The Poltergeist remake is hitting cinemas very soon, are you excited? Me neither. But to be fair the horror remake idea is neither a new concept nor a terrible one as commonly believed. I know it would be easier to name more examples of shameless cash-ins that merely borrow the name of the original in order to rake in more profit from teenagers that have probably never seen the original anyway. But there are exceptions to this rule.
Of course a clever person would point out that the various horror classics of the 1930s were based on novels that were previously adapted in the silent era. Then these classics were once again remade in the 1950s by the Hammer Studio. But I’m ignoring those because… well to be honest once you play that card it’s hard to ignore it and in the end my list would end up being made up of films that you didn’t even know were remakes. Another clever person might point to Evil Dead 2, but (though that is one of my absolute favourite horror flicks) is still a sequel to the original, though I can understand the reasoning behind calling it a remake.
A few that didn’t make the list include Tom Savini’s Night of the Living Dead (1991), House of Wax (1953) and The Blob (1988).
5: Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Zac Snyder has now moved on the bigger budgeted blockbusters, but many still cite this remake of the Romero classic as his best work. Though it may have been an unnecessary remake that would have benefitted from adopting a new title and using its own merit to gain attention, it still gets your heart racing. Terrifying and action packed with a rejuvenated pace thanks to a nifty idea of allowing zombies to run (pretend it wasn’t on 28 Days Later first). Dawn of the Dead also captures the paranoia and stress of the original being cooped up in a shopping mall. It would be very easy to credit this film with assisting the recent zombie resurgence of The Walking Dead.
4: Cape Fear (1991)
This psychological horror was definitely an undisputed classic in its own right. If you want to remake something the right way then martin Scorsese is the man to call, with the Departed also attributing to his career. He is undoubtedly the master and pioneer of those traditional Hollywood methods, particularly in terror and suspense. Not only does he pay homage to the original (including cameos from Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum who both starred in the original), but by taking full advantage of his $35 million budget he could distinguish his own vision and themes of obsession.
3: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The best remakes take the premise, concepts and themes of the original and apply them to the modern context in which they are presented. The 1950s Body Snatchers expressed paranoia of creeping communism but this version is more concerned with fears of conspiracy and cover ups instead. The chilling and sometimes gruesome nature of what the mysterious pod people carry out for an extended look at the extent of such a plot and the way it somehow manages to be both bleak and stylised all at the same time is remarkable. That scream at the end is still terrifying.
2: The Fly (1986)
Few remakes eclipse the original as completely as David Cronenberg’s The Fly did, and the original is by no means a bad film, choosing to surround itself in mystery and intrigue instead. But the body horror style is enough to make anyone’s skin crawl. The tragic of the love story that Jeff Goldblum becomes entangled in, as well as the dark sense of humour and the sheer terror of a prolonged and gradual transformation as the mad scientist’s body slowly but surely deteriorates only adds to it. The process of merging with a fly may be an allegory for any illness, possibly the AIDS epidemic of the time. The creature feature, monster model is seconded only by one…
1: The Thing (1982)
The original was certainly a significant standpoint of paranoid cinema and one of John Carpenter’s favourite movies. But by swapping politics for gore Carpenter not only created the most impressive creature feature of all time (seriously, the practical effects are more horrifying than anything CGI can ever craft) he also managed to maintain that sense of paranoia as the men turn on each other out of fear over whether or not the shapeshifting alien is impersonating one of them as it chews through the Arctic base. So many elements of this film inspire shock and awe, to name just one, the doctor slams the defibrillator down onto a wounded man’s chest only for it to split in two, revealed to be a set of jaws, and starts to chew him up. Nothing else demonstrates John Carpenter’s ability to master scare value. Or does it why don’t we just wait here for a little while… see what happens…