Seven Horror Remakes to Light Your Jack-o-Latern and Three That Smashed it on the Curb
There’s nothing greater than sitting down with a sweet cup of nostalgia, crunching down the familiar and tasting something new at the same time. That why Disney will continue to churn out films within the Star Wars (Lucas, 1977) universe until the cows come home and we’ll continue to pay our hard earn money to see it. Whether it’s in the cinema, or via the many streaming platforms that makes it easier for anti-social goblins, like myself, to experience the latest in riveting nostalgia based entertainment.
But what else gives us that glint in our eye? That cherry in our plum? That thorn in our thigh? That’s right – diabetes. And Horror film remakes.
Whether you’re looking for something on Netflix, Shudder, Disney+, Paramount+, PornHub, Mubi, Discovery+, Prime, HBO Max etc. you’ll likely come across fewer of the originals than you will the remakes. In no particular order, here’s a list of seven horror remakes to tantalise your testicles and three that’ll smash them into juice to help you navigate the minefield of disappointment.
Light Your Jack-o-Lantern
Now, these aren’t the magnificent seven of horror film remakes, but they are pretty special to me. To commence the arguments in the comment section, I’d like to start with:
Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)
When her husband is attacked by a zombified neighbour, Ana (Sarah Polley) manages to escape, only to realize her entire Milwaukee neighbourhood has been overrun by the walking dead. After being questioned by cautious policeman Kenneth (Ving Rhames), Ana joins him and a small group that gravitates to the local shopping mall as a bastion of safety. Once they convince suspicious security guards that they are not contaminated, the group bands together to fight the undead hordes.
Feature directorial debut from the man that would divide audiences with the use of differing speeds of slow motion, Dawn of the Dead revises Romero’s original shopping mall caper on crack. Full of Snyder and collaborator James Gunn nuances, the film delivers a zombie smash in the wake of Danny Boyle’s speed-induced infection film, 28 Days Later (2002).
Despite questionable early 2000s CGI, the practical gore-infused chaos delivers for the blood hound audience members and captures both the smart and absolute moronic thought processes of the remaining group of survivors that occupy the complex. Although it only briefly touches upon the themes present in Romero’s original masterpiece, the characters themselves represent different walks of life, left alive in the aftermath of the end of the world.
I know – zombie baby is questionable as hell and Terry’s already-dead girlfriend chasing Chips was infuriating. BUT, upon repeat viewing with a group of chums, the general consensus was: anything to save the dog is justified, but the inclusion of the baby was nonsense.
Night of the Living Dead (Savini, 1990)
A disparate group of individuals takes refuge in an abandoned house when corpses begin to leave the graveyard in search of fresh human bodies to devour. The pragmatic Ben (Duane Jones) does his best to control the situation, but when the reanimated bodies surround the house, the other survivors begin to panic. As any semblance of order within the group begins to dissipate, the zombies start to find ways inside -- and one by one, the living humans become the prey of the deceased ones.
What do you do when you need to remake your original classic to save the IP from open domain status? You ask the legendary Tom Savini to direct.
With Savini at the helm and a cast & crew that admire the original film, Night of the Living Dead surpasses the original films charm and brings a new night of horror, after the dawn and day had long since come. In a smart move, the film changes some of the more well-known set pieces and fates of characters to keep even the most self-proclaimed Romero fan on their toes.
Full of iconic horror actors, with a blink and you’d miss it role from Bill Moseley, it’s apt to say that Tony Todd steals the show with his performance as Ben.
The Thing (Carpenter, 1982)
In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one.
There is nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said about John Carpenter’s The Thing, except that it’s by far better than Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and a legendary instalment to horror remake catalogue.
The film capitalises on the talented special effects wizards Rob Bottin and Stan Winston imagination to bring to life an everchanging body-horror creature left to freeze years before.
The nihilistic interpretation of The Thing From Another World surpasses all predecessors in creating an infusion of doubt, paranoia and suspense. Who hasn’t sat down and had a conversation of which order people were assimilated, or whether Childs or MacReady were assimilated before the closing scene. Who hasn’t poured whiskey into their computer after they’ve blatantly cheated at chess?
The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986)
When scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) completes his teleportation device, he decides to test its abilities on himself. Unbeknownst to him, a housefly slips in during the process, leading to a merger of man and insect. Initially, Brundle appears to have undergone a successful teleportation, but the fly's cells begin to take over his body. As he becomes increasingly fly-like, Brundle's girlfriend (Geena Davis) is horrified as the person she once loved deteriorates into a monster.
I can’t think of a bleaker realisation of the loss of humanity than Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle in David Cronenberg’s The Fly. The film manages to reinvent itself from the original 1958 film with Cronenberg’s magnificent handle on body-horror and Goldblum’s grotesque, but harrowing transformation.
The performances combined with the legendary special effects talent of Stephan Dupuis, elevate this instalment beyond the original Whereas Vincent Price’s Delambre had his; albeit camp, sympathetic moments, nothing captures the ultimate macarbre despair of becoming something further than human, than the final moments of the film.
Evil Dead (Alvarez, 2013)
Mia (Jane Levy), a drug addict, is determined to kick the habit. To that end, she asks her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and their friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) to accompany her to their family's remote forest cabin to help her through withdrawal. Eric finds a mysterious Book of the Dead at the cabin and reads aloud from it, awakening an ancient demon. All hell breaks loose when the malevolent entity possesses Mia.
Low expectations going into this horror remake. Having come off the back of Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake and A Nightmare on Elm Street remake (more to come on that sour subject), I had no hope of this being good.
I should’ve shut my whore mouth and prayed to the baby Jesus for forgiveness, for I was wrong. I saw the error of my wicked ways, saw the light and rose a brand-new man.
