If you’re a horror movie fan, then you will have heard that all horror remakes are terrible. It is a piece of conventional wisdom that has some superficial appeal. After all, some horror remakes are terrible, and the same goes for remakes in general. Maybe this is also due to the fact that movie fans are often resentful when anyone dares to remake a beloved film.
However, as movie industry insiders from Ryan Kavanaugh to Ron Howard will tell you, every movie is unique, and while some horror remakes have been flops, this doesn’t mean that we should write off all of them. In case you aren’t convinced, here are some of the best examples of horror remakes that are as good – or in some cases better – than the original.
Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic based on Stephen King’s breakthrough novel is one of the milestones of horror cinema, and not to be remade lightly, so Kimberly Peirce deserves plenty of praise for her 2013 version of the story in which a young woman with lethal telekinetic powers exacts her terrible revenge on her mother and the school bullies who tormented her.
This spirited remake is helped by strong turns from Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.
The 1958 original was an endearingly old-fashioned, kitschy tale about a blob of space gunk attacking a small US town, but 30 years later, the remake took the story in a different but equally entertaining direction, with plenty of humor and memorably graphic moments, as well as introducing a satirical military subplot.
This one is a little more obscure, but it’s worth a look. In 1982, Paul Schrader – who wrote the screenplay for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull (among others) – directed a remake of Val Lewton’s Cat People (1942), though he based it on the original book by DeWitt Bodeen, who wrote the screenplay for the first film. A strange, erotic and shocking horror, this story of shape-shifting “cat people” features memorable performances from Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm
McDowell and John Heard along with a theme song written by David Bowie.
This is definitely a case of the remake improving on the original. The 1958 adaptation of a short story by George Langelaan had a certain charm, but David Cronenberg created a horror masterpiece in 1986, with the help of Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum. Technically a sci-fi horror with vaguely romantic elements, The Fly is a visually compelling spectacle that ranks as one of the greatest horror films ever made.
To remake a George Romero movie and improve upon it is a rare achievement, but that’s what Breck Eisner did in 2010 with his update of the 1973 original, which was a slightly unfocused tale of a town that suddenly goes crazy. The remake, by contrast, is taut and gritty and offers a few new twists that make it a memorable spectacle.
Dawn of the Dead
James Gunn and Jack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead (1978) could have flopped badly, but it stands on its own feet by taking a different tack. Trying to improve on the first movie would have been next to impossible, but in this case the remake doesn’t try, retaining the zombies-in-a-mall theme but swapping Romero’s satire on consumerism with something more straightforward. It isn’t as good as the classic, but it’s an
entertaining remake that offers plenty of value, even for Romero fans.
The Evil Dead
In 2013, Fede Alvarez took on the considerable task of remaking the Sam Raimi classic The Evil Dead (1981) and managed to produce a movie that did justice to the original while being a solid piece of cinema in its own right. The premise of the early-80s classic – stranded people in a cabin are possessed by demons – is retained, but Alvarez managed to create a new version that has enough shocks of its own to stand out.
Last but not least, this 1982 remake of The Thing (1951) by John Carpenter could be the best horror remake of all time. It did poorly at the box office, but it has justifiably developed a reputation as a classic – a suspenseful yet gruesome take on the tale of an alien creature with the ability to perfectly mimic human beings.
So, there you have it. Not every horror remake sucks, and the next time this argument comes
up, you can impress your movie-going friends with your knowledge of these classic remakes
that matched, or in some cases improved upon, the original.