15. Evil Dead (2013)
Okay, yes, the original is a classic, we all know that. But if you forget the wonder that is Ash (from Housewares) and watch this on its own merits, you’ll appreciate how genuinely terrifying it is. Director Fede Alvarez foregoes a straight-up remake, losing the camp splattergore of Sam Raimi’s original, carving out a brutal, savage work all of its own. A group of friends hole up at a remote cabin to help their friend detox from heroin addiction, but drug use is the least of their concerns once they find the Book of the Dead. It doesn’t deviate too far from the original in terms of the bare bones plot, though it takes itself far more seriously and comes out the better for it. There’s little to find funny about possessed youngsters jabbing at themselves with nailguns. You will never feel the same about the kitchen again.
14. Willard (2003)
The original Willard is okay. The remake is another matter entirely. It’s hardly a bombastic balls-to-the-wall horror reboot, like a Platinum Dunes teen hack n’slash, but this subject requires an altogether delicate, creepier touch. Crispin Glover was born to play the role of Willard, an oddball loner whose affinity with the vermin overtaking his father’s old decaying abode spirals out of control. And by that, we mean: when a rat is killed, Willard leads the rest of the horde in a revenge murder spree of sorts, wherein he sets the scuttling nibblers on anyone who’s ever wronged him. Pretty much everything you could want from a black comedy horror about murderous rats, Willard revolves around Glover’s performance.
13. The Ring (2002)
Arguably the best of the J-horror lot, Ring remains terrifying and it’s hard to see how an American remake could better its simple premise executed so perfectly. Enter: Gore Verbinski. Yes, that same director who would, the very next year, go on to direct the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The haunted VHS tape motif slides into American suburban life so effortlessly, you could imagine Scream’s Casey Becker popping it into her VCR. Verbinski douses the screen in overcast Seattle blues to emphasise the dreariness and isolation of Naomi Watts’ reporter Rachel Keller, who is determined to discover the truth behind a videotape that kills anyone who watches it seven days later. Watts’ solid performance is what will keep you watching, alongside the haunting mix of bizarre, eccentric visuals (suicidal horses, anyone?) with the horrific, will-keep-you-awake-for-days effects work on Sadako’s victims.
12. The Crazies (2010)
Something strange is happening to the inhabitants of a small town in rural America, and you have just enough time to get to know the residents that you feel their loss as things steadily degrade into chaos. George Romero’s original dove into the spiky truth of white-picket livin’ and how everyday folks respond to apocalyptic circumstances. So in a sense, The Crazies is like a Stephen King novel brought to life by someone else. The 2010 remake is a take on zombie tropes that slyly avoids a lot of the typical cliches and pitfalls. Timothy Olyphant is on hand doing what he does best – languidly wearing a badge and cowboy boots – proving that, despite what you saw in Hitman, he really can be a leading man.
11. Suspiria (2018)
Nobody sits down to watch Suspiria for its intricate plotting. In fact, if there exists a plot deep beneath the original's thick stylish layer of story, it’s probably a surprise to Dario Argento. Less concerned with cleverness, the first Suspiria is all about the unmistakable mark of its director: and in a sense, so is the remake. Reworking an Argento movie is a guaranteed recipe for backlash. And that’s perhaps why Luca Guadagnino threw out most of the film’s recognisable elements, replacing them with his own approach to the material – one of those being: the witches are real, you guys – while keeping the European dance school backdrop. Dakota Johnson snags the juicy lead dancer previously played by Jessica Harper, whose acceptance into the school finds her spending her time fluttering and cooing opposite one of many characters played by Tilda Swinton. Heavily stylized to the point where it’s hard to tell if the humour is a byproduct of seriousness or a deliberate contrast to the violent body horror, Suspiria is an experience to behold.
10. Fright Night (2011)
Tom Holland’s 1985 original is a near-perfect slice of suburban vampire schlock, asking the question: what would you do if a vampire lived next-door? Arriving in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, Fright Night has homosexual repression in the subtext, buried into the marrow of the movie’s themes. Fast forward 16 years and those aspects, along with its head vamp, have changed. Where that flick installed Chris Sarandon as the terrifying-sounding Jerry Dandridge,Craig Gillespie’s 2011 remake ups the ante by casting Colin Farrell as the dark, brooding fang-banger, who’d likely seduce your nan if given the chance. Farrell’s sexiness aside, the real stars here are Anton Yelchin as teenage detective Charley, desperate to take out the creep next door, and David Tennant as celebrity vampire hunter Peter Vincent. Quietly garnering a loyal fanbase in the years since its release, this take on Fright Night is a bona fide cult classic.
9. Let Me In (2010)
Way before he jumped aboard the Planet of the Apes franchise train, Matt Reeves excelled with his remake of Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In. Although, you could say they’re both merely different approaches to the same novel. Let Me In matches the tone, pace, and visual style of the original without lacking its own ideas. How can you replicate an aesthetic and still be your own thing? The Hollywood redo masterfully carves its own identity. From the slow burn of its characters, to its beautifully-crafted shots and understated performances it telegraphs the current era of stylish, arthouse horror. What’s most unusual about this tale of adolescent idolatry, steeped in a misty vampire yarn, is that it wasn’t a bigger hit at the box office.
8. We Are What We Are (2010)
Watching Jim Mickle's third feature, a skilfully presented remake of the 2010 Mexican movie, it's hard to believe this up-and-coming horror auteur is only four movies into his career. Gore and cheap scares aren't his forte. If you've seen the superior vampire horror-drama Stake Land, you'll already know Mickle' crafts strong, deep characters and lets their personal journeys guide the descent into horror. And, if a story is gripping enough then it shouldn't matter that its central group of characters eat people. There's much more at stake here than flesh-eating theatrics. The tale of two young girls desperate to break free from a lifestyle of cannibalism forced upon them by their father is a heart-wrenching. Still, papa's not going to be happy about it.
7. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
What’s not to love about Werner Herzog’s take on the original vamp? It’s a remake of a remake. Herzog’s affection for F.M. Murnau’s 1922 movie is apparent from how closely it resembles that version while establishing its own reputation as one of the best horror movies ever made. Herzog was unable to secure the rights to shoot in the same locations as Murnau – which he fully intended to do – and instead did the next best thing: cast Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula. Sinister as hell, Kinski, like Max Schreck who tackled the part in the original, isn’t supposed to be a charmer like modern day vamps. Instead, his bloodlust is horrifying, selfish and brutal, countering his inherent loneliness that Herzog draws out with some of the most stylish visual choices of his career.
6. Maniac (2012)
The original '80s Maniac is the stuff of nightmares. A psychotic killer – played by Joe Spinelli – stalks the women of New York City, slicing their scalps free to adorn the mannequins of his apartment. It’s a vile, misogynist piece of ‘80s grimecore with flashes of early Scorsese amidst the horror. The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3-D director Alexandra Aja co-wrote the script and produced the remake, and while he stepped away from the director’s chair here, his bloody handprints are all over this savage work. The remake is made all the more disgusting thanks to a handful of unique choices made by Aja and director Franck Khalfoun. For starters, the film is shot entirely from the killer’s perspective, forcing you to almost be complicit in the crimes as he commits them. He, being the second reason this remake is so effective. Elijah Wood, having flirted with psychopathy in Sin City, fully commits to the horror genre, giving one of his best-ever performances in a role that hardly has him onscreen.
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