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 first installment in this new series of the best and worst of horror remakes, we’ll be looking at the worst of the worst. Most are money grabs from the studios to cash in on beloved properties, while others are just misfires. Let us know in the comments what you think is the worst 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?”
Dishonorable Mention: The Amityville Horror (2005)
While many look at the 1979 The Amityville Horror as an untouchable classic, the truth is, it really doesn’t stand up well. There certainly are better movies out there during that time. This is a case where the “real life” story is actually scarier than the movie. Starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder as the newlyweds living in the nefarious house. Amityville ’79 sits just below great and in 2005, we got a remake that is good enough. Nothing about the movie, the direction, Ryan Reynolds, or the script feels very special or different. It’s a passable remake. There are far more atrocities than this bland middle of the road remake.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Wes Craven’s greatest contribution to popular culture was the creation of Freddy Krueger. Although Freddy would get cartoonish throughout the series as he used his dream world to creatively murder his victims, he was mostly a serious guy. Everything in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street worked, but unfortunately the franchise that Wes Craven and Robert Englund created was bastardized in 2010 by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company. Everything about this remake didn’t work. Too much CGI, bland performances, unimaginative kills, and worst of all, not a single scary moment. This was a movie for sleepy idiots.
Listen to The Remake Mistake EP05 | A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Prom Night (2008)
1980’s Prom Night is in no way a classic. It’s cheesy, dated, and borderline boring. It does however star national treasure, Jamie Lee Curtis. While it’s not great, (why is there a 7 hour disco scene?) there are some commendable aspects, like the killer being a fumbling amateur who’s identity is kept a mystery until the very end. This was a movie that was begging for a proper telling and in 2008, we got an attempt. However, everything that worked for the original was stripped away and replaced with cliches, and not even particularly well done cliches. The kills were lackluster, the characters were stiff, and the direction and camera work were nauseating. I’d like to say nice try, but it wasn’t.
Listen to The Remake Mistake EP06 | Prom Night.
Poltergeist (1982) is an absolute classic. It has all the wonderful scares of an ’80s horror movie, mixed with the fun of early Spielberg. Over 35 years later, it’s still as effective as it was on initial release. The script, performances, and practical effects make Poltergeist a must see. When the completely unnecessary and misguided 2015 remake attempted to recapture the magic of the original, it failed on every level imaginable. There were no scares, no charm, and no sense to anything. Instead of trying to do something new, we got the best moments of the original lazily recreated. Even the fantastic Sam Rockwell knew this was a mess and he phoned it in hard.
Of all the movies on this list, the 1998 remake of the 1960 classic Psycho is the most unnecessary and appalling. Hitchcock’s masterpiece should never have been touched. In fact, the original is such a perfect movie that the remake was a shot for shot duplicate. If you ever wanted to see one of the greatest horror films of all time, except in color, with terrible performances, and none of the tension, then 1998’s Psycho is for you. It’s incredible that anyone who had anything to do with this movie were allowed out in public again. Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, and especially Gus Van Sant, shame on you.
Black Christmas (2006)
The 1974 Bob Clark holiday classic is certainly not as well known as it should be. The slasher genre would not be what it is without this movie and it managed to inspire some of the greatest horror movies of the ’70s and ’80s. In hindsight, it’s fairly tame, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still effective in its scares and at creating a dreary, holiday setting. Unfortunately, it was unable to escape the early 2000’s remake frenzy. Black Christmas went from being a subtle, well crafted, horror mystery that turned the genre upside down, to a flashy, shallow, disgusting, unnecessary, miserable pile of trash with a bow on top. Too bad I can’t return the memory of watching this.
Listen to The Remake Mistake EP02 | Black Christmas.
The Fog (2005)
While some films are untouchable, there are no directors whose entire filmography is spotless. Hitchcock, Spielberg, and Scorcese all had some flops that could see a justifiable remake. The task is remaking the right movie (only a fool would remake E.T. or Psycho). John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) is not a bona fide classic and there may be room for improvement, but it was not the right movie of his to remake. The plot is simple, a small town is overtaken by a fog filled with the murderous ghosts of the towns past. It has its flaws, but overall it’s fun to watch. In 2005, Carpenter produced a remake that was lacking scares, thrills, sense, or necessity. Completely forget the remake exists and enjoy 1980’s The Fog for all its imperfections.
The Haunting (1999)
There is a remake goldmine in old ’50s and ’60s B-horror movies. The only issue is that there is a fine line between striking the right tone between campy and serious. If done right, we could see not only good remakes, but great remakes (look at The Thing). The Haunting, a 1963 film about a ghost-studying scientist and his “guests” spending time in a haunted mansion, was begging for a remake. With the proper script, cast, effects, setting, and tone there could be a genuinely scary movie here. In 1999, we got an attempt, to say the least. Everything about it was wrong. The tone was way off, the acting was surprisingly bad, the script was all over the place, and the effects were laughable. Liam Neeson is the only one who will be haunted by this terrible remake.
One Missed Call (2008)
The original Japanese One Missed Call (2003) may not be held in high regard, or even remembered, and that just tells you how bad the 2008 American remake is. The idea seems better suited for a scary story told around a campfire; people receive calls from their future, dying selves. The idea may not be great, but the Japanese filmmakers know how to draw tension and create a certain mood in their horror movies. As hard as American remakes tried, especially in the early 2000’s, they could rarely replicate the feel of the original. In the case of One Missed Call, that is a crucial element to the film’s success and without it we got a laughable premise that went through the motions and it is a chore to get through.
Cabin Fever (2016)
Remember when Eli Roth was a name to be reckoned with in the world of horror? It was a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment in time, but in 2002 we got an impressive little movie called Cabin Fever. It was a small production about a group of friends who battle a contagious flesh eating bacteria in a cabin in the woods. There was enough time to develop the characters and the effects were practical and impressive. It was a great throwback to simple and effective classics from the ’80s. For some reason, it was decided that Cabin Fever needed a remake less then 15 years later. This is one of the shortest amounts of time between an non international original and remake that we’ve seen. All good movies leave an audience with wonder, but Cabin Fever (2016) will leave you wondering “why does this exist?”
The Omen (2006)
Sometimes it’s painfully obvious what the suits in Hollywood are trying to do with a movie. Whether it’s Oscar bait, a quickly made cash grab, or fan service, nothing gets by a moderately intelligent audience. Remaking 1976’s The Omen was clearly a cash grab with a possible intention to reboot the series. What a… devilishly bad idea. The original gave us a well written and terrifying concept with one of the greatest actors of the century, Gregory Peck. Following a married couple who adopt a son that turns out to be the Antichrist, The Omen is as much a classic as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. While it did spawn several subpar sequels, in 2006 it got a full remake. I can not think of any reason that makes sense except that it was a cheap ploy to wring any money from the classic. While it did make money, it doesn’t compare to the original, and we’re stuck with the mess. Thanks Hollywood, now what are we supposed to do?