Oh, the moans! Oh, the screams! Oh, the sighs of exasperation? The sounds of a modern audience watching the latest horror reboot are a mixed bag, but whether you like it or not: horror remakes are inevitable. Horrors of yesteryear offer studios a seemingly never-ending source of material and filmmakers get the chance to raid the back-catalogues of their favourite genre directors. It's a win-win, right? While there's plenty of remakes that are scary for all the wrong reasons, we're here to celebrate the ones that get it right. It's an exciting area of horror that's had the short shrift for too long.
When you think about it, the greatest horror remakes have their work cut out for them. Or should that be hacked out with a machete? Trying to resemble the originals so they're recognisable enough for marketing purposes, while forging their own identities out of the same blood, guts, and mayhem is no easy feat. Especially if you’re diving into a horror franchise with a sizeable legacy to boot. And then you’ve got ardent fans to satiate as well. Whatever you want to call them – revisit, reboot, reimagining, redo – here are the 25 best horror remakes of all time.
25. House of Wax (2005)
Laugh all you like. This mid-noughties remake has aged nicely, or should that be, horribly. Not a straight-up remake of the Vincent Price 1953 flick – it borrows more from 1979 cult PG slasher Tourist Trap – don’t let semantics or Paris Hilton’s presence prevent you from diving into this surprisingly gory flick. Populated by a cast of impossibly beautiful twentysomethings, the blood soon starts to flow when a group of stranded friends stumble across a ramshackle tourist attraction filled with wax figures. But they’re not artificial – they’re real people! This is way nastier than you’d expect, with one sequence featuring Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki likely to make your lunch violently reappear. Well, it’s to be expected, this movie does involve teenagers encased in wax while they’re still alive.
24. Sorority Row (2009)
The original House on Sorority Row isn’t considered one of the best horror movies of all time. It’s not counted among the best slashers, either. To be honest, it’s kinda awful. That’s what makes Sorority Row’s very existence so interesting. Why did anyone think to remake a terrible college slasher? In that regard – and to paraphrase Yazz – the only way is up, baby. Landing at the end of the '00s when horror remakes dropped into multiplexes every other week, it’s a fun, over-the-top romp that’s seldom interested in logistics or being believable and more concerned with a death count and hammy one-liners. Its starry cast of former up-and-comers are given free rein to camp it up, yet none match the shotgun-totin’ madness of Carrie Fisher. Yes. Carrie Fisher. Destined to be a cult classic.
23. My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
Twisting the 1981 film’s storyline as a way to avoid replicating the original beat-for-beat in itself makes My Bloody Valentine 3D stand apart from other remakes. It tacks on the last act of the original to its opening, then springboards forward into its own sadistic tale. The backstory goes like this: a mining accident leaves a group of men caved in, yet luckily one of the miners survives. After beating the rest to death so he can have their oxygen, of course! Ten years later, the small-town of Harmony fears the surviving miner Harry Warden has returned. Tense and claustrophobic, and entirely happy to surrender to its own silliness (Kerr Smith plays a Sheriff called Axel), this holiday-themed remake from Patrick Lussier packs in a decent amount of scares and some inventive death scenes. Just don’t watch it in 3D.
22. The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014)
If Ryan Murphy’s name is attached to a movie you might expect it to include singing, camp, Jessica Lange, or all three. The American Horror Story creator holds back on all fronts for The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake, taking a producer credit alongside Blumhouse maestro Jason Blum, and handing the directorial reins over to his AHS alum Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. The resultant slasher is a nasty, gory homage to the original, cleverly operating on two levels: it’s a remake and a sequel that’s SO meta, as Gale Weathers might say. The movie opens on Halloween 2013 at a Texarkana drive-in movie theater that’s showing… the 1976 original. This new killer is obsessed with the first film and seeks to recreate its death count. If you thought intertextual horror ended with Scream 4 then you might want to check this out.
