Writing about the best and worst horror remakes of all time is a very hard task, therefore I called in the cavalry!
To help me write this article, there are three huge (and successful) horror experts: Jeroen Bijl from the popular YouTube channel Horrible Reviews – which you might have heard of due to the series on The Most Disturbing Movies Ever Made or the one about The Video Nasties – Eric Li, managing editor of famous horror podcast The Scariest Things, and Jimmy Ray Davis aka Wordmachinist. Jimmy is a poet, writer and spoken word artist and an avid fan of all things horror including books, video games, comics, legends, toys, etc. Horror films are his favorite. Much of his own writing is dark and ominous and sometimes directly inspired by actual horror films. He currently runs the tight knit Facebook horror group, THE ORIGINAL REEL HORROR and his spoken word “ditties” can be heard for free at http://www.reverbnation/wordmachinist.
I was thrilled to work with them, since Jeroen is one of the reasons why I started reviewing movies – his channel really inspired me a lot some 7-8 years ago – Eric’s podcast is absolutely riveting, seriously one of the best on the internet, and Jimmy’s a fantastic friend, a great expert on all things horror.
In short, each one of us picked one (or two) horror remake we love and one (or two) we hate and tried to motivate the decision. Whether you agree or disagree, I really think you might find enjoyment and food for thought in these few paragraphs. So, without further ado, let’s see what the best and worst horror remakes of all time are!
HORRIBLE REVIEWS’ BEST AND WORST REMAKES:
BEST REMAKE – THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006) / ORIGINAL: THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)
After Wes Craven shook the world in ’72 and left a mark on the exploitation genre of the 70s, more specifically the “rape and revenge” genre, with The Last House On The Left, he made his sophomore feature film with The Hills Have Eyes, a grindhouse-style horror movie about a family that gets stuck in the desert with a deranged cannibalistic inbred family lurking from, you’ve guessed it, the hills. It was celebrated for its no holds barred approach to the genre and over time has become a bit of a cult-favorite. Watching it nowadays however, it might feel a little dated and slow to a modern audience. Enter Alexandre Aja, a French filmmaker, ‘student’ of the New French Extremity movement, who had the gruesome High Tension under his belt, about to tackle a The Hills Have Eyes-remake.
This remake was released in 2006, and as much as I like/appreciate the original, Aja’s version was in improvement on basically every level. He took the original premise, expended upon the story, and most importantly, made it up to par for a modern horror audience. Meaning that, as gruesome as the original was back in ’77, Aja surpassed that and made one of the more gruesomely effective horror movies of the 2000s. All the while it just being a blast of entertainment.The reason why it’s one of my favorite remakes is the fact that they took a mostly well-respected movie; not that big of a classic, but at the same time definitely not overly obscure, and adapted it for a modern audience. The acting, pacing, editing, the special effects and arguably the story have all been improved upon. And that’s exactly what I look for in a remake. The fact that Wes Craven gave his blessing by being a producer on the remake certainly helps. If I get the option to choose between an original 70s horror movie and its modern counterpart and I prefer the newer adaptation, you’ve definitely done something right!
WORST REMAKE – HALLOWEEN (2007) / ORIGINAL: HALLOWEEN (1978)
There’s no dispute that the original Halloween, directed by John Carpenter and released in 1978 is one of the most influential and successful (independent) horror movies ever made. It defined a whole subgenre of horror movies: the slasher, and introduced one of its most memorable villains: Michael Myers. That being said, and as much as I appreciate Halloween for all it’s done for the genre, I’m not as big of a fan as most horror enthusiasts are. There are many slasher movies I prefer, like Friday the 13th, which, while close to equally as important as far as influence, is often regarded as a relatively cheap “cash grab” cash in on the success of Halloween, within the horror community. Fast-forward some 30 years, when musician-turned-also-filmmaker Rob Zombie, fresh of the relatively successful House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel Devil’s Reject, took it upon himself to direct a remake of the slasher classic. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of Zombie’s work; I think he is a competent director, I just can’t stand his writing, mostly the characters and their dialogue. Still, I approach his old-school, “grindhouse” approach, which could make for a decent remake, definitely given the fact that I never hold the original to an untouchable high regard.
However, I didn’t care for his remake. It’s not the worst movie ever, yet I still picked it as my worst/least favorite remake. In full transparency, there’s a LOT of modern-day remakes of classic horror movies that I haven’t seen. The reason I did watch this one, is because I actually had some kind of high hopes. The same ol’ Rob Zombie problems became apparent quite early on in the movie; the characters SUCK. Laurie Strode, originally portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis in one of the all-time classic “final girls”, is degraded to a typical Rob Zombie low-life, trash character that you couldn’t care less about. As is her whole family. And while I have no problem with vile, unlikable characters in general, in this in this case it was just too hard to root for such a character.
