With the ever increasing number of horror remakes on the horizon, such as EVIL DEAD, MANIAC and CARRIE, we’ve decided to put together a list of our top favourite horror remakes. We’ve included genre offerings that gave a refreshing spin to their respective source material, some going on to match, and even surpass the originals. Read on to see if any of your favourites made the list…
The excellent and underrated Crispin Glover puts his heart and (demented) soul into this fascinating take on 1971s WILLARD, to play the social outcast-turned-sociopathic title character. A film I first caught at an empty cinema in Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, WILLARD tells the story of a young man with the capability to control an army of rats, after suffering years of mental abuse from his domineering mother and boss. FINAL DESTINATION creator Glenn Morgan made his directorial debut in what was a cursed production that saw many actors dropping out, before Glover came in only days before shooting began. It deserved better, especially due to Glover’s own haunting cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben‘, during the end credits, which originally featured in the 1972 sequel.
A huge international hit, director Hideo Nakata’s adaptation of Kôji Suzuki’s novel, RINGU, was always going to see Hollywood cash in on its success. MOUSEHUNT director Gore Verbinski seemed an odd choice to bring the terrifying story to screen. He didn’t disappoint though, as THE RING scared up well over $200 million worldwide, and with rising Oscar-nominated actress Naomi Watts headlining, Dreamworks were onto a winner. The film centres on journalist Rachel Keller, who becomes obsessed with tracking down a mysterious videotape, that is said to somehow kill an individual, seven days after viewing it. Hideo Nakata was brought in to helm the disappointing sequel but couldn’t match this, never mind his own memorable effort.
THE MASK director Chuck Russell’s remake of the Steve McQueen-led 1950s creature feature, may have dated badly (thanks to a marvellous Kevin Dillon perm), but there are impressive make-up effects, set-pieces and surprises in THE BLOB. It has a solid script by the then-little-known Frank Darabont (writer/director of modern masterpieces THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE GREEN MILE), and it was the first time we got a proper look at the gorgeous Shawnee Smith, who’d later appear in a number of the SAW films. Smith attempts to save the inhabitants of her small town from an ever growing (and glowing) human-consuming organism (no, not that hair-do), with the help of motorcyclist bad boy Dillion. His ENTOURAGE character ‘Drama’ would be proud of this “Victory”!
Alexandre Aja’s take on Joe Dante’s flesh-eating fish feature takes the exploitation route, but goes more for fun than fear. Aja allows gore-effects masters Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger off the leash, as blood and guts fill some terrifically memorable, over-the-top scenes. There are some ace cameos from the likes of Richard Dreyfuss, Eli Roth and Christopher Lloyd, not forgetting that synchronised underwater sequence, with beauties Kelly Brook and Riley Steele. Plus, any film with the hilarious Adam Scott is worth the admission price alone.
Hoping for some peace and quiet, and maybe a spot of inspiration, novelist Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) rents a remote, idyllic summer house, before torturous events involving a group of rednecks spiral out of control. Much like Meir Zarchi’s original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, the update is never an easy watch due to some harrowing and tormented rape scenes. However, unlike the previous poorly acted effort, Jennifer’s appetite for revenge is corkscrew tension at its best, boasting some ingenious, vengeful set-pieces for each of her attackers. The inclusion of Andrew Howard’s new Sheriff adds some welcome human, if sadistic, drama, as we see just how much trouble his selfish actions land him and his unknowing family in. Director Steven R. Monroe is currently at work on a sequel.
Breck Eisner seemed another peculiar choice to helm the remake of cult Geroge R. Romero favourite, THE CRAZIES. After all, his Matthew McConnaughey-led adventure SAHARA, died on its arse in 2005, while his debut feature – the action-thriller THOUGHTCRIMES (2003) – was little seen to say the least. However, the son of former Disney chief Michael Eisner assembled a terrific cast, led by the ever-captivating Timothy Olyphant and Aussie beauty Radha Mitchell. They gave us a gripping chiller, which sees the band of survivors of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, besieged by its remaining psychopathic population, when a man-made toxin is accidentally (or is it?) unleashed in the water supply of the quaint town. Romero was also onboard as executive producer.
Director Zack Snyder’s debut feature was a startling one as he took on another Romero classic, DAWN OF THE DEAD, from a vicious screenplay by James Gunn. Again the majority of the action takes place in the monotonous mall, but these undead legions are faster and more ferocious than we’d seen previously, and bolster a great emotional and central performance from the underrated Sarah Polley. Snyder’s unforgiving film certainly has bite, even seeing baby zombies put to the sword, as survivors battle to escape the horde outside, as well as those in their group no longer willing to play by the set rules.
The second Alexandre Aja effort on the list is as far away as you could get from his previous addition. This time, Wes Craven personally requested Aja to take on his 1977 cannibalistic classic, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, for the Frenchman’s English-language debut. Coming hot off his divisive and intense slasher SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE (aka HAUTE/HIGH TENSION), he crafted a brutal, graphic and shocking film which pushed boundaries for the modern genre, and in doing so, gave us easily the best horror remake of the last 25 years. Its harsh tone sees the Carter family endure the most horrific of experiences imaginable at the hands of a family of demented and deformed mutant maniacs, before the tables are eventually turned by the surviving members. Never has a tagline been more appropriate!
David Cronenberg’s body-horror style seemed the perfect choice for the new take on 1958 scientific horror film, THE FLY. What may surprise many is only the tragic events surrounding original choice Robert Bierman allowed Cronenberg to take the picture, following his departure from the in-development TOTAL RECALL. Giving the project an entire overhaul, the director’s vision of a metamorphosis between man and insect with some stomach-churning, Oscar-winning prosthetics and make-up effects, led to the classic we now know and love. Jeff Goldblum’s eccentric scientist Seth Brundle makes the mistake of trying out his teleportation device, and slowly begins to realise he wasn’t alone inside. Geena Davis and John Getz give strong support along with Howard Shore’s booming score.
John Carpenter’s adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. short story ‘Who Goes There’, was previously given a big-screen treatment with Howard Hawkes’ 1951 THE THING (FROM ANOTHER WORLD). Despite an initial box-office failure, Carpenter’s film was a huge hit on home video and is now cemented as a groundbreaking genre classic, thanks to some still-astounding practical effects from Rob Bottin and Carpenter’s suspenseful direction. An Antarctic team discover a deserted Norwegian outpost and unknowingly bring along a shape-shifting alien being. As nail-biting dread seeps through the film’s long, dark corridors, there is a top performance from Kurt Russell, a foreboding score from Ennio Morricone, and a perfectly ambiguous, downbeat ending. Fuck you CGI!
Fede Alvarez’ remake of EVIL DEAD is released in the US on 5th April, and in the UK on 19th April. You can read our review HERE.