21. The Blob (1988)
Chuck Russell’s remake of The Blob wouldn’t be the rampant sci-fi triumph it is were it not for the effects work accomplished by Rob Bottin six years prior on The Thing. The Blob’s practical-effects-heavy approach gives it its winning edge. Granted, The Blob is an altogether different beast. An undulating mass of alien goop that pillages towns, gobbling up citizens left and right, it induces less of an identity crisis panic like the creature from The Thing, instead adopting a cookie monster approach to annihilation: NOM NOM NOM. It eats people and the more it consumes, the bigger it gets. A tidy allegory for 1980s decadence? Certainly. It also happens to allow for revolting sequences of the pink, oozing mass’s consumption of an entire California town. Sadly, this sci-fi horror mash floundered at the box office, despite its funny, unconventional script, co-written by Russell and Frank Darabont, both of whom wrote Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
20. Thirteen Ghosts (2000)
Roger Ebert famously planted Thirteen Ghosts on his most-hated for the year list in 2000. Little did he know that his fervent dislike of the flick would stoke curiosity. Because, c’mon, could a horror from Dark Castle Entertainment, who two years prior dropped another supernatural abode stuffed to the rafters with ghouls in The House on Haunted Hill, really be that bad? At time of release, the consensus was, yes, this story of a house haunted by 13 very specific, and evil, ghosts, is awful. In the years since, Thirteen Ghosts has managed to do what many late ‘90s/early ‘00s horrors could not: maintain a cult following. From its bombastic aspirations to slick action, to its over-the-top CGI and facepalm-inducing dialogue, to its lavish production design, it’s easy to see why it’s so adored today.
19. Piranha 3-D (2010)
The 1978 original, helmed by Joe Dante and produced by Roger Corman, is a slice of camp excellence centred around a popular vacation spot overrun by flesh-eating piranhas. How can a remake improve on such a silly, gleeful premise? Ramping up the budget and installing High Tension director Alejandra Aja at the helm, for starters. While it’s hardly a brutal assault on the soul like Aja’s High Tension (aka Switchblade Romance), putting its characters through a myriad of harrowing encounters, Piranha 3-D ain’t shy of blood-letting either. Faces are ripped off, crotches are mauled. It’s gross. And, the best part of all is the cast, all of whom look like they’re having a blast, never taking themselves or the movie too seriously.
18. Friday the 13th (2009)
Friday the 13th breaks free of the remake shackles by doing double duty as both a reboot of the franchise’s first four films and a sequel. The result is a familiar-feeling modern slasher with echoes to its past. Jason is still the hockey-mask-wearing killer wielding a machete and he’s still slicing up teens. But it’s not the exact storyline we’ve seen trotted out in countless sequels. Nope, horror scribes Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, who cut their chompers on genre mashup Freddy vs. Jason, introduce new story beats along with fresh elements to Jason’s mythology. Haven’t we all wondered how he gets around so fast? Easy. He’s got TUNNELS all over Camp Crystal. And damn, they’re not exactly the most hospitable place to be, littered with carcasses and skulls, making the final sequence all the more shudder-inducing.
17. Silent House (2012)
Elizabeth Olsen, aka Marvel’s Scarlet Witch, stars in a tense thriller saddled with lacklustre reviews when it debuted in theaters, which has since gone on to earn a solid reputation. A remake of the 2010 Uruguayan movie La Casa Muda, the film largely follows the same story: Sarah (Olsen) returns to her family’s summer home to help her father and uncle fix it up after squatters leave it a shambles. Shortly thereafter, she begins to hear sounds coming from within the walls. Separated from her family and trapped inside the house by an unknown attacker, she must figure a way out of the boarded up home. Purportedly filmed in one shot, the directors actually lensed it in 12-15 minute takes, then sewed them together in post-production, but the effect remains the same: a devastating and claustrophobic dive into a haunted house unlike any you’ve likely experienced.
16. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
You can’t really better the greatness of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre, one of the most savage horror classics, can you? Luckily, Marcus Nispel knew that when he accepted the gig from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production outfit to direct the reboot. Much like his later remake of Friday the 13th, the director's 2003 redo shuns the idea of a beat-by-beat rehash, instead going for the general premise. A bunch of gorgeous, ripped teens pick up a strange hitchhiker in rural Texas, who promptly blows her head off with a gun, leading the youngsters to the front door of one Thomas Hewitt – aka Leatherface. The similarities, including the fact that Scott Kosar’s script is also influenced by the crimes of serial killer Ed Gein, end there. It’s still bloody and brutal, packing in some horrific moments – like one poor kid trying to raise himself up from a butcher’s hook only to THUNK back down on it repeatedly -–that’ll make you brace.
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