I somewhat appreciate the fact that they gave Michael Myers a backstory, but it wasn’t necessary. I don’t need to know his backstory, I don’t need to sympathize with him. Why sympathize with the bad guy, when I can’t even do that with the protagonist?
I feel like I’m going on a rant again just writing about it, but to keep it short, the reason I picked Halloween is the fact that they picked such an almost untouchable classic (despite me personally perhaps not agreeing with that status, purely based on the movie itself) and made it so unlikable and uninteresting. Going back to The Hills Have Eyes, they picked a movie that had its flaws, and used those to turn it into an entertaining horror movie. Here, they took the stuff that was already good (likable characters, mysterious villain) and just completely messed it up. And while I don’t hate this movie, it is one of the worst examples of a REMAKE that I’ve seen.
ERIC LI (THE SCARIEST THINGS)’S BEST AND WORST REMAKES:
A frequent comment from horror movie fans is “God I hope they don’t remake this movie.” The newest criticism gets placed on the announced remake of Train to Busan. Why remake something that just got released!?! I fall into the same camp as many of these fans for this film. It’s too soon. It doesn’t respect the original enough to allow a foreign made film to succeed with a Western audience. I’ve heard it too for the upcoming remake of Suspiria. However, that movie is now almost forty years old, and we are getting an auteur Italian director to take on an auteur Italian director’s mantle. So, I’m fine with that. It all comes down to the respect of the original source material. Can it bring something new and fresh to a well-loved story and still remain true to the predecessor? There are some fantastic examples where this has succeeded. My favourite example is a classic remade as a classic:
BEST – THE THING (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing is my all-time favorite movie, horror or otherwise, and it is a remake of the 1952 Howard Hawks classic, and is an improvement in so many ways. The fact that the movie fell on its face, opening against E.T. at the Box office, and was subjected to terrible critical reviews makes this the most unlikely of classics, but it is. It is often most vividly remembered for Rob Bottin’s unbelievable practical gory effects work, but this really is a story about trust and paranoia. The fact that all the actors were grounded, and theater veterans helped sell the unease, and the fact that the monster could be right in front of you and you don’t know it was petrifying. Carpenter’s film built upon Hawk’s isolation and claustrophobia, and the setting, but transcended the original, which itself is a much beloved science fiction landmark.
BEST – THE FLY (1986)
Pathos. Empathy. And gruesome body horror. This is David Cronenberg’s high water mark, in a career full of amazing and disturbing films. Chris Walas’ fantastic make-up prosthetic effects still hold up, thirty years later. While the original The Fly is one of the greatest mad scientist movies of all time, you must admit that it was rather campy. Vincent Price chews up the scenery, but even the Master of the Macabre would need to salute the acting prowess of Jeff Goldblum, who manages to convey so much emotion through inches of makeup. It’s Oscar worthy. Goldblum does double duty as both the lead protagonist and the lead antagonist, and he takes his metamorphosis in scientific stride. Geena Davis becomes a star in this movie, and the chemistry between the two leads was so good that they ended up getting married. Awww! The one element that the original did better? The man-fly caught in the web!
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1977)
The Ring (2002)
King Kong (2005)
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
WORST – HOUSE OF WAX (2005)
Another terrible early 00’s horror remake. The original 1953 Vincent Price film is filled with wit, dread, and a sly story that revels in wickedness… with a wink. The remake is stale. It also happens to feature a cast that couldn’t manage to act their way out of a paper bag in this frustrating sequel. I have a friend who swears by this movie as one of her favorites, so I gave it a go. Big mistake. This movie is probably a closer match to the movie Tourist Trap (1979) but even there it pales by comparison. The movie, rather than being an examination of a museum curator driven mad, becomes a road-trip horror show that has a killer turning visitors into mannequins. Thematically, it’s all wrong. It’s unnecessarily violent, and it besmirches the good name of a wonderful movie. And, it has Paris Hilton in it. ‘Nuff said.
