One trend that Hollywood has seem to be stuck on for the past several decades is the remake. While it seems obvious now that nothing is safe from the dreaded remake, they’re certainly not all bad. There are actually several reasons why a movie should be remade starting with a desire to bring a new vision to the original material. If you are going to remake a classic, you have to add something new. Explore a motivation for a character or expand on certain events while staying true to the original characters and content. For whatever reason, this increasingly seems like an impossible feat.
Any film that’s not considered a classic, or even good, should be marked for a remake. If it has a great idea that was squandered with a faulty execution, then it deserve a proper telling. Foreign films, on the other hand, are often remade to reach a larger audience. Americans, for the most part, do not and will not sit through a foreign movie. It’s a shame because there are a lot of great stories out there and more often than not, the remake is inferior to the original.
For the second installment in this series of the best and worst of horror remakes, we’ll be looking at the best of the best. Most of the movies expand on forgotten originals, while others are remakes of foreign films. Let us know in the comments what you think is the best horror remake of all time and don’t forget to join us on The Remake Mistake podcast each month as we explore another remake and answer the question, “was this remake a mistake?”
The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing is such a great horror movie that a lot of the general public may forget that it is even a remake. While technically not a full remake of 1951’s, The Thing From Another World, it’s in fact another adaptation of John W. Campbell’s sci-fi novella Who Goes There?. There are not many similarities between the two films past a group of scientists stationed in the arctic being terrorized by a life form after discovering a frozen UFO. While both films draw from the original text, Carpenter’s take is the most faithful. Howard Hawks’ film is about as edgy as you’d expect for early sci-fi, including a standout scene with the thing and fire, but Carpenter completely eclipses the original adaptation. It would be easy to simply praise the film for its jaw-dropping special effects, but the outstanding performances and the much darker, bleaker tone make 1982’s The Thing a shining example of what a remake should be.
Listen to The Remake Mistake EP14 | The Thing.
The Fly (1986)
1958’s The Fly worked as a nice B-movie starring the incredible Vincent Price, but looking back on it after the release of Cronenberg’s cult classic, it seems extremely tame and a little disappointing. The story of a man turning into a fly should be a grotesque vision, and the 1986 remake does that almost too well. Jeff Goldblum may not possess the class that Vincent Price brought to everything, but he brings an unhinged dynamic to his performance. It works because there is no room for subtlety when your main character is dripping and bulging throughout most of the movie. There isn’t much to be scared of in the story, but Cronenberg pulls in horror from the shockingly grotesque like it’s an art form.
The Blob (1988)
The Blob remake came along at the right time. It’s a movie about a mysterious substance from space that rolls around consuming people. The movie succeeds as a remake for one reason and one reason only, the special effects. The Blob has wonderful practical effects that were not available or suitable for the 1950s. There isn’t anything special about the plot that you couldn’t find in any other Cold War era B-movie, but 1988’s The Blob boasts some horrific images, and that’s why it’s so much fun. It pulls the right tone of nostalgia and shock.
Listen to The Remake Mistake EP16 | The Blob.
Piranha 3D (2010)
1978’s Piranha is an easily forgettable film that fed off of the powerhouse that was Jaws. It was a reach for some of that Jaws money, and the resulting film feels like it. The 2010 remake, Piranha 3D, is a fun, tongue-in-cheek movie from start to finish. It knows every second what it is and what an audience going into a movie about piranhas wreaking havoc want. It delivers successfully in glorious 3D.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Wes Craven’s gritty 1977 classic wasn’t begging for an update, but in 2006 the disturbing story about a family stranded in the desert being attacked by psychotic savages was brought to an entirely different level. The remake isn’t necessarily better than the original, but nearly 30 years later the places that movies could go drastically changed. In 2006, at the height of “torture porn”, horror could get away with a lot more. Both films are full of disturbing ideas and images, but the The Hills Have Eyes remake gets delivers these elements in a more effective way.
The Crazies (2010)
George A Romero’s 1973 original The Crazies is not technically a zombie movie, but it’s close. The films shows us what happens when a toxin causes the inhabitants of a small town to go insane and become fatally violent. It’s a gripping story, and one that effectively fleshes out characters and rewards the audience. There isn’t a lot that needed to be added to the story, but in 2010 we got an update to the story and the characters that successfully added to the uneasy feeling of of the “everyman” in the “every-town” turning on his family. The story is timeless, and both films are very well made. While we didn’t need a remake of The Crazies, we are better for having it.
The Ring (2002)
The Ring is perhaps the greatest, or at least most successful, American remake of a foreign horror film. Released in Japan in 1998, Ringu became a smash hit in 2002 when The Ring was released in America. Both countries eventually released sequels to the story about death following those who watch a videotape. It doesn’t seem like a particularly scary plot, but the results are a great example of horror. For an international remake, it’s hard to say if one version is superior to the other, but what makes it successful is the remake capturing the tone of the original while spreading the story to a larger audience and by that account The Ring succeeds.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Night of the Living Dead could have found a place on this list, but it’s Dawn of the Dead that has the superior remake. Both the 1978 and 2004 films follow a group trapped in a mall during the zombie uprising. The plot is simple, but the movies are big, and the violence, characters, and fun pour off the screen. Where Night felt more personal, Dawn is broad. In 1978, the effects were better than its predecessor, but by 2004 everything was more realistic and the film doesn’t rely as heavily on CGI as one would expect. The remake expands on the fun and horror of the original while paying loving respect to the franchise. A fan could not ask for more.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
In 1956, the biggest monster in life and in film was (gasp) Communism. It may not have always been addressed outright, but it’s what makes Invasion of the Body Snatchers such an important movie. It perfectly captures the hysteria of the 1950’s Communist scare. The movie itself did not age well in terms of the impact; Communism stopped feeling like a threat which made the story of people being replaced with emotionless clones ripe for an update. In 1978, the film was remade with a more somber and serious tone. It still may not be the scariest of premises, but with a great cast, startling images, and less of a message, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers adds a lot to the historic 1956 film.
Evil Dead (2013)
1981’s The Evil Dead is one of the biggest cult movies of all time and helped launch the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. A classic cabin in the woods tale of a group of friends looking for some rest and relaxation, one bad decision after another brings unspeakable evil into the world. Chock full of wonderful practical effects and genuine scares, it’s hard to top this classic. With Raimi and Campbell aboard as producers, the 2013 remake Evil Dead came as close as fans could hope. Utilizing mostly practical effects, it was bloody, over the top, and insane. The remake did what all remakes should, pay homage to the original while taking creative liberties to make the movie a fun experience of its own.
Listen to The Remake Mistake EP12 | The Evil Dead.