11 Horror Movie Remakes That Are Better Than The Originals, Ranked
We are living in the age of movie remakes and reboots. There have been remakes almost as long as there have been films--1903's The Great Train Robbery was remade the following year. But with so much competition today for audience attention and money, filmmakers, producers, and studios are increasingly falling back on revisiting reliable properties. If a movie can arrive with a built-in audience via a recognisable brand, then it stands a better chance at the box office than something entirely original. Similarly, why think of a new story when you can recycle one that worked so well in a previous decade?
This is never more true than in the horror genre. Horror has long thrived on sequels, remakes, and reboots, which can be made cheaply and quickly. Horror franchises often run into multiple sequels, and even when their popularity starts to dip, it's hardly the end. The whole thing can simply be rebooted to start again. From remakes of Halloween and Friday the 13th to A Nightmare of Elm Street and Child's Play, no horror series is ever truly dead.
Of course, most horror remakes are not good. There's a reason why many of the originals were hits in the first place--they were bold and exciting, movies that pushed the genre in interesting directions. Returning to the same story years later and doing it in much the same way is rarely enough, even if your core audience didn't grow up with that first movie. The best horror remakes need to offer something more.
In some cases, directors such as John Carpenter and David Cronenberg went back to the 1950s and remade B-movies of the day like The From Another World and The Fly, updating them with their own sensibilities and cutting edge VFX. In others, like Last house on the Left, rough, raw '70s exploitation movies were remade in a more contemporary style that retained the power of the originals while presenting them in ways more appealing to modern audiences. And then there are remakes that also function as new adaptations of novels, taking a different approach to the existing source material, like last year's It. So here are some of the best horror remakes ever made--great movies that actually managed to improve on the iconic originals.
11. Last House On The Left (2009)
There's no denying that Wes Craven's groundbreaking Last House on the Left remains a powerful and disturbing experience. But much of it has aged badly, the attempt to inject silly comedy sitting very uneasily alongside the brtual scenes of rape and murder. So while Dennis Iliadis's remake isn't perhaps quite as gruelling, it is a far more consistent movie. The plot is the same--like the original, it's based on Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, in which a gang of murderous criminals have the tables turned on them when they end up staying at the house of the parents of one of their victims. But the strong performances--most notably a terrifying Garret Dillahunt as the gang leader Krug--and gripping storytelling make it an overall superior movie. Watch also for a pre-Breaking Bad Aaron Paul as one of the gang members.
10. Pet Sematary (2019)
Stephen King adaptations keep on coming, and not only are his more recent novels getting adapted, classics that have already been made once before are also getting the remake treatment. While the 1989 version of Pet Sematary was a faithful version of one King's darkest and most disturbing works, the recent remake made a couple of notable changes to the story. Some fans objected to the alterations that directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer made in their new version, but by realising that slavishly copying an already decent first adaptation of the story would be pointless, they deliver an impressively scary movie that stands on its own, The production design, atmosphere, and performances are all much stronger in this version too. The film does lose its way toward the end, but for the most part this is a great remake that benefits from following its own dark path.
9. The Blob (1988)
David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly showed that old, cheap B-movies could be reworked successfully for modern audiences, and while The Blob doesn't hit those heights, it's still a great movie. Director Chuck Russell and writer Frank Darabont's update of the 1958 creature feature made the most of then cutting-edge visual effects, with the titular alien mass now a terrifying, pulsating, creeping mass, rather than a big blob of wobbling jello. It's a fast-moving, enjoyable film that weaves a conspiracy subplot into the gloopy monster action. The movie was unfortunately a commercial failure, and Russell subsequently criticised his and Darabont's decision to make it funny as well as scary, but viewed today, it's exactly that balance of laughs, horror, and thrills that makes it such an effective slice of mainstream horror entertainment.
8. It (2017)
It could be argued that 2017's It isn't so much a remake as another adaptation of Stephen King's classic 1987 novel. This is really only half a movie too--the upcoming It: Chapter 2 will complete the story. Nevertheless, the 1990 TV miniseries version of the King novel is an iconic adaptation and there's no doubt that many viewers of the new movie compared it to the earlier version. Luckily, Andy Muschietti's film is superior in almost every way. It's marked by standout performances from its young cast and real emotional depth, as well as a creepy atmosphere and some great scares. In addition, the decision to separate the kids' narrative from the one featuring them as adults (rather than jump between them as in the novel and the miniseries) is a smart one, allowing us to fully focus on their story. And while Tim Curry's portrayal of evil clown Pennywise in the miniseries was a hugely entertaining one, he's much more of a pantomime villain than Bill Skarsgård's genuinely terrifying interpretation.
7. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
If Ryan Murphy is involved with a horror remake, then you know you're not just going to get a slavish repeat of the past. The TV maverick behind American Horror Story produced this new version of the cult '70s slasher The Town That Dreaded Sundown with prolific horror producer Jason Blum, and delivered a movie that works as both a remake and an ingenious meta-sequel. The plot is set around the annual screening of the original movie in the town where the first film is set. But a killer is obsessed with the '76 movie and sets about recreating its most violent scenes. The new The Town That Dreaded Sundown works perfectly well for audiences who had never seen the first film, but for those that have, the way director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon cleverly mixes footage from the earlier version with this one adds even more fun to proceedings.
6. House of Wax (1953)
There are two remakes of the 1933 movie Mystery of the Wax Museum, but while 2005's House of Wax is forgettable nonsense, the 1953 remake is a stone-cold classic. The great Vincent Price stars as a murderous sculptor who sets about rebuilding his wax museum by using the wax-coated bodies of his victims as part of the display. The movie was one of the biggest hits of 1953, and is notable for both its pioneering use of 3D and for giving Vincent Price his first lead role in a horror movie, establishing him as one of the genre's greatest stars. It's an eerie gem, less comedic than many of Price's subsequent films, and early proof that sometimes horror remakes get it right.
5. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
In the 2000s, many of the most shocking horror movies came out of France; films such as Martyrs, Inside, and High Tension all made their US counterparts seem weak by comparison. The success of High Tension led Wes Craven to hire its director, Alexandre Aja, to helm a new version of Craven's 1977 classic The Hills Have Eyes. The original movie has moments of power, but nothing like the terrifying effectiveness of Aja's brutal reworking. This story of a family who are stranded in the desert at the mercy of a family of insane, mutated cannibals is an incredibly tense and gruelling experience, with Aja's masterful ability to build the tension paying off brilliantly with some outrageously gory scenes.
4. Maniac (2012)
The Hills Have Eyes showed that director Alexandre Aja had the skills to update and improve on a horror classic, something he took even further with Maniac. Aja didn't direct this one--that was handled by regular collaborator Franck Khalfoun--but he did produce and co-write. The original Maniac is an effectively grimy slice of early '80s grindhouse cinema, with the late Joe Spinell as Frank, a psychotic killer who uses the scalps of his female victims to decorate the mannequins in his apartment. The remake didn't change the plot, but made two radical and inspired choices. One was to cast Elijah Wood as Frank. Wood is a lifelong genre fan (and now rising horror producer), but it was still a shock to see little Frodo Baggins as a deranged murderer. The other radical stylistic choice was to present much of the movie from Frank's POV--Wood is largely seen in reflections--giving the movie an uneasy voyeuristic quality.
3. Nosferatu (1979)
There have been many adaptations of Dracula, and it's hard to describe most of them as "remakes." The one exception is Werner Herzog's stunning reworking of FW Murnau's silent 1922 classic Nosferatu, which was the first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel. For legal reasons Murnau's movie couldn't be titled Dracula, but the story was otherwise identical to Stoker's novel. Herzog does more than simply reuse the same title. Dracula isn't the suave bloodsucker made famous by Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, but a scary and sickly old man who stalks his prey at night, unforgettably played by Klaus Kinski. And although Herzog's movie isn't silent, he keeps dialogue to a minimum, ensuring the same sense of otherworldly terror as the original. It's a haunting, beautifully-made masterpiece.
2. The Fly (1986)
By the mid-'80s, David Cronenberg had already made a name for himself as the director of such original and pioneering movies as The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome. So it might seem surprising that he'd take on the remake of a schlocky '50s B-movie about a man who accidentally turns into a fly. But as it turns out, the story taps into Cronenberg's fascination with man's relationship with science and his love of gory body horror. The result is one of the very best horror remakes, an emotional, tragic, scary, and stomach-churning classic marked by incredible visual effects and a star-making performance from Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, the ambitious scientist whose experiments with teleportation go terribly wrong.
1. The Thing (1982)
While Cronenberg's remake of The Fly was an instant hit with both audiences and critics, it took several years for John Carpenter's The Thing to gain the reputation it has today. The film died at the box office and was savaged by critics, who found the dark, serious tone and wild, disturbing makeup effects utterly repellent. They were very, very wrong of course, and it is now rightly considered one of the best horror movies of the decade. The film is a remake of the 1951 alien chiller The Thing From Another World, but it's actually closer to the source material, John W. Campbell's novella Who Goes There? By keeping the book's original idea of a shape-shifting alien that hides unseen amongst its human prey, Carpenter creates a brooding atmosphere of paranoid suspicion that keeps its audience utterly gripped. And of course, Rob Bottin's effects were truly groundbreaking, and still look absolutely amazing today.