Ever since I wrote about the worst horror remakes, I've been asking myself a question: Have there been any that were good? After racking my brain, I managed to assemble ten of them that paid homage to the original (and in some cases surpassed them).
So sit back and get the popcorn ready as we go for a stroll through some of the greatest remakes horror has to offer.
1. The Thing (1982)
Have you ever sat back and thought “Goddammit E.T, you stupid friendly alien”? Well that thought may have been crossing John Carpenter’s mind when his remake of the 1951 film The Thing from Outer Space was panned by critics, and didn’t do so well at the box office. It was released around the same time as E.T. and people were flocking to see the friendly alien that loved Reese’s Pieces, rather than the one that could inhabit people, mutate them, and kill anyone nearby. Despite all of this, The Thing is a masterpiece that surpassed the original in every conceivable way. From the claustrophobic setting of Antarctica, to the phenomenal special effects by Rob Bottin, the film never misses a beat and keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. This is not just the best horror remake, but one of the best remakes in any genre.
2. The Fly (1986)
It's hard to top some people's performances when you take on the same character, and when that person is Vincent Price the task becomes almost impossible. Yet Jeff Goldblum managed to do this with relative ease in David Cronenberg’s re-imaging of the 1958 classic of the same name. The premise could be B-movie-tastic: a man accidentally combines his DNA with that of a fly. But due to the performance of all involved, the audience is led away from that and left with a modern masterpiece. The story of Goldblum’s relationship with Geena Davis is central to the film, and Cronenberg does not underplay this, which leads to the end being more gut-wrenchingly upsetting than you would think. The creature effects won an Oscar for Chris Walas for Best Makeup, and are still some of the most disturbing I have seen on film. Every person in the film plays their role perfectly, and The Fly also gave us the classic line: “Be afraid, be very afraid." From start to finish it never fails to deliver.
3. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
I'm always wary of any remake of a Wes Craven film, as the originals are so excellent it's hard to get anywhere near their level with a recreation. However with The Hills Have Eyes, director Alexandre Aja stays true to the original, yet tweaks it just enough to make it worthy of this list. This version is pretty much the same plot: a family on a road trip is being terrorised by a family that lives in the desert, who are the products of generations of inbreeding. But what Aja does fantastically is up the pace from the original film, turn up the gore, and accelerate the tension leading to some disturbing scenes that leave nothing to the imagination. This remake can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the original as any horror fan will tell you, but due to the content and the graphic nature, the more casual fan was turned off from the film.
4. Evil Dead (2013)
The original three films are amongst my favourites, and an accidental viewing of only a few minutes of the first one got me hooked on horror films for life. So when I heard there was a remake coming, I was very apprehensive. But what director Fede Alvarez managed to do was take the original concept and ramp it up to make it a classic horror film in its own right. He made the smart move of avoiding the campy vibe of the originals and made them into a full on gore-fest that would leave those of us who aren’t squeamish begging for more. Alvarez was also hand picked by Sam Raimi after seeing his short films, and he certainly lived up to the hype. From carving people with an electric kitchen knife to the classic chopping with the iconic chainsaw, Evil Dead is a darkly grotesque film that certainly isn’t for everyone.
5. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
When you are messing with source material as sacrosanct as a George A. Romero film, you had better be on your game. Luckily for Zack Snyder, he managed to muster one of his best films. Keeping the original concept of being trapped in a shopping mall (but changing almost everything else) paid off for him and allowed the film not to be compared side-by-side with the original. Out goes the social commentary on consumerism in society, and in comes a fast-paced, action-packed film with zombies (that can run!) which adds a different element of danger to the undead hordes. As with others in this list, the film was changed just enough to give it a unique identity, but not too much so people complained about it sharing the name.
6. Fright Night (2011)
The original Fright Night was an easy introduction into vampire films for many people. Loaded with laughs and a charismatic vampire, it’s easy to see why people loved it, and a remake was always on the table. But with this remake, it runs the risk of all the elements remaining the same; however, a brilliant cast managed to pull it off and keep even the most cynical of us entertained. The highly talented and much missed Anton Yelchin leads the way, backed up by Colin Farrell as the vampire next door, and mixed with David Tennant, it leads to a film just as fun as the original.
7. The Blob (1988)
To make an entertaining and scary film about pink slime running amok in small-town America is no easy feat, but in 1958 The Blob starring Steve McQueen terrified audiences and showed what a B-movie could do when done right. But the 1988 remake delivers again and even ups the stakes with Kevin Dillon’s amazing mullet and some of the goriest kills of the eighties. I'm a sucker for cheesy, visual effects and this film definitely has these in spades (or should that be bucket fulls? You know, because it's a blob…). Others agree that it is one of the finest remakes out there.
8. Night of the Living Dead (1990)
This is undoubtedly one of the greatest zombies films ever made and it introduced the world to the great George A Romero. Night of the Living Dead not only scared audiences with the undead rising from the grave to eat the flesh of the living, but also, the protagonist was a black man. That felt weird to type, but in 1968, this was a huge deal and Romero felt that the tables of inequality need to be turned again when he green lit the remake and made a woman the lead character. Gore-effects God Tom Savini took the directors chair and what followed was a remake that broke boundaries once again. It was panned upon release and fans of Savini wanted more gore, but looking back it is a solid remake that Romero wanted.
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
In 1956 people were shocked and scared when they saw this film. Unnerving in its premise, it made people believe that a “quiet” alien invasion could happen (even though it was apparently a nod to the Cold War). Donald Sutherland heads up the remake in what is hailed as one of his finest performances and one of the best films in 1978. It was applauded for adding more depth to the ideas from the original and also has the iconic ending shot of Sutherland pointing with his mouth wide open; it delivers from beginning to end. Oh, and Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Golblum are in there too, so even the supporting cast is brilliant.
10. The Crazies (2010)
Timothy Olyphant is a brilliant actor and, in my opinion, sorely underrated. Whether it be comedy in Santa Clarita Diet, or action in Die Hard 4.0, he consistently hits the mark time and time again. In this remake of George A Romero’s 1973 film, he plays a policeman in a small town under the effects of a biological weapon, which turns the townsfolk into blood thirsty killers. Weaving the relationships between distraught family members, military who are operating a shoot-on-site strategy, and a small group of survivors in the original, the remake focuses on fewer people than the original, which leaves them with one strategy: survival. The result is a tense, taught thriller that in my opinion, surpasses the original.
What do you think? Am I wrong or spot on? Did I leave any of your favourites off? Let me know in the comments!
Jan Siery is a husband, dad of two kids, two cats, and a dog, and is an all-around nerd. He likes gaming, horror movies, dark and disturbing stuff, Twinkies, and people telling him things.
Follow Jan on Twitter: @jansiery