In Defense of the Horror Movie Remake (Plus a Huge List!)

In Defense of the Horror Movie Remake (Plus a Huge List!)

Jul 03, 2012

I've always believed that a film should always be judged as its own film. That seems like a pretty obvious statement, but it's tough to keep it in mind when you're being barraged with remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels, and spin-offs. Movie studios love nothing more than a profitable franchise, which means we're subjected to lots of those things and relatively little in the way of originality. So instead of ranting about the endless stream of horror remakes, I thought it'd be more fun to simply find the good in the now-infamous "horror remake." 

Yes, lots of these movies are shameless and amateurish junk-piles that exist solely because they arrive bearing a familiar name, but every once in a while, the smarter filmmakers find a way to pay respect, jazz things up, or (gasp) go in a different direction entirely. Most horror remakes are green-lit for basic commercial reasons -- but not all of them hit the screen in slipshod or lazy fashion. So here are a few reasons as to why horror remakes might not be all that bad, when you think about it. And then at the end I'll include a massive list of crappy horror remakes that will pretty much deflate any decent points I may have just made.

 

Point #1 -- A remake may turn a young person or a movie geek newbie on to a great film. I bet George Romero's Dawn of the Dead got some sales boosts once Zack Snyder's remake hit theaters, and I know that the recent Fright Night reboot brought some attention to a fine horror flick from 1985 -- but this theory could also backfire: imagine the 15-year-old horror fan who, after watching the atrocious remake of The Fog, absolutely refuses to see the original. A sloppy remake has now poisoned the well on a well-regarded, if not completely "classic" 1981 horror flick.

Point #2 -- Remakes are not innately bad or lazy or unnecessary. Every movie, whether it's a prequel, sequel, remake or (gasp again) original screenplay lives and dies on its own merits. A bad remake cannot actually "damage" an established classic, and a superior remake does not negate the quality of its predecessor. People have been "remaking" stuff for centuries, and if it's good enough for William Shakespeare, it's good enough for John Carpenter.

Point #3 -- Quality trumps quantity. As you'll see from the list below, the sub-par remakes outnumber the high-quality ones by a healthy margin, but I'm willing to struggle through some junk in order to track down something good, and something like Cronenberg's The Fly or Carpenter's The Thing makes all the effort worthwhile. Well, maybe not all the effort. Sorority Row was really freaking awful.

Point #4 -- Horror remakes, by definition, are also horror movies, and we can always use a few more of those. I'm halfway pleased when even a rotten horror movie (like The Devil Inside) makes a lot of cash, because that means more horror flicks will get green-lit, and hopefully some of those will be good. Genre films don't need to make huge money to be profitable, but when one hits the jackpot, the fans can sometimes be the happy winners. And then those fans get five sequels and another remake. (I digress.)

Point #5 -- The best remakes -- hell, even just the good ones -- are a clear illustration of how flexible and fun the genre can be. Very few people would argue that Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead is superior to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, but you could absolutely watch both films back-to-back, and find A) similar themes delivered differently, B) a cool new angle on a classic scare, scene, or kill, or C) (if you're lucky) a reboot that expounds on the best stuff and then does something halfway new. Nothing's more tiresome than a by-the-numbers remake, because fans don't appreciate Xerox copies, and general movie-watchers know bad filmmaking when they see it.

So there. Here's that list I promised. These rankings represent my own opinions, and not those of Movies.com or North America. (This is the internet, so it's always important to explain whose opinion you're stating.)

The Superior

1. The Fly (1986)

2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

3. Let Me In (2010)

4. The Thing (1982)

The Solid

1. The Blob (1988)

2. Cape Fear (1991)

3. Cat People (1982)

4. The Crazies (2010)

5. Dark Water (2005)

6. Dawn of the Dead (2004)

7. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2009)

8. Friday the 13th (2009)

9. Fright Night (2011)

10. Funny Games (2008)

11. The Grudge (2004)

12. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

13. The Last House on the Left (2009)

14. Mother's Day (2012)

15. My Bloody Valentine (2009)

16. Night of the Living Dead (1990)

17. The Ring (2002)

18. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

19. Willard (2003)

20. The Woman in Black (2012)

The So-So

1. 13 Ghosts (2001)

2. The Amityville Horror (2005)

3. Body Snatchers (1995)

4. House of Wax (2005)

5. House on Haunted Hill (1999)

6. I Am Legend (2007)

7. Mirrors (2008)

8. The Omen (2006)

9. Piranha (2010)

10. Quarantine (2008)

11. Silent House (2011)

12. Straw Dogs (2011)

13. The Toolbox Murders (2004)

14. The Wicker Man (2006)

The Sludge

1. Black Christmas (2006)

2. Carnival of Souls (1998)

3. Day of the Dead (2008)

4. The Eye (2008)

5. The Fog (205)

6. Halloween (2007)

7. The Haunting (1999)

8. The Hitcher (2007)

9. I Spit On Your Grave (2010)

10. The Invasion (2007)

11. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

12. One Missed Call (2008)

13. Prom Night (2008)

14. Psycho (1998)

15. Pulse (2006)

16. Shutter (2008)

17. Sorority Row (2009)

18. The Stepfather (2009)

19. The Uninvited (2009)

20. Village of the Damned (1995)

21. When a Stranger Calls (2006)

22. The Wolfman (2010)

(Note: your own definition of "sludge" may vary from mine.)

Comments? Omissions? Indignant Fury? Hit me up on twitter and do it for Movies.com too. Thanks.

Categories: Horror, Features
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