Horror greats have been pillaged for their ideas, monsters and motifs more than any other genre. Most of the time it results in forgettable cinema. But sometimes we get a surprise. Dan Grant lists his top 10 horror film remakes…
Horror, it seems more than most genres, is not afraid to remake a classic film. Most of the iconic horror films have been remade. Psycho, Halloween and Friday the 13th, just to name a few. One has not, and probably will not, at least not as long as Spielberg is alive. That of course is Jaws. Some horror remakes are downright awful. And then there are the ones that do it just right.
Here are Dan Grant’s top 10 horror film remakes…
10. Piranha 3D (2010)
The original Piranha came out in 1978 and was directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins). It was a low budget exploitation film that capitalized on the Jaws craze. The remake usurps it in many ways. It is directed by Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension aka Switchblade Romance) and he does a lot of things right. First he amps the gore so high that they ended up using around 75,000 gallons of fake blood for the film. He also plays the film for laughs as well as scares and he has his tongue firmly planted in cheek. They somehow got Richard Dreyfuss to reprise his Hooper role from Jaws and the rest of the cast is filled with likable actors. Christopher Lloyd parodies his Doc Brown role from Back To The Future while Elizabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell and Ving Rhames turn up too. Piranha 3D is big on gore and laughs and overall is a better film than the original.
9. Friday The 13th (2009)
Platinum Dunes has its supporters and its detractors, especially when it comes to horror. I’m one of their supporters, and this is the first of two films on the list produced by the boys at Platinum Dune (Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form). Friday the 13th pays respect to the original Sean Cunningham film and it also puts its own stamp on it. The three staples of the original four Friday the 13th films is blood, boobs and gore. We get all three in here. In this sense, they give the fans what they wanted. It also helps that Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) directs this. The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is because the first twenty minutes of the film are brilliant, the rest of it is just good.
8. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
This is Alexandre Aja’s second appearance on the list. The original 1977 Wes Craven film was one of the original disturbing video nasties. This is a film that appeared on many banned lists. To remake such an iconic film took a little bit of guts. It helps that Craven is on board as a producer and chose Aja personally for the film. This remake pays homage to the original and also manages to up the violence and the gore, which were two staples of the original. It’s a well done horror film and one that leaves you kind of glad it’s over.
7. Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
George Romero’s masterpiece is a hard act to follow. But in 2004, director Zack Snyder gave us a worthy remake. It didn’t have the same themes as the original but with a likable cast that includes Ving Rhames, Sara Polley and Mekhi Pfifer, it allows you to root for them to survive the zombie apocalypse. Snyder directs at a frenetic pace and works from a script by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). All of it meshes together perfectly to create one of the better remakes. It’s also filled with gore, great one liners and some good horror tension.
6. The Last House On The Left (2009)
When I first heard they were remaking Wes Craven’s 1972 shocker, I scoffed at the very idea. In my mind, this was going to be a sanitized PG-13 version of his brutal and sadistic cautionary tale. And while there is no comparison in terms of sadism and realism and how disturbing the remake is, the film surprised me at how far it was willing to go. Craven’s film is the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen, and I, like most horror fans, have seen a lot of them. However, this version has a very similar story and although the rape and subjugation of the girls is more tame, the rest of it is really close to the original. I like my revenge films to be violent and uncompromising. Last House on the Left manages to be both.
5. The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg was the perfect choice to direct this remake of the 1958 classic. Let’s be fair, technology in 1958 didn’t allow for what Cronenberg could do in 1986. The Fly is not only one of the more gory films you will see, it’s also downright scary in much of the third act. Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis are perfect in their roles and they bring empathy and sympathy to what turns out to be a very pathetic and sad journey for Goldblum’s Seth Brundle. There are few directors who can do gore like Cronenberg, even fewer who can tell a story the way he can. If you like your films gross and really disturbing in select moments, you should see this version of The Fly.
4. I Spit On Your Grave (2010)
I wrote a piece before for Top 10 Films that had this film as the number one revenge film ever made. It’s also one of the best horror remakes. The original had it’s moments but it never really lived up to the hype generated by its ostensible brutality. This version is unapologetic and it is unafraid to go places that most films won’t. For a revenge film to work well, the punishment has to fit the crime. It does, and then some. Sara Butler stars as Jennifer, a woman who retreats to a secluded cabin to write her next novel. She meets up with the local idiots who do very unsavory things to her. She is left for dead and then dishes out a violent and agonizing form of comeuppance. I read that during a lot of the violent scenes, there was a safe word that the actors could use if the scenes got too much for them handle. Taking things to this level helps this become the best revenge film I’ve ever seen.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
I wrestled with putting this at number one. It’s that good. The second Platinum Dunes film to make the list and this one is also directed by Marcus Nispel. But beyond that, the new producers were smart enough to understand that they were dealing with a classic here. And if you do anything to piss off the majority of the fans, you can sink your film. With this in mind they had original director Tobe Hooper on as a producer. They also hired the original director of photography, Daniel Pearl to DP this one as well. John Laroquette also does the narration at the beginning, just as he did in the original. The film itself is violent, filled with tension, nasty and brutal. The cast is excellent and Leatherface is a terrific incarnation this time around.
2. The Thing (1982)
As far as tension goes this is one is about as good as they come. John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World is better than the original in every way. The premise is brilliant. There is a foreign entity that is among the inhabitants of an Antarctic research facility. The beginning of the film starts with a group of seemingly mad Norwegians chasing and shooting after a dog. When the helicopter explodes and the passengers die, the research team, lead by Kurt Russell, take the dog in and care for it. And then all hell breaks loose. The dog eventually mutates and whatever alien life form that was in it, is now among the group. No one knows who it is in and this starts the deadly game of cat and mouse. Russell has never been better and although Halloween is Carpenter’s best film, this is a very close second. For pure tension and terrific action, The Thing is brilliant.
1. The Ring (2002)
This is a remake of the very good Japanese film Ringu. Gore Verbinski did everything right and made this one a much better film. The story is the same in both films. After you watch a videotape, you get a call that tells you that you have seven days to live. On the seventh day, well, we see what happens in the last few minutes of the film and this one scene had me more terrified than perhaps any scene since watching Chrissie Watkins get devoured by an unseen force at the beginning of Jaws. The Ring takes its time developing the story and along the way we are given clues as to what is happening. You see newspaper clippings, you see animals acting strangely and so many other horror movie tropes. This is a film that will stay with you long after you leave the theater or try to turn your TV off. Verbinski has made one of the scariest and perpetually unnerving films you will see. The Ring is the best horror remake of all time.
Written & Compiled by Dan Grant
What have we missed? Name your fave horror film remakes…
Read more from Dan Grant:
Top 10 Films About The Oppressed Taking Their Revenge
Top 10 Embarrassingly Cringeworthy Moments In Film
Top 10 Supporting Actors Who Always Bring Something Special To A Movie