on, that’s not why I added it. Star power is. This made-for-TV remake stars a lot of gnere heavyweights like George C. Scott, Ossie Davis and Edward James Olmos – not to mention the incredible Jack Lemmon. But getting back to horror clout – it was directed by William Friedkin, who brought us a little fright film in the 70’s that changed our genre forever. That movie was The Exorcist. Ok? Forty years after the original wowed us, this remake hit the air with the feel of a stellar, all-star play.
5. PIRANHA (2010)
Many argue that this is just a mindless tits and gore movie about killer fish. They say that like it’s a bad thing. This remake honors the Corman cult classic and delivers more than it could ever promise. The kills are jaw-dropping and the deadly dick jokes are tear-producing in their hilarity. This is one of the best times I ever had in a movie theater. Aja does it again.
4. THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)
Speaking of Alexandre Aja, we can’t possibly skip over this brutal piece of brilliance. I am not afraid to say it even though it invites serious backlash: I think this remake is way better than the original, even though the original was a great piece of horror from fright-master Wes Craven. Aja’s version of Hills is so in-your-face, so violent, and so uncomfortably inhumane that it leaves you rattled when you watch it. I think it does what Craven was restricted of doing when he made the original movie. In most movies of this nature, you can still be very aware that you’re watching a movie and therefore feel relatively safe. Not with this, baby. It truly appalls you when you watch it, in that A Serbian Film or Inside kind of way. It is merciless and morally repugnant, and that is why it is such a masterpiece of modern horror.
3. THE FLY (1986)
Here is one of the few horror remakes that I would hope we can all agree is easily superior to the original. While the Vincent Price vehicle of the original is not without its charm, this Cronenberg redo brings elements of body horror into the mix that skyrockets this sci-fi, monster-morph movie into the shadowy field of legend. As disgusting as it is chilling, this is part nerd fantasy with a dark twist and part gross-out, paranoid nightmare. Truly a master work – and the root cause of every industrial band ever.
2. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)
This is the movie I referenced in the beginning of this article. Another sci-fi, body-horror remake of a black and white classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is easily one of the most terrifying motion pictures I have ever seen. While the original is a rattling piece of cinema in its own right, it is also chained down in its time. It is a Cold War, Red scare film that plays upon the fear of losing one’s community (losing your neighbors to the enemy). This more gristly, and even more paranoiac, ’78 remake, however, was made for the “me generation.” It focuses more on losing one’s self and one’s own personal world of wives, husbands, friends and even one’s sanity. This is the ultimate loss of one’s self nightmare, on par with Angel Heart and Lost Highway. This identity crisis is not to be missed but should be viewed with caution. Most will find it hard to sleep afterward.
And my choice for the best horror remake is, of course…
1. THE THING (1982)
The cold. The dark. Contamination. Isolation. Apocalypse. Others. One’s self.
Carpenter’s brilliant remake of The Thing From Another World touches upon nearly every basic human fear.
Plus, it stars Kurt Russell.
Yet another sci-fi, body-horror remake of a black and white classic on the list – I feel that no one can or would wish to argue this one. This is a remake so skull-shatteringly good that it too was remade. The Thing is not only my favorite horror remake, it is also one of my favorite horror movies period, if not my very favorite. I can’t rank a movie much higher than that.