Horror Movie Remakes That Defied Expectations
One of the pleasures of being a horror movie fan is hashing out the virtues and appeal of different incarnations of monsters and horror icons. Who played the best Dracula? Which Jason is the ideal FRIDAY THE 13TH killer? And perhaps the most contentious question of all: Can a remake be better than the original?
Later this year, the new CANDYMAN movie will ignite horror remake talk once again — even though, following newer trends, Nia DaCosta's movie is basically a sequel and remake in one. And before that movie arrives, we've got one of the best-ever horror remakes playing as part of our Comeback Classics lineup. What follows is a set of six horror movie remakes that defied all expectations to become favorites — and, in cases like John Carpenter's THE THING, even surpassed the original movies.
[Image Credit: Universal Pictures]
Somehow, John Carpenter's remake of 1951's THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD was considered a failure upon release in 1982. This is astonishing because the movie is taut and wildly successful as nail-biting sci-fi horror. Kurt Russell stars as a member of a research team in Antarctica which is infiltrated by a shape-shifting alien creature. The visitor can take on any form, and as the crew tries to ferret out who among them might have been replaced by the alien, paranoia and violence shock the dwindling survivors. THE THING is viscerally unsettling thanks to its astonishing practical effects, and emotionally jarring thanks to an ominous, ambiguous ending.
[Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / DreamWorks Pictures]
The 1985 FRIGHT NIGHT, about a high school kid who discovers that his next-door neighbor is a supernatural predator, is one of the great '80s teen horror movies. The 2011 remake never quite got its due, but it stands up to the original — and even surpasses it in some ways. Begin with the incredible cast, which is led by Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Imogen Poots, and Toni Collette, with Christopher Mintz-Plasse and David Tennant. Yelchin updates the lead role well, and Colin Farrell is both unnaturally appealing and utterly terrifying as the vampire next door. Shot through with black humor and featuring sharp setpieces, FRIGHT NIGHT is a true sleeper favorite.
[Image Credit: 20th Century Studios]
While the 1958 movie about a scientist whose teleportation experiment goes horribly wrong is a good effort, David Cronenberg's 1986 remake is a masterpiece. Jeff Goldblum stars as Seth Brundle who moves too quickly to human trials with his own teleporting device. A chance accident leaves his genetic code scrambled with that of a fly, and we watch as the scientist becomes something entirely new, ruefully calling himself Brundlefly. THE FLY is a triumph on many levels, with grand and often super-gross effects, a majestic lead performance from Jeff Goldblum, and impeccable direction by Cronenberg. What really sets it apart, however, is the sense of tragedy as Brundle mourns the loss of his humanity.
[Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures]
Hideo Nakata's 1998 movie RING became insanely popular and helped create global interest in a wave of low-key, modestly-budgeted Japanese horror movies. Many of those "J-horror" movies were remade in the United States, and the 2002 THE RING, from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN director Gore Verbinski, is the best of the bunch. Verbinski gives his version of the story — about a videotape which curses people to die seven days after they watch it — a distinct visual style punctuated by harrowing images. With a wide-eyed lead performance from Naomi Watts, this is a chilling way to ask a question we all eventually face: Should our kids be watching TV as much as they do?
Dawn of the Dead
[Image Credit: Universal Pictures]
Before he went to Sparta or Krypton, director Zack Snyder put his own stamp on this remake of George Romero's gut-wrenching zombie classic. (With the help of a script by future GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY director James Gunn.) Snyder's DAWN OF THE DEAD has one of the great zombie movie openings, with Sarah Polley's character Ana experiencing horror from within her own home. From there, this revamp adheres to the basics of Romero's original movie — with the characters holed up in a shopping mall — but explores new characters and gooey, gnarly frights.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
[Image Credit: United Artists]
Since the 1956 original, several different filmmaking generations have gone back to INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and this 1978 version, with Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum, and Veronica Cartwright, is the best of the bunch. Director Philip Kaufman (THE RIGHT STUFF) finds rich subtext in the pulpy tale of aliens who make a new home on Earth, where they consume and replicate human beings. And, yep, it's also the source for that terrifying image of Donald Sutherland that you've seen floating around the internet.