5. It (2017)
Stephen King adaptations tend to be hit and miss. But remakes? That’s a different realm. Fair enough, it could easily be argued that 2017’s It isn’t technically a remake of the 1991 TV mini-series, but another stab at the source novel. Let’s not kid ourselves: Tim Curry’s iconic take on Pennywise is the basis for comparison when it comes to clownish nightmare fuel. For this modern remake, director Andy Muschietti improves on the original in every way by splitting the narrative into two parts (although, It Chapter Two didn’t really live up to this first film). Where the series hopped back and forth in time, following The Losers Club as tweens to adults and back again, this one sticks solely with its terrific younger cast whose command of the material is top-notch. That focus on the kids and their encounters with the shape-shifting ancient evil known as Pennywise, is a masterstroke. It’s their part of the story, when they’re hanging out back-chatting one another, goofing off and bonding, that makes it all the more terrifying when they meet Bill Skarsgard’s haunting Pennywise.
4. Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978)
Where the 1993 remake retained the best part of the title – simply Bodysnatchers – and the 2009 remake kept the nondescript part – The Invasion – the 1978 version keeps it all together under one mantle, proudly taunting a hideous takeover. Yes, this tale of corporeal thieving has been remade A LOT. Philip Kaufman’s seventies film is a marked improvement on what came before, uprooting the story from a small-town and relocating it to San Francisco. That upgrade makes sense when the antagonists, extraterrestrials intent on sabotaging the human race, need as many bodies as possible to take over. Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, and Jeff Goldblum all deliver excellent performances, bringing believability to strange happenings at the SF Health Department. What firmly places this remake in the horror category, more so than any other version, is in the takeover of a human body. None of this happens behind closed doors, instead the audience is invited in to see this pink goop envelop the recently-deceased, only to let them emerge, blemish-free, as emotionless simulacra of their former selves. Now if that ain’t horrific…
3. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Zombies shuffle. That’s their thing. George Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead happily reflects the absent-minded consumerism of the era by making its antagonists amble along like shoppers. That’s the point. James Gunn and Zack Snyder, who wrote and directed the remake, are less concerned with subtle social commentary. These flesh-eaters don’t meander – they charge. Partly why Snyder’s debut is so much fun is that he makes the material his own. It’s a crush of action-horror with some truly revolting set pieces (i.e. a zombie baby being born). The story also echoes the same beats: a random group of people find themselves trapped in a mall during a zombie outbreak. It’s stylishly shot, which counters the lo-fi, naturalistic production of Romero’s original, and the music cues are downright superb. The script is funny as hell, bringing out excellent turns from its entire cast.
2. The Fly (1986)
The grossest love story of all time could only come from body horror maestro David Cronenberg. Adopting the same story as the '50s original, the late ‘80s iteration, while absent of the superb Vincent Price, does one better by casting Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, the classic egocentric mad scientist desperate to innovate in his grimy apartment. In a jealousy-fuelled moment of late-night drunkenness, he fires up his teleportation device like a normal person fires up a pizza before passing out on the couch. The horrible aftermath of that one night – a parallel to the late ‘80s AIDS epidemic – follows his slow, agonising mutation into a housefly. Cronenberg’s confident grasp on the story sidesteps the fun, frivolous sci-fi feel of the 1958 version, instead going for slick, shocking horror that earned its effects team an Academy Award. The chemistry between real-life couple Goldblum and Geena Davis truly hammers home the heartbreaking reality of Brundlefly’s fate.
1. The Thing (1982)
The Thing opened the same week as Blade Runner, and while both E.T. and Poltergeist were filling multiplexes, too. With that in mind, the now-classic sci-fi horror never stood a chance. Audiences didn’t turn out to see it, and critics deemed it dirge, failing to celebrate Carpenter’s moody, sombre tone seeping into the gory theatrics of Rob Bottin’s Oscar-winning practical effects work.
Today, it’s another story. Highly-regarded as one of the best horror movies ever made, The Thing is a caustic, chilly rumination on what makes us human. The Antarctic backdrop serving as a perfect mirror to the isolation felt by the scientists at its heart, who discover shortly after taking in two loose dogs, that one of the canines is an extraterrestrial creature with designs on them. The film includes a string of iconic set-pieces that have, arguably, never been bettered onscreen. From the chest-opening sequence, to the blood-test scene (so iconic, it was blatantly ripped off in The Faculty), to its highly-debated ending: The Thing is not only a great horror remake, it’s simply one of the greatest horror movies, full stop. Its poster, as well as incorporating a killer graphic, includes the best tagline ever, guaranteed to give you the willies, and make you reach for the remote: man is the warmest place to hide.
Want more scares? Then check out our list of the best horror movies of all time.