I scream, you scream, we all scream for remakes!
It's not easy picking one decade of horror that could do with a makeover. There's duds across the history of cinema, but the 1990s were a special time for the genre, a turning point of sorts, when slashers, monster flicks, and whatever the fuck Sleepwalkers is, had become, well, not scary. While Scream came along midway through the decade to kick it back to life, it still took time for cinema to catch up. What we were left with were a bunch of truly effective horrors and those that missed the mark. The latter, of which there are hundreds, shouldn't be discounted. No, they should be remade.
I know. Remakes are evil proof of the film industry's dwindling creativity. But there's plenty of terrific horror flicks that are themselves remakes: The Thing, Let Me In, The Crazies, The Fly, Dawn of the Dead and Psycho - ha, just kidding - are just some examples. Here's a batch from the 1990s that could also benefit from a fresh take.
17. Dr. Giggles (1992)
Dr. Giggles sounds like a prequel to Patch Adams. It's not. Don't watch it with your niece or nephew expecting frivolity and a tearjerker ending. This is about a deranged doctor - who isn't licensed to practice, by the way - on a killing rampage in his hometown. After helping his own dad do the exact same thing thirty years earlier, he escapes a mental asylum and carves up teens to extract their hearts. The butchery has something to do with reviving his dead mother but that doesn't really matter as the whole movie is an excuse for cheap medical gags.
There's potential for the gory elements to land with impact if the script was reworked to delete the naff comedy, and go straight for the jugular. Plus, Dr. Giggles does some proper fourth-wall breaking toward the end, which might work if used all the way through, Deadpool-style.
16. Bad Moon (1996)
Bad Moon comes across suspiciously like a blend of An American Werewolf in London and Dog Soldiers except it's no way near as creepy as either. A couple are attacked by a beast one night while camping. The girl dies, and her boyfriend Ted slays the beast but not before getting bitten. He slowly begins to wonder why everyone around him keeps dying in horrific ways, and even when he does realise that he's a werewolf, still accepts an offer from his sister to move in with her and his nephew.
There's wolf attacks galore and they're pretty darn bloody, but the biggest quibble is how bad Ted's transformation looks. It's terrible. A shame as the central idea of the movie breathes a little life into the tired lycanthrope schtick. Full moons and silver bullets are out. Weird canine-wolf relations are in. Ted's sister's dog Thor plays a large part in the movie, and it's quite clever to see this skilled pup act. If there were a little more attention paid to Thor and the gore, I'd fork out for a ticket.
15. The Faculty (1999)
This is the movie Kevin Williamson wrote post-Scream that isn't Teaching Mrs. Tingle. It could be argued that The Faculty is already a loose remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, fitted with hyper-aware dialogue and oh-so-trendy actors, but if that's the case Scream is a remake of every slasher it references.
Williamson's homage to the body snatcher subgenre remains a fearful examination of an alien invasion that unspools like a high school whodunnit. Director Robert Rodriguez piles on several brutal moments that seemingly come out of nowhere, the cast is sharp as a tack and there's a few nice twists to body snatcher lore. It's a good movie that could use a refresher to make it a great movie. Like the hugely-underrated Halloween H20 did for Michael Myers, there's still something in The Faculty's concept that's worth exploring again.
14. Sometimes They Come Back (1991)
Stephen King adaptations are notoriously hit and miss. Sometimes They Come Back falls somewhere between the two. It's not up there with The Shining but it carries an element from King's short story that's absent in his other flicks: tension. It's also got a fair bit in common with Christine as a schoolteacher finds himself bullied by a bunch of 'greasers' - '60s kids - who killed his brother before they died in an auto wreck. Their ghostly reappearance is the reason loads of high schoolers are being murdered because they all want to come back to life for good.
Despite its R-rating it never embraces the real horror of King's original tale. Update the eras to make the ghost gang an '80s crew, give Jim's wife more to do than look worried and amp up the basic chills. If you saw someone you know to be dead sitting in the back of class wouldn't that send you screaming from the room?
13. The Haunting (1999)
As a horror fan it's the worst when the credits roll on a film that wasn't scary, especially when you can still recall the sleepless nights you had after reading the novel. Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is a truly chilling book; Jan De Bont's The Haunting is about as scary as a basket of kittens. The story is heralded as one of the best haunted house novels ever written and focuses on events that take place when four strangers come together at the abandoned Hill House for a supernatural experiment. However, De Bont decided that CGI is way better than character or plot.
The best way to build real, palpable fear is with a tight script that plots out every beat meticulously. James Wan achieved that with both Insidious and The Conjuring. Relying on CG scares isn't enough. The Haunting requires its characters be three-dimensional people who exist outside of the horrible situation they're in. Only then will audiences care as they wander deeper and deeper into the house.
