Remakes are hot business and remakes of horror movies in particular seem irresistible to the people. Or the studios. Or both. This week, we are getting evidence of this with the release of Poltergeist.
Often they are…ok. More often they are just bad. But here, for you, are some good ones.
(Note: I’m nowhere near a horror aficionado, so it’s possible I’ll miss a few. Let me know.)
Good Horror Remakes (in sort of kind of descending order of quality)
1.) The Fly- So good as to not only eclipse the original but to basically erase it from people’s memories. Cronenberg digs into what could be campy and fills it with such absolute, undeniable dread. You can feel this one in your own flesh.
2.) The Thing- The original is quaint by nearly any standards, but it is still worth a glance.
That said, this is a monster by comparison. (Pun not intended)
Claustrophobic and paranoia drenched, this is arguably Carpenter’s best film and a movie that has provided the template for many pieces of fiction since. Heck, X-Files went to “The Thing” well twice in its first three seasons, basically.
The ending is still debated, and for good reason, but even if it wasn’t, the power of this one is undeniable.
3.) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)- Perfectly update the tropes for the then modern era of 1978, making it feel far more frightening and like the stakes were wildly higher than in the original. Sutherland’s final scream is…well, you gotta watch it.
4.) Nosferatu the Vampyre- I’ve seen the original silent black and white version and it is all atmosphere in a way this Herzog remake just can’t match. Instead it expands the plot and the “world” of the movie and ends up with a deeper presentation. One of the few remakes that is so similar and yet becomes wholly its own film.
5.) Let Me In- Vampire movies with something different to offer are in short supply. Which is a bit of a silly thing to say about a remake, I will grant you, but this benefits from being the remake of a fairly recent foreign film. If it was based on an older movie more in the consciousness and/or something domestic, perhaps it wouldn’t work as well. But, it isn’t and thus, here it is.
6.) Fright Night- It lacks some of the charm and subtle (I think, for the time) gender and sexuality politics of the original, but I enjoy this one as well. I like how Farrell’s vampire has changed with the times to feel a bit more like what today’s teens imagine a blood sucker to be, rather than keep the more classical 80’s version. On the other hand, while Tennant does good work as a TV supernatural huckster, his update to Criss Angel type magician dates the film immediately in a way that the original didn’t suffer from.
7.) The Blob (1988)- A neat conspiracy laden flick. Takes the premise seriously and somehow makes a gelatinous ball truly spooky.
8.) Dawn of the Dead- Look, I have my problems with zombie fiction. In that I pretty much universally loathe it. And I also have to acknowledge that this one does not touch the original.
All of that said, it is visually interesting and has a strong script. To be good doesn’t mean you have to eclipse the original. I wish that was the criterion of remakes, but it isn’t so…Good is good. And this ends up being good.
9.) The Crazies- Another remake of a Romero (sort of) zombie feature, although this is decidedly a lesser offering from his filmography. Probably better than the original although it lacks some of the dirty grit of that offering as well. This one is easier to shake off as a result, even if it is probably a more satisfying viewing experience overall.
10.) The Ring- That girl coming out of the well is indelible. The rest of the film is arguably more of a thriller, but any moment with her…blood runs cold.
11.) Wicker Man- Ok. This isn’t good, per se. But…Nic Cage. Punches. The Bees. The Bear suit. “How’d it get burned?!” It’s…crazy watchable.