TOP TEN BEST HORROR REMAKES

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There’s a mentality in Hollywood that if something was successful, then it needs to be milked for all it’s worth. So we are force-fed an endless stream of sequels, prequels, spin-offs, do-overs and as is the case more times than not, the remake. And no genre gets the remake treatment as much as horror.

Usually these remakes are utter crap, either changing absolutely everything that made the original successful or lacking the imagination and heart. But for every Nightmare on Elm Street remake, occasionally Hollywood gets it right, sometimes even improving on the original. With the Evil Dead being the latest on the remake train, (I was initially skeptical, feeling an ED remake was near blasphemous, but based on the trailers alone and the current 79% score on Rottentomatoes.com), I actually have high hopes for this one) I felt it was time for a list of the…

 Top 10 Best Horror Remakes:

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10.) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

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This is the first of the big three horror remakes (the others being Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street), and it’s the best one of the three (yes, I know that’s not saying much). The original is a disturbing, frightening piece of movie history (It was years before I was able to watch it alone). But despite the title, it was actually fairly bloodless. Director Marcus Nispel amps up the gore and actually presents a new take on the story of Leatherface. R. Lee Ermey nearly steals the show as the evil and sadistic Sheriff Hoyt.

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9.) The Blob (1986)

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This one doesn’t hold up as well as some of the others on this list, in part due to star Kevin Dillon’s 80’s mullet. But it has a pedigree that by today’s standards is pretty impressive (a pre-Entourage Kevin Dillon and pre-Walking Dead Jeffrey Demunn, written by Frank Darabont and introduces us to Shawnee Smith, of Saw fame). At times cheesy, it’s a charming, fun little romp with an ooey, gooey blob creature terrorizing a small town. Today it would probably be completely done with CGI.

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8.) Piranha 3D (2010)

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Alexandre Aja’s take on the Roger Corman produced “classic” is more fun than fear, but the fact that the movie is in on the joke, not taking itself to seriously is part of it’s success. Take top-notch actors like Elizabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfus and Adam Scott, endless amounts of blood, plenty of T&A (including a pretty hot underwater lesbian sequence between Kelly Brooke and Riley Steele), throw in some 3D action (which actually works) and you’ve got the recipe for an all around slick creature feature. It deserves a spot on this list solely for Jerry O’Connell’s immortal line: “They took my penis!”

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7.) Last House on the Left (2009)

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Taken on its own, Last House on the Left is just another victim/family of victim turns the tables on the bad guys in order to get revenge/justice. But taking it for the remake it is, it actually does the one thing a successful remake should do: improve upon the original. Wes Craven’s original was disturbing in parts no doubt, but the villains were lacking (save the late, great David Hess as Krug) and the side plot of the two bumbling cops belongs in a completely different movie. (It actually detracts from the overall uneasiness the film was meant to convey.)  The 2009 version disposes of those buffoonish cops in favor of an overall sadistic feel to the whole movie. The rape scene is more graphic, the characters are better defined, the score is more appropriately haunting and the violence is grittier. The story remains essentially the same and is treated with respect, with certain changes made to make it stand on its own. My only real nitpick with this film is the microwave scene at the end. (I thought microwaves only worked when the door was closed).

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6. Let Me In (2010)

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In 1998, Gus Van Sant did a basic shot for shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. What resulted was a poor copy of the original, lacking any of the suspense or heart of Hitch’s classic. Matt Reeves’ remake of “Låt den rätte komma in” (or as most audiences know it as, Let the Right One In) isn’t a virtual shot for shot copy, but it has a LOT of the same visuals. The difference is it also remains true to the original, in story, in heart and even soul. Chloe Grace-Moretz gives a captivating performance as the ageless vampire trapped in a 12-year-old child’s body (notice I did not say boy or girl, as the character is purposely left ambiguous, though I think more so in the original). It’s not just a horror film, but it’s a tale of two lost souls who find comfort in one another. Definitely a better love story than Twilight.