WORST – BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006)
The original 1974 Black Christmas, starring Margot Kidder and Kier Dullea is perhaps the first modern slasher movie, and is revered for its tense plotting and assured casting. The exact opposite can be said for the 2006 remake that was riddled with horrible acting and it is rather remarkable that given the fairly simple plot, it was an abject failure. It wasn’t like the cast nobodys in the roles either. Mary Elizabeth Winstead an Katie Cassidy are capable actresses (sometimes) and they even brought back Andrea Martin to play the house mom. None of the spirit or tension from the original was present. This film like other bad remakes of an era full of bad remakes, tried to dive too deep into the back story of the villain. The original, the killer was a complete mystery, and this film suffers by putting more of a face to the evil.
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
King Kong (1977)
The Wicker Man (2006)
The Mummy (2017)
JIMMY RAY DAVIS (AKA WORDMACHINIST)’S BEST AND WORST REMAKES:
WORST – THE WICKER MAN (2006)
I will start with the worst horror movie in cinematic history, The Wicker Man. While the original was edgy, suspenseful, well scripted and acted and lensed in eerie tones, the 2006 remake has none of these elements instead trying to paint in big, dumb, glossy, cookie cutter Hollywood strokes and failing miserably to capture even a mere essence of the stalwart original. Part of the problem to be sure is Nic Cage. Love him or hate him he is at his most annoying here, manic and out of control and very unfocused. Of course he was just following his director (and script) and the whole affair is almost surreal in it’s awfulness becoming a film to laugh at for all the wrong reasons. The Wicker Man remake is not only the worst horror remake of all time but a true insult to the original and anyone who strays onto the beaten path to view it.
BEST – TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003)
What a tall order it must have been to even tackle a beloved film as the original TCM. With gritty realism, the 1974 classic chilled many and planted the seed of bad dreams for many sleepless nights but let’s be honest…it wasn’t a great film. Tobe Hooper’s vision exceeded his budget and it shows but I will admit, the low dollar, grainy VHS look truly benefitted the proceedings. How in the world do you remake that without doing a carbon copy or glossing it up? Easy, get Marcus Nispel to helm it and put Jessical Biel in a wifebeater. Note: Nispel did also direct the Friday the 13th remake in 2009 but it wasn’t horrible, just unnecessary. All kidding aside, what was created in 2003 was nothing short of horror magic. From it’s opening scene of a casual drive interrupted by a crazed woman to the appearance of Leatherface himself the film grabs hold with a dead skin mask and slathers the viewers with more horror goodness than you can shake a chainsaw at. Sure the production is crisp but the slightly washed out tint is perfect as is the cast who really played their parts to the hilt. Everything in the film is an improvement on the rough hewn original and probably exactly what Tobe Hooper would have done if he had the budget. There is action, suspense, dread and a truly ominous atmosphere. Not only is TCM 2003 a vast upgrade on a creaky old flick, it’s also one of the best overall horror movies in the last 20 years.
LUCA PINCELLI (HORRORWORLD&REVIEWS)’S BEST AND WORST REMAKES:
I decided to go with two remakes that, perhaps, are more arguable than the ones mentioned above:
BEST – NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979)
German filmmaker Werner Herzog took upon himself an apparently impossible task: breathing air into the remake of one of the – if not THE greatest – silent horror film of all time. Although Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) stays to this day as a remarkable testimony of the beginnings of horror, in my opinion the German Nosferatu The Vampyre both pays respectful homage to it and leads it into modern times. Due to the absolutely mesmerising performances by Klaus Kinski as Dracula – he was born to be a vampire, beautiful and theatrical Isabelle Adjani – who also shines in one of my all-time favourite films, Possession, and methodically uneasy Bruno Ganz, this poetic yet unsettling story hits you hard. The sombre atmosphere and the ugliness of the characters create a beautiful contrast with their inner desires of being accepted by a society that probably doesn’t deserve them. Herzog’s Nosferatu is an ode to scary yet beautiful art-house horror, one you can’t look away from due to its potent psychosexual themes and grabbing story and visuals.
WORST – PSYCHO (1998)
In 1998, some really good weed must’ve gone around offices in Hollywood, otherwise it would be inexplicable why someone thought it was a good idea to remake the film that started the modern era of horror: Psycho (1960). If my pick for best horror remake of all time showcases how to respectfully treat an undisputed classic masterpiece, the remake of Psycho does exactly the opposite: this movie manages to be extremely dull and boring. In fact, it takes the same pace as the original, but the filmmakers didn’t have the talent to build an atmosphere that could get close to the one in Hitchcock’s masterpiece. Besides, filming in colours took away the magic of the original, making for a very forgettable and frustrating experience. Also, despite the extremely talented actors involved, everyone was terribly miscast: in particular, Vince Vaughn makes for a laughably atrocious Norman Bates. This is a true train wreck!
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