Memorable Horror Remakes

In this week's Total Recall, we run down some of the most high-profile revivals of legendary frightfests.

Remakes

This weekend, Stephen King's breakthrough novel Carrie returns to theaters in the form of director Kimberly Peirce's remake, starring Chloe Grace Moretz as the title character and Julianne Moore as her violently religious mom. While it seems doubtful that the new-look Carrie will attain the classic status enjoyed by the 1976 original, this sort of thing is hardly without precedent; in fact, there have been so many horror remakes that there's no way we could cover them all at once. We did, however, decide to collect a sampling for this week's list, making room for some of the best, worst, and most puzzlingly misguided examples from the genre. Let's get started, shall we?

The Amityville Horror

23%

Like many of the movies on this week's list, the latter-day Amityville Horror was produced by Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes -- and like more than a few of them, it suffered in comparison to the original. Which is a shame, because Amityville's central story -- about a young family moving into a horrifically haunted house -- is both devilishly simple and allegedly fact-based, which has helped the franchise retain its aura even through a series of sometimes-silly sequels and spinoffs. Unfortunately, despite a talented cast that included Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, and a young(er) Chloe Grace Moretz, this Horror was mainly scary for the studio execs who had to account for its $64 million domestic gross, which might be why we haven't seen another installment in theaters since.

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The Blob

61%

Inspired by the way David Cronenberg used modern special effects and less-campy storytelling to amp up the horror in The Fly, Hollywood spent a portion of the late 1980s rushing to the vaults and searching for other long-dormant properties that might benefit from the remake treatment. Hence 1988's The Blob, in which an alien goo plops down in a small town and starts gorging on its unsuspecting residents. It was just as fantastically cheesy a premise as it had been in 1958, when Steve McQueen starred in the original -- but thanks to a solid screenplay from future Shawshank Redemption director/adapter Frank Darabont, as well as a (slightly) more believable Blob, it managed to just about reach the rather low bar set by its predecessor, which is about all one can hope for when making a film about hungry interstellar plasma.

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Cat People

63%

The original Cat People, produced on the cheap by Val Lewton in 1942, emphasized suggestion over explicit horror; four decades later, director Paul Schrader used the movie's central idea -- about people whose sexual desires trigger a sometimes-deadly feline transformation -- as the basis for a steamy softcore flick that made up for its lack of genuine scares with an abundance of Natassja Kinski and a cool soundtrack featuring David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder. While it may not be the most terrifying movie on this week's list, it's probably one of the hardest to turn away from if you happen across it on the cable dial during a bout of late-night viewing.

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The Crazies

71%

"WHY ARE THE GOOD PEOPLE DYING?" screamed the poster for George A. Romero's paranoid The Crazies about the side effects of a military accident that resulted in a small American town being poisoned with a biological weapon that turns people into violent lunatics. Sadly, the tagline for Romero's 1973 effort might as well have been "WHY WON'T MOST THEATERS SHOW THE CRAZIES?," because the picture died with a whimper at the box office -- but a good idea always turns up again in the horror genre, and in 2010, director Breck Eisner repurposed Romero's original to create a sleek, gleefully nasty update that managed a surprisingly robust 71 percent on the Tomatometer. Alas, while Eisner's Crazies at least made it to wide release, they didn't fare a whole lot better at the box office, managing to slash together ony $54 million worldwide. The result of a military-industrial conspiracy, perhaps?

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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

58%

It might seem a little odd to base a horror remake on a TV movie from the 1970s, but the original Don't Be Afraid of the Dark -- starring Kim Darby as a housewife whose new home comes with some nasty little tenants lurking in the basement -- is a cult classic for afficionados of the genre, so a theatrical version was probably inevitable. Given that the 2011 edition was co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, fans had reason to be hopeful that the remade Dark would be even scarier than the first; alas, after being trapped in studio limbo for months due to Miramax's shuttering, director Troy Nixey's update on the story -- which focused on an eight-year-old (Bailee Madison) and her father's girlfriend (Katie Holmes) -- was greeted with lukewarm indifference by audiences and critics alike. Perhaps some things are just more frightening on the boob tube.

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Evil Dead

62%

How in the world do you put together a remake of one of the most beloved horror-comedy cult classics of the last 40 years? If you're director Fede Alvarez, you film a new version of Evil Dead with production input from creator Sam Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell, a much bigger budget, and a far more serious take on the story of young campers who unwittingly unleash a demon plague while goofing around with the Book of the Dead. The amped-up gore in Alvarez's Evil Dead certainly wasn't for everyone, but it arguably made more sense, given the film's narrative outline -- and audiences responded strongly enough that plans for a sequel are currently afoot.

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The Fly

91%

The original version of The Fly, released in 1958, was a Vincent Price classic that didn't really need to be remade, but that didn't stop producer Stuart Cornfield (working with an uncredited Mel Brooks) from getting the ball rolling on a new version. After several years in development, plenty of studio struggle, and some turnover at the screenwriter and director positions, Cornfield had his movie: David Cronenberg's gorier, more suspenseful take on The Fly, which went back to George Langelaan's 1957 short story and emerged with one of the more delightfully suspenseful horror/sci-fi movies of the 1980s. Unfortunately, Cronenberg's Fly -- starring Jeff Goldblum as the ill-fated scientist whose experiments leave his DNA accidentally intertwined with the titular pest, and Geena Davis as the woman who loves him -- was too successful to prevent a sequel: 1989's rather uninspired The Fly II. Rumors of another remake (and a quasi-sequel penned by Cronenberg) have popped up over the years, but it's all been for naught. So far, anyway.

Friday the 13th

25%

Featuring a "star" hidden behind a hockey mask and a brilliantly low-budget conceit that needed nothing more than anonymous young actors capable of screaming in various states of undress, the Friday the 13th series was one of the most reliably profitable horror franchises of the 1980s -- and ripe for the reboot treatment in the 21st century. Platinum Dunes did the honors in 2009, reimagining the murderous Jason Voorhees as more of a lethal maniac and less of a lumbering dolt, with cooler special effects and plenty of T&A; once again, the formula worked, producing plenty of pure profit for the studio and signaling that perhaps a new slew of sequels was on the horizon. Alas, Jason has slumbered since then, although recent rumors suggest we could see a (sigh) found-footage Friday before too long.

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