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5.) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

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The original film from 1956 starring Kevin McCarthy is a classic sci-fi spookfest and a supposed metaphor on McCarthyism and Communism. The concept itself has been remade countless times under many names, but the 1978 version is truly the best. An all-star cast led by Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy, discover that aliens are replacing humans with exact, emotionless copies using plants that get them when they sleep.  This is one of those sci-fi/horror films that holds up to the test of time and to this day is still a great film. It virtually paved the way for David Cronenberg’s The Fly, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and practically every remake to come after it. The final scene is chilling.

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4.) Dawn of the Dead (2004)

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Zack Snyder made a name for himself when he directed this movie. In his feature directorial debut, Snyder took George Romero’s zombie classic (considered to be THE defining zombie movie) and he does the unthinkable: he actually improved upon it.  From the opening scene as Sarah Polley drives through a town engulfed in madness (set to Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around”) to the end credits sequence where the survivors land on an island only to discover it’s not safe there either, DotD grabs you by the throat and never lets go. Whereas the first one was a social commentary on the consumerism of America, the remake is just a badass zombie flick. High points include fast zombies, the escape from the mall in an armored truck with chainsaws slicing off body parts, and a zombie baby.

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3.) The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

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Another Wes Craven classic that was only made better. Alexander Aja is becoming known for doing remakes. Of the 6 features he’s directed, 3 are remakes (he’s also produced the Maniac remake). Two of them even appear on this list. But the Hills Have Eyes is unquestionably his best movie, original, remake or otherwise. (Yes he did High Tension, but that one loses points for implausibility with the final reveal).  Wes Craven’s original 1977 shocker was at times hokey, silly and dare I say occasionally boring. And the closest they got to anything remotely resembling a mutant was Michael Berryman as Pluto. Aja’s version is brutal, graphic and shocking, and is quite possibly the best horror remake of the last two decades (at least until, if reviews are to be believed, Evil Dead is released).

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2.) The Fly (1986)

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David Cronenberg’s gory, dark story of a scientist whose genes are spliced together with those of a fly is a haunting study of one’s loss of humanity. Jeff Goldblum is perfectly cast as the eccentric, brilliant yet ultimately doomed scientist. Whereas the original Vincent Price movie featured a man wearing a fly’s head (“help meee!”)  the remake won makeup fx artist Chris Walas an Oscar. The movie is just as much tragedy as horror as you just can’t help but feel pity for Goldblum’s character by the end of the movie, even after he’s dissolved another character’s hand and foot by regurgitating on them.  The birth sequence alone is the stuff of nightmares (and reportedly was so emotionally upsetting to Geena Davis that it was the reason she turned down reprising her role in The Fly 2).

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1.) The Thing (1982)

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This is pretty much #1 on everyone’s list of best remakes, and that’s not going to change here. John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing from Another World is also arguably his best. (Yes, I think I even prefer it over Halloween, though the suspense and atmosphere he established in that one is on display here as well, only more so). A fantastic case study in who-do-you-trust paranoia, the Thing was a theatrical disappointment when it came out in the summer of 1982 (audiences that year preferred aliens of the “E.T. phone home!” variety), but became a cult classic and the standard by which all remakes are judged. The film features a spectacular cast, a superb screenplay and edge of your seat suspense. Rob Bottin’s FX work is considered a benchmark in the field of special makeup effects and for good reason. The FX are PHENOMENAL and one of the reasons why the movie is as good as it is. It’s too bad Hollywood didn’t realize this when they eschewed the practical FX for CGI in the lame ass 2011 prequel.

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About Author

Dave Zagorski

Dave Zagorski is a filmmaker who has yet to achieve his potential. He has written and directed two movies under his MAD Z Productions banner: “Killing Brooke” and a remake of the euro-horror exploitation movie “The Devil’s Nightmare.” He enjoys long walks on the beach, lesbians and putting his friends through hell on set. He hopes to one day win an Oscar, but until then he’ll make due with his son Oscar.