12 Horror Remakes that Are Actually Pretty Great

You may have noticed that there seems to be a lot of news – recently – about new horror remakes.

Studios keep going back to remakes and adaptations of popular titles because – generally speaking – they’re perceived as a safe bet. Why gamble money on a creative new idea when recycled favorites (like Andy Muschietti’s IT – which is definitely a film adaptation of a book/TV miniseries and not a remake and I will die on this hill) are so successful, right?

There are production companies that challenge this idea to great success (such as A24 with films like Hereditary, Paramount with A Quiet Place, and Blumhouse with Get Out and Split), but it seems that there’s a Hollywood formula that most want to stick to.

It’s a belief that new ideas don’t have audience draw, but taking advantage of nostalgic properties is reliable – just ask Star Wars and Jurassic Park.

As horror fans, we see this often. We’re bombarded with sequels to build a franchise, showered with film adaptations of popular books or TV shows, and offered remakes that no one asked for. It’s tiring, and can be quite frustrating.

Horror films have been receiving the remake treatment for a long time, and while most are… not great, there are some remakes that don’t fill us with rage.

So, because sometimes we need that optimistic reflection on how a remake isn’t always a bad thing, let’s take a look at 12 of our favorites (chronologically ordered).

The Thing (1982)

via IMDb

Original Film: The Thing From Another World (1951)
Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Richard Dysart
Director: John Carpenter (Halloween)
Why You Should Watch: Yes, The Thing is actually a remake. It’s become such a classic in its own right that it’s completely outshone the original (which is actually a pretty solid movie on its own). The plot follows the same basic concept, however, John Carpenter’s The Thing dramatically raises the stakes, punches in some horrific practical effects, and adds a palpable paranoia-fueled tension, resulting in a truly iconic film.
Where to watch it: Starz, Amazon, iTunes, PSN, Google Play

The Fly (1986)

via IMDb

Original Film: The Fly (1958)
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, Leslie Carlson
Director: David Cronenberg (Scanners)
Why You Should Watch: This Oscar Award winning film (best makeup, naturally) brings us the gift of young, suave Jeff Goldblum and some truly stomach-churning practical effects. The Fly maintains the plot of the original film (starring Vincent Price) but has its own distinct, grossly dramatic flair.
Where to watch it: Google Play, iTunes, Vudu

The Blob (1988)

via IMDb

Original Film: The Blob (1958)
Cast: Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, Donovan Leitch Jr., Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark
Director: Chuck Russell (Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors)
Why You Should Watch: There are 35 crew members listed on the makeup effects team for The Blob, and they all worked hard. Tony Gardner – who designed the special makeup and animatronic effects – went on to design makeup effects for 154 different shows and films including Darkman, Army of Darkness, Hocus Pocus, and more recently, has been working as the head of the makeup department on Sacha Baron Cohen’s new series Who Is America?.

The Blob is a delicious campy 80s classic. It’s a healthy remake of a 50s standard with guts, thrills, and chills to spare. We love it.
Where to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, PSN

Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

via Warner Bros

Original Film: 13 Ghosts (1960)
Cast: Tony Shalhoub, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, F. Murray Abraham, Rah Digga
Director: Steve Beck (Ghost Ship)
Why You Should Watch: While Thir13en Ghosts suffers from some typical new-millennium horror film cheese, it’s a damn fun remake of a 1960s gimmick flick. In the original film, audience members were provided with glasses they would need to “see” the ghosts on screen – the remake saves the hassle and gives the high-tech eye gear to the film’s characters which wisely adds a dramatic flair to scenes where the glasses aren’t worn. The ghosts themselves are fascinating characters; the visual and character design of each figure in the “Black Zodiac” are damn awesome. It’s unfortunate that we don’t hear too much of their stories in the film, but the DVD special features offer a featurette dedicated to each specter (totally worth it).

Additionally, Thir13en Ghosts showcases a stunning house design (rivaled only by 1999’s remake of The Haunting) and Matthew Lillard being his best self as a jittery, jaded psychic. It’s also worth noting that Thir13en Ghosts was the first film from a major American studio with three Arab-American leads, so, kudos.
Where to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, PSN, Vudu, iTunes

The Ring (2002)

via IMDb

Original Film: Ringu (1998)
Cast: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, David Dorfman, Amber Tamblyn, Daveigh Chase
Director: Gore Verbinski (A Cure for Wellness)
Why You Should Watch: American remakes of foreign horror films are just plain frustrating. They lazily piggyback on the success of a foreign film and it’s largely unnecessary. Usually, they’re either a carbon copy with English translation and bankable actors, or they change elements that are tied to the cultural influences and history of the original film. They pull the teeth out of the story’s bite (though it’s worth noting the rare example of Let Me In which does both of these things, yet is still a sincerely well-made movie). More often than not, there’s a lot that gets lost in translation.