From the keep-it-simple remake style, to the over-the-top bloodbath the film delivers on those oh so fine points from the original Evil Dead films. Although the campy style of the original trilogy is sidelined for much of the film, the dark comedic beats of Raimi shine through in this beautiful homage to the bucket of blood deadite series.
SPOILER/NOT SPOILER; the after credits cameo by the chin-master himself made my year.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufmand, 1978)
This remake of the classic horror film is set in San Francisco. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) assumes that when a friend (Brooke Adams) complains of her husband's strange mood, it's a marital issue. However, he begins to worry as more people report similar observations. His concern is confirmed when writer Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum) and his wife (Veronica Cartwright) discover a mutated corpse. Besieged by an invisible enemy, Bennell must work quickly before the city is consumed.
I remember seeing the image of Donald Sutherland many years before seeing the film. I thought he was a campy villain from classic Dr Who. It took quite a few years to realise what that still actually came from.
The remake to the original 1956 science fiction film of the same name, Invasion of the Body Snatchers captures the society paranoia and general ambiguity of existential identity. Carbon copies of those we know and love, whilst their bodies are nothing more than fertiliser for plants. So, pretty much like a natural burial…
The cast build upon that paranoia throughout the film, set to the backdrop of Denny Zeitlin’s harrowing score. People seem to empty their sack to John Carpenter’s score for Halloween, but never mention the subtlety of Zeitlin’s soundtrack to this fantastic instalment to the Horror remake list.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (Herzog, 1979)
Jonathan Harker is sent away to Count Dracula's castle to sell him a house in Virna, where he lives. But Count Dracula is a vampire, an undead ghoul living off men's blood. Inspired by a photograph of Lucy Harker, Jonathan's wife, Dracula moves to Virna, bringing with him death and plague... An unusually contemplative version of Dracula, in which the vampire bears the cross of not being able to get old and die.
Ever since my days in college, I fell in love with the work of Werner Herzog. The bleak landscapes, the monotone colours and the on/off working relationship with Klaus Kinski… fantastic actor, but what a psychopath.
Nosferatu is no different. It captures Herzog’s beautiful, depressing style and brings life back into the Lang’s 1922 original in triumphant fashion. Utilising the German Expressionist lighting and colouration, as well as the over-the-top performances of much of its cast, the film moulds nightmare and reality to coherently tell the familiar tale of Count Orlok. I mean, Dracula.
There’s a haunting beauty to Herzog’s work – look no further than the banquet supper scene in the town’s courtyard, as an army of rats move around their hands and feet. I don’t think words would ever do the film justice and I’d highly recommend giving this remake a watch for Halloween. Or Christmas. Or on your Birthday. Just – anytime really.
Smashed on the Curb
I’m not saying you can’t enjoy the following submissions. I’m just saying you’re wrong for doing so and no amount of holy water will wash the scent of disappointment from thy brow.
Day of the Dead (Milner, 2008)
A small American town is sealed off by the military to contain a flu-like epidemic, but things go from bad to worse when those who are sick turn into zombies craving human flesh.
I couldn’t possibly dignify this film with any form of critical or objective review.
So, subjectively… I’ll tell you a story about my cat. I lay in bed, cuddled up nice with my duvet, when my cat – we’ll call her “Reginald Esquire III” to keep her identity obscure – woke me up, nesting and meowing next to me.
I found this to be very cute and amusing. I closed my eyes and drifted back into the land of nod, where I could be anything or anyone I want and live a happy & full existence on the moon, far away from society.
I was meowed awake once more and smelt that Willow—I mean, Reginald Esquire III, had shat on the duvet next to me. And guess what, dear reader.
It was still a better experience than watching this waste of a brain cell. Avoid at all cost.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Bayer, 2010)
The film that brings back horror icon Freddy Krueger as a darker and more sinister character than ever before. While Freddy is on the prowl, a group of teenagers being stalked soon learn they all have a common factor making them targets for this twisted killer.
Following the footsteps of Platinum Dunes’ Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake/series and the Friday the 13th sequel/remake – not to mention, Jackie Earle Haley set to reimagine Englund’s Freddy Krueger – I almost shat my pants with joy.
After sitting down for the duration, it would seem I dodged the proverbial bullet by not soiling myself there and then. For my briefs were not to be soggied with the joys of wonderment and nostalgia.
To say the original Nightmare sequels were all masterpieces, Citizen Kane calibre of filmmaking, would be an outright lie. To say they were immature cash-ins, but enjoyable in their nonsensical, trivial adventures would be fitting. The film took itself too seriously, whilst simultaneously trying to incorporate the batshit crazy sequences. The effect made me feel sober for the first time 10 years… and I hated it.
The Wicker Man (LaBute, 2006)
A reclusive lawman (Nicolas Cage) travels to a secluded island to search for a girl who has gone missing. Once there, he discovers sinister forces at work among the island's secretive residents, including strange sexual rituals, a harvest festival and possible human sacrifice.
I love Nicolas Cage. I love Robin Hardy’s 1973 original, The Wicker Man. I can’t describe my utter disdain for this tire fire of a remake, from the questionable casting, narrative changes and general misfire on every executed set piece.
No amount of roundhouse kicks to the face can make this film any more than a tone-deaf cash-in made by the studio moguls for the hearing impaired. I think I’d have more fun setting a chicken coup on fire and dangling the twins over them for a pube-ocaust.
No doubt there are fans of this… reimagining, but the film loses its credibility due to the complete and utter mishandling of the themes that made the original an undeniable classic. The slow-burn, conflict of faith and man, and devotion to one’s beliefs to a fault, made the original the suspenseful, soul-crushing folk horror for the ages.
Let us know your thoughts. What horror remake would you recommend?