12. Brainscan (1994)
Brainscan is bad and brilliant. Is it a cult classic? Eh, not quite. But its remake could easily nab that title. It's now 22 years old and for a movie that's based on crazy advanced tech - an interactive CD-ROM! - and stars Edward Furlong, it's not aged particularly well. John Connor plays a teenager caught up in a gamer's nightmare: whatever happens in his new horror video game, happens in real life. Ish. There's a sting in the tail which suggests otherwise, but for the most part, Furlong skulks around an affluent neighborhood stalking girls.
It's hard to believe that this was co-written by Seven's Andrew Kevin Walker. For a successful redux, Walker's script needs tweaking to include darker dips into depravity. The basic horror of the situation is already there: this is a kid committing murder. So where's the brutal evidence of Furlong's nighttime gaming excursions? Those nitty gritty details shouldn't be glossed over but cranked up.
11. Tales From The Darkside: The Movie (1990)
V/H/S mixed the vignette format with found footage to make something fresh for gorehounds. Tales From The Darkside could easily do the same. Based on the TV series of the same name, the 1990 film uses a wraparound story featuring Deborah Harry as a child-eating witch whose paperboy regales her with three tales to delay being shoved into the oven. The first - and best - is set on a college campus and begins with a murderous reanimated mummy, and ends with Julianne Moore delivering the creepiest line of her career.
The Stephen King-adapted middle tale lags a bit but the final segment packs a nice twist at the end. While it was dubbed the unofficial second sequel to Creepshow, it doesn't quite nail that film's black humor. Reworked with a modern Black Mirror-esque angle, a remake might just do the trick.
10. In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
In the Mouth of Madness is one of John Carpenter's most ambitious films. It's self-reflexive, darkly funny, and bloody weird. A Mobius-strip of a plot opens with Sam Neill's insurance investigator holed up in an asylum telling his doctor how he came to be there. The rest of the movie flashes back, and we see him head off to the quaint-sounding Hobbs End to track down missing horror author Sutter Cane who owes his publisher a manuscript.
To discuss any more would be to ruin a unique cinematic experience. It's part Stephen King, part H.P. Lovecraft along with a giant tab of acid that screenwriter Michael De Luca was presumably taking while he wrote it. This would be perfect in the hands of someone new on the horror scene, like Ti West or Adam Wingard.
9. The People Under The Stairs (1991)
The title just sounds horrible doesn't it? It conjures up an image of walking down an open-backed stairway into a basement, holding your breath as you wait for a hand to grab your exposed ankle. Wes Craven knew how to keep you suspended in that state for the duration. The People Under The Stairs is not his most accomplished piece yet at the time of release, it was a welcome return to what he did best - making ordinary things terrifying.
The story is all about social injustice, circling around a boy named Fool and his dying mother as they face eviction. Together with Ving Rhames' opportunistic thief, Fool breaks into the landlords' suburban home and discovers that they're not just hoarding money, they're hoarding people. Yes, those of the title, who it turns out aren't the bad guys at all. Nope that's the batshit Robesons, who hoot and holler every time they kill someone while dressed like dumpster dwellers. This is Craven's blackest comedy horror, with a political angle that'd make it perfect for a contemporary makeover. It's a damn shame we'll never see his own proposed remake.
8. The Dark Half (1993)
Another King adaptation that squandered its source material. Granted, The Dark Half isn't one of his most celebrated books but it has plenty to offer that the 1993 film ignores. Nah, this was an opportunity to have Timothy Hutton play two different characters. One is literary novelist Thad Beaumont and the other is an unhinged killer named George Stark - Beaumont's former pseudonym.
The movie suffers a few too many pitfalls, a result of adapting such an unusual story, that on the page explains Stark becoming a real person through some pretty far-fetched means. But hey, this is King. Like most of his novels, it ends on a dubious note that the movie skates over. A remake might be better off concentrating on the complexities of Thad's misery toward the end. Despite Stark's killing spree, he misses his dark half, which in turn makes his wife rather unhappy. Then there's the novel-Thad who conjures and guides the sparrows that drag George back to hell. He has to be in it, like the Pied Piper of Hell.
7. The Relic (1997)
The Relic pulls together all the best bits from your favorite monster movies and almost makes a brilliant Frankenstein-ed homage. It should; the main beast is a chimera that consists of various animals that together make a truly abhorrent being. That sounds great, right? Somehow, the movie loses the bite and tension of its source novel and flip flops around without once making you watch through your fingers. However, there is sufficient gore (people getting faces chewed off) to warrant an R-rating.
For a remake to improve on this, it needs to push the boundaries of that classification. Merge the bloody FX with the scares - don't make them independent of one another. Heck, it's not the best in its series but Scream 4 exceeded expectations (it's kind of a loose remake of the first) by cutting together fear and gore. The Relic needs that same brazen approach to its monster, to make it a formidable beast, not just a guy in a knock-off Predator costume
6. Vampires (1998)
The second half of the nineties were not kind to John Carpenter. Vampires, while far from his best film, doesn't deserve the bad reputation it's been lumbered with. Yes, there's a bunch of moments that drag on and you're never quite sure if you're watching a horror movie or a western. But none of that matters when things kick into high gear and James Woods loses his mind in practically every scene. It's a gore-filled string of set pieces used to carry what there is of its plot. Woods' character is raised by the church after his parents are killed by vampires. The church trains him to be their slayer. Off he goes into the world. This is James Woods doing Buffy as directed by John Carpenter.