That said, let’s talk about Gore Verbinski’s The Ring. It’s packed full of creeping, haunting visuals with a strong performance from Naomi Watts, whose progression through the film is wonderfully acted. The Ring is perhaps a bit more blunt than the Japanese original, but when it comes to American foreign horror film remakes, The Ring is one of the strongest of the bunch.
Where to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

via IMDb

Original Film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Mike Vogel, Erica Leerhsen
Director: Marcus Nispel (Friday the 13th)
Why You Should Watch: While the 2003 remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre could never outdo the original, it’s still a damn solid movie. It maintains the sweaty, sun-scorched flair that we know and love, but takes a very dark turn thanks to an insanely intense performance from the late R. Lee Ermey as Sheriff Hoyt. And let’s not forget that gruesome opening scene! Yikes.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre brought the hulking threat of Leatherface to a younger, modern audience. It shows an appreciation and respect for the original film in a way that the subsequent re-sequels definitely lack.
Where to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, PSN

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

via Universal

Original Film: Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Lindy Booth, Kevin Zegers
Director: Zack Snyder (Watchmen)
Why You Should Watch: George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is a poignant commentary on consumerism. Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead keeps that shopping mall setting (with a modern interpretation of how civilians would adapt when locked in a shopping centre) but embraces the satisfaction of a celebrity lookalike shooting range, a murder bus convoy, and a montage set to Richard Cheese’s spectacular cover of Down With the Sickness.

Dawn of the Dead also focuses on wonderfully vicious action and complex characters (CJ’s redemption arc is fantastic). The film is a great example of how a remake can set out to do its own thing while still honoring the original.
Where to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, PSN, iTunes

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

via IMDb

Original Film: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Cast: Ted Levine, Kathleen Quinlan, Dan Byrd, Emilie de Ravin, Aaron Stanford, Vinessa Shaw, Michael Bailey Smith, Robert Joy
Director: Alexandre Aja (High Tension)
Why You Should Watch: Alexandre Aja comes from the school of New French Extremity. That methodology of incorporating bestial violence with a severe approach to sexuality is in fine form in his remake of Wes Craven’s cannibal hillbilly horror, The Hills Have Eyes.

The greasy mutants possess a horrible strength – as the stranded family are pushed to traumatic extremes, their retaliation is pure panicked fury (with character development for Doug that is akin to 1971/2011’s Straw Dogs). The remake is brazen, punchy, and fast-paced with an intensity that matches its scorched-earth aesthetic.
Where to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, PSN, iTunes

The Crazies (2010)

via IMDb

Original Film: The Crazies (1973)
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker
Director: Breck Eisner (Sahara)
Why You Should Watch: The Crazies is a tense cautionary tale of unrestrained, vicious madness and the mass panic of mysterious, contagious disease. Led by the wonderful Timothy Olyphant (Scream 2, Deadwood) and Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill), the film pulses with the fear of what – or who – could be just around the corner (hint: no matter who it is, it’s not good). The Crazies keeps the themes of distrust and nefarious military intervention that was so strong in George A. Romero’s original film, but shifts the focus away from identifiable personnel to masked monsters that operate with practiced, unburdened precision. It’s terrifying.

The Crazies pits neighbor against neighbor and builds emotional connections through their personal histories. While the original film’s infected weren’t all violent and didn’t all bare visible identifiers (the source of the horror is the military’s necessary response), the remake goes full-throttle on the idea that the threat could be anywhere, and – infected or not – those chance encounters have extreme consequences.
Where to watch it: Starz, iTunes

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)

via IMDb

Original Film: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
Cast: Bailee Madison, Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Jack Thompson
Director: Troy Nixey
Why You Should Watch: Produced and co-written by Guillermo Del Toro, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is enriched by his signature dark fairytale whimsy. It’s a haunting, beautiful tale that places the spotlight on a young girl, Sally (Bailee Madison) who is struggling to adjust to her new environment when she is sent to live with her distant father and his new girlfriend, Kim (Katie Holmes). A reluctant bond is formed between Sally and Kim as the unprepared new maternal figure fights to protect the young girl from vicious creatures that are determined to turn her info one of their own.

It’s a stunning film that plays on the beauty of childlike wonder and fantasy – and the horror of how those enchanting discoveries can take such a terrible turn.
Where to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, PSN, iTunes

Fright Night (2011)

via Dreamworks

Original Film: Fright Night (1985)
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco
Director: Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl)
Why You Should Watch: Casual reminder that this cast is amazing.

Colin Farrell’s Jerry is a sensual, creepy modern predator – every move he makes has an animal magnetism that reads as though he’s imagining what your blood would taste like. Toni Collette is back as everyone’s favorite genre mom and she is amazing as always. And of course, the late Anton Yelchin is perfect as a relatable teen that’s trying his hardest to protect those he cares about (while being way out of his depth). He’s got this adolescent awkwardness about him, but he’s so charming and likable that you just want to see him win.

The original Fright Night leans hard on the “modern day Dracula” storyline and characters which was pretty damn evident upon my first viewing. The remake was a bit softer on this direct translation. It sizzles with a vibrant, lively energy that keeps the remake surprisingly fresh.
Where to watch it: Google Play, Vudu, PSN

Evil Dead (2013)

via Evil Dead LLC

Original Film: The Evil Dead (1981)
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore
Director: Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe)
Why You Should Watch: Fede Alvarez had quite the daunting task ahead of him when it was announced that there were plans to remake The Evil Dead. Generally speaking, fans get a little prickly about remakes – especially for beloved cult classics – but Alvarez knocked it out of the park.

He ignored the campy humor of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness and opted to go for a brutal bloodbath with a female protagonist, Mia (Jane Levy). Mia’s panic is initially shrugged off by her friends as a symptom of withdrawal, painting her as a possibly unreliable narrator (and distancing Mia’s story from Ash). As the situation gruesomely escalates and the blood literally rains down, Evil Dead firmly finds itself as its own distinct, respectful, homage-paying monster.
Where to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, PSN, iTunes

(posted on iHorror.com on August 6, 2018)

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