So what better time to revisit those titles that have themselves revisited titles from yesteryear and look for the genuinely fun ‘reimaginings’ among the cynical cash-ins?
I’ve a feeling this one could get controversial…
6. HOUSE OF WAX
Jaume Collet-Serra, 2005
What better place to leap onboard the controversy train than with a hugely divisive flick. Starring a host of TV pretty faces including 24’s Elisha Cuthbert and Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki, that wasn’t enough provocation for the filmmakers. Oh no, they added PARIS FUCKING HILTON to the mix. That’s the equivalent of throwing a lit-firework into the portaloo of horror, running back to a safe distance and waiting for the inevitable shit explosion.
So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a surprisingly fun little flick! A remake in name only to the 1953 Vincent Price classic (which was itself a remake of 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum), this movie had a surprising vicious streak through the middle and revelled in the spiteful ways in which its two cool villains took the PYTs on the cast apart. It had some great design work, some superb gore, some legitimately funny comedy moments and, if nothing else, deserves kudos for giving an audience what it wants and brutally murdering a surprisingly capable Hilton. Hooray!
5. THE RING
Gore Verbinski, 2002
Okay, I loved Hideo Nakata’s 1998 classic, Ringu. Frankly I don't think it needed remaking, but I am fully aware of the fact that many cinema-goers would have missed the flick and plenty more would be unwilling to give a sub-titled, non-English language movie a chance. I shall respectfully bite my tongue as to how exactly I feel about these individuals. Instead, I will praise the sterling job that Verbinski’s movie did of updating and transposing a uniquely Japanese story into its American setting.
With a stellar cast of acting heavyweights (Naomi Watts and Bryan Cox are both fantastic), the flick glosses over some of the more outlandish elements of the original (such as random psychic powers in one of our protagonists) and adds a little more to the story of Samara. With some great special effects and wonderful scare moments, I can even kind of forgive it for botching the infamous TV scene.
With this in mind, to me this movie is deserving of a place on the list for opening the eyes of the general public to the wealth of quality available in the J-Horror genre. Did The Ring surpass Ringu in terms of quality? I don’t think so, but plenty too. Did the remake cause viewers to check out the original and other horror films from the East? Yes, and for that, I am thankful.
4. THE HILLS HAVE EYES
Alexandre Aja, 2006
I have never seen so many people walk out of a cinema as I did when I watched extreme horror auteur Aja’s remake of the Wes Craven 1977 hillbilly classic. The movie was violent, repugnant, hard-hitting and my god, it was mesmerising. It took a film that (brace yourself for backlash people) hasn’t exactly aged well, and dragged it kicking and screaming into the modern day.
With a kick-ass nuclear testing subplot, far more rounded characters and some great arcs for them all, along with hardcore gore and violence and some jaw-dropping effects work, the morally reprehensible Hills Have Eyes may not have been for everyone (as the flocks of squeamish defectors in Watford’s Vue cinema back in ’06 proved!) but it is a real horror film in the truest sense of the word.
3. DAWN OF THE DEAD
Zack Snyder, 2004
Most of the following is from a previous Sinister Six feature, but it still rings true here.
I should loathe this movie. It is a remake of Romero’s seminal achievement in filmmaking, not just the greatest zombie movie of all time but one of the very finest horror pictures ever produced. Yet this film, the directorial debut of Zack Snyder (who has since gone on to film The 300, Man of Steel and Watchmen) and written by James Gunn (who has since been propelled into the A-List after his work on Guardians of the Galaxy), is far better than it has any right to be.
A sterling cast (fleshed out with a host of cameos from the original), amazing effects work and high-octane editing make this a horror-action hybrid along the same lines as Aliens. The sequence in which Sarah Polley’s Ana attempts to flee her home alone makes this film worthy of your time.
2. THE FLY
David Cronenberg, 1986
It is a very rare thing for a remake to surpass the film that inspired it — David Cronenberg’s wonderful bodyshock/sci-fi-gone-awry take on the 1958 original is one that does.
This is one of those bizarre moments of movie alchemy, where a host of unlikely ingredients produce cinematic gold. Cronenberg was always deemed too strange, too extreme for mainstream audiences, while the odd casting of romantic leads Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum were a baffling choice. Yet they are incredible. The film is moving, disturbing, thrilling and unrelentingly horrifying.
The characters are fantastically well realised and the script poignant, yet these subtly emotional touches are often over-shadowed by the Academy Award winning special effects work. This does the film a serious injustice. As an intensely human tragedy, the film is a legitimate masterpiece.
1. THE THING
John Carpenter, 1982
The Thing is arguably the greatest film from the greatest cult director of all time. As a remake that surpasses its source material (it was based on John W. Campbell’s novella, Who Goes There? which was previously adapted by Howard Hawks and Bill Nyby as The Thing From Outer Space in 1951) it succeeds on EVERY level.
John Carpenter’s favourite leading man Kurt Russell nails his role as Macready and the assorted oddballs dwelling in the Antarctic base with him are a surprisingly realistic and likeable group of characters.
Much is made of The Thing’s jaw-dropping and show-stealing effects work (with good reason, some of the work by Rob Bottin and his team, as well as SFX wizard Stan Winston, is amazing) but it is the way in which Carpenter presents the mounting paranoia and palpable air of isolation that really makes this a bona fide classic. Very few films come close to perfection — The Thing is.
So what do you think of the list? Are there any glaring omissions or choices you disagree with? Do you have a particular favourite horror remake that you feel I've overlooked? Or perhaps you think I’ve given one of the movies above too much credit?
Leave your comments below or drop me a message, it'd be great to hear from you.
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