With the plot and action the two biggest elements that would benefit from a polish, the remake shouldn't change EVERYTHING. The horror maestro's take on the blood-suckers themselves needs to be celebrated. This bunch aren't twinkly-skinned, morose saps (yes, RPattz, I mean you) They're brutes. More of those, please. Place them into a slightly more coherent plot and Vampires 2.0 has the potential to be a killer vamp western.
5. Urban Legend (1998)
For saying there's oodles of urban legends and even a dodgy '80s anthology movie about them, it's surprising that it took so long for Urban Legend to come out. Part of the post-Scream slasher renaissance it runs through all those scary stories dragged out at sleepovers and plots them out on a college campus. Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Joshua Jackson, Tara Reid and Jared Leto play a bunch of students trying to figure out who's behind the urban legend-inspired killings.
It's not as groundbreaking as other '90s horrors, but it's got a small roster of genre names in fun cameos (Robert Englund, Danielle Harris and Brad Dourif) to add a little weight. With hundreds of legends still unadapted, a couple of bad straight-to-video sequels to make up for and Jared Leto in a good position to play a deranged killer, now’s as good a time as any for a revisit.
4. When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)
Between the moment Drew Barrymore picks up the phone in Scream and twelve minutes later when she drops it, the parallels were obvious. Scream was doing When A Stranger Calls, the 1979 movie starring Carol Kane as a young babysitter who receives sinister calls from inside the house. Just typing that sentence gives me the heebie jeebies.
But it's the 1993 sequel that's the real inspiration for Scream, as a young babysitter tries to get the nice-sounding-but still-scary-stranger at the front door to leave her alone. This opening sequence plays out for thirty minutes, each encounter growing ever more intense. It's not all over after that; there's a ventriloquist scene later on that'll give you chills. We've already had a not very good remake of the original movie, but the sequel is solid horror that outshines its predecessor. With smart phones still an option for its core scare - the whole 'being in the same house thing' - there's enough scope for a remake.
3. Nightbreed (1990)
Clive Barker decided that the only person he trusted to adapt his story Cabal was himself. That didn't automatically mean the finished product resulted in a top notch movie. Nightbreed had its fair share of problems to begin with, from the studio's opinion on marketing - they framed it as a slasher - to ownership of the final cut. Despite Barker's issues with the theatrical cut he managed to relocate several missing reels with the help of film archivists, and restored his original vision in The Cabal Cut.
Still, it never quite achieves what he set out to do. The novella is a haunting fantasy, a dip into a monster-inhabited world called Midian where Aaron Boone hides out after his psychotherapist pins a spate of serial killings on him. The therapist is actually one of the movie's saving graces, played maniacally by director David Cronenberg. In the end, Nightbreed's downfall was a matter of too many cooks. This remake needs one filmmaker without studio interference to make Midian as scary as it is on the page.
2. Troll 2 (1990)
This would be a remake that needs to achieve very little to be better than the original. Troll 2 isn't even a sequel to Troll. Why producers thought that attaching their film to an unrelated film - that's also terrible - is baffling. But baffling is what director Claudio Fragrasso was going for with this cobbled together horror, that saw most of his American cast struggle to communicate with his Italian crew. The "plot" involves a family who vacation in a town called Nilbog (oooh, what does that spell backwards?) and discover the residents are goblins who feed humans a substance that turns their bodies into plants, that the goblins then consume.
Fragrasso co-wrote the screenplay with his wife because they both hated vegetarians, apparently. It's a half-baked idea that's poorly explained as the English language dialogue was written by people who didn't speak English. The whole thing is just awful. No wonder it's become a cult classic that spawned a documentary, Best Worst Movie. A remake of this would go tongue-in-cheek meta, referencing the docco and Troll 2 itself, as a bunch of avid fans visit the original filming locations to make their own sequel... and end up getting targeted by the goblins. They were real all along! Troll Hunter made mythologised creatures really quite scary, so found footage would be the way to go
1. Candyman (1992)
There's so much to love about this Clive Barker adaptation. Inventing an urban legend in the style of Bloody Mary is cleverly done, taking a familiar mythos and twists it into something new. Say his name five times in the mirror and a figure with a hook for a hand shall appear and kill you. The history behind the character is based in dark times and his present isn't exactly cheery either.
Without delving into those specifics, it's safe to say that the material is ripe for modernisation. Most horrors nowadays have killers without motives (thanks Billy Loomis) or those that do are less psychopathic than you'd imagine. This movie creates a real backstory for its monster and entwines Virginia Madsen's graduate student into that folklore. It's brutal and unrelenting, a standout of its era. This is a remake that's long overdue.