1. A film or piece of music that has been filmed or recorded again.
“A remake of the classic horror film, ‘Poltergeist’”
Another horror movie remake has recently been released – ‘Poltergeist’ – and after a quick Google search I have found out that there are A LOT more to come over the next couple of years…
Remakes are a hot-button topic for any movie fan, regardless of genre, but horror by far has had the worst run of them. I sometimes try to understand why they exist, why people in a position of creative power that can reach a global audience with whatever they choose to create end up making horror movie remakes. All I can come up with is that perhaps they are trying to introduce a new generation (those people that are against watching old, sometimes dated movies) to the classics of the past by digitalising the special effects and giving the characters hipster names.
Don’t be discouraged by the many, many poor horror movie remakes out there though. There are a few gems such as John Carpenter’s (1982) take on ‘The Thing from Another World’ (1951) named simply ‘The Thing’ starring Kurt Russell; and Philip Kaufman’s (1978) remake of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1956) that went by the same name and starred Donald Sutherland – although both of these examples are sci-fi/horror crossovers they are still horror in my book and stand as proof that a good horror movie remake can be achieved. But here are ten examples that didn’t work out so well and helped in giving the horror movie remake the bad reputation it holds today.
Yes. It made the cut.
The original 1982 ‘Poltergeist’ was the first of a trilogy of movies looking in on the lives of the Freeling family as they were continually pursued by hordes of angry and lost spirits. This happy family; with a successful working husband, a housewife, and three children; living in a suburban housing development in sunny California have their idealistic little world torn apart when their youngest child, Carol Anne, begins talking to white noise on the television. Even if you’ve never seen the film, the scenes are iconic and well known – such as the ‘possessed’ clown and tree, Carol Anne with her hands on the television conversing with the ghosts, the stacked chairs. It’s a staple in ghost films. The film was directed by Tobe Hooper, the story itself by Steven Spielberg, and starred the wonderful Zelda Rubinstein and Craig T. Nelson. It won 4 awards including Best Horror Film at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
Did I mention the film is cursed? That’s right; a curse always makes a horror film legendary. Four cast members died between the first film being released and the final third; and a fifth member was murdered in 2009 (Lou Perryman). Two of the four who died due to the supposed curse were the Freeling daughters – Dominique Dunne (the eldest daughter in the first film) was strangled to death, and Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne in all three films) died during surgery of the bowels at aged 12.
2015: A remake of ‘Poltergeist’ has been released.
What went wrong?
They did nothing. In what seems like an attempt to keep the iconic imagery of the original intact they failed to make the film stand out as a reinvention of the story. The few things they did change, such as tossing the scene with the stacked chairs and replacing it with stacked comic books that blew up in the son’s face bombed. It stunk and the kids were annoying. I didn’t care about this family the way I did about the 1982 one – Sam Rockwell being the exception, but that’s just because he is Sam Rockwell. When I watched this I felt as if the curse of the Poltergeist movies had been stirred back to life, not to cause the death of an actor, but to cause the death of Poltergeist.
9. Dawn of the Dead
This 1978 sequel to ‘Night of the Living Dead’ is another George A. Romero classic that follows a small group of survivors (Ken Foree being one of them) through the continuation of the zombie apocalypse as they find and make home in what at first seems like a concrete safe haven from the terror around them. With a heavy agenda on opening the viewers’ eyes to consumerism in a satirical manner, the main setting of the movie is a shopping mall. It is unique as a zombie apocalypse movie from its time because of this focus on consumerism, over-the-top hero behavior/hysteria and the metaphor of the zombie (in the film the mindless zombies flock to the mall). This is not a delicate or subtle movie.
2004: A remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ has been released.
What went wrong?
It’s fast compared to the original, but lacks the depth and power. The message has been stripped from the film and it’s better-acted, gracefully-filmed scenes take away the anarchy that was pretty foundational to the original. I think a lot of its clean cut style comes from this being Zack Snyder’s debut as a director and this version being Hollywood-ized (George A. Romero had complete control of the original film). So unlike the ‘Poltergeist’ remake it tried to make itself something else, but failed to make itself anything more than another zombie film.
8. The Fog
John Carpenter’s 1980 film is a bare-bones ‘local legend’ horror starring not one but two Ladies of Horror – Janet Leigh and her real life daughter Jamie Lee Curtis. This is the tale of a town that was built with blood money plundered from a ship that was then sunk in 1880; and 100 years later to the day the leprosy-ridden Captain and crew return with the fog seeking revenge. Not only did the plot have charm, the cast was fantastic and it was beautifully filmed. ‘The Fog’ is actually an independent film, which is probably why it never got as much recognition as ‘Halloween’.
2005: A remake of ‘The Fog’ has been released.
What went wrong?
A fantastic cast was messed with – this angers me the most when really I should be angrier at the flat characters that caused nothing but confusion. Things were happening, events were taking place and the characters seemed oblivious. There’s no atmosphere and I felt like my life wasting away as I watched it. This is a prime example of why I think horror films are being repackaged to a younger audience – it was modernised and lifeless.
Based on the novel that brought Stephen King in to the public eye, this original 1976 film version of ‘Carrie’ was about a shy 17 year old girl who lives her life under the iron-fist of her religious mother and is bullied at school. She soon discovers during the film that she has powerful telekinetic abilities that she uses to empower herself, gaining her enough confidence to stand up to her mother and go to the prom with the most popular boy in school. Sadly, she realises too late that classmates have a plan to put her back in her place. The film is directed by Brian De Palma and starring Sissy Spacek, who used method acting to take on Carrie’s persona perfectly. Even as she develops and comes out of her shell you still feel the years of abuse she has suffered. Like ‘Poltergeist’ there are so many iconic scenes, including the opening locker room scene that took taboo and handled it with grace.
2013: A remake of ‘Carrie’ has been released.
What went wrong?
They took it too far. Just too far. I genuinely was beginning to come round to the remake; directed by Kimberly Peirce; as I watched but when it got to the prom it took me right out of the movie, they had lost me. Chloe Grace Moretz may look a bit like Sissy Spacek, but she didn’t capture Carrie like Spacek at all so when she started ripping the place apart like Superman in ‘Man of Steel’ I didn’t feel anything for her. It wasn’t that it was a downright terrible film, it’s that it was disappointing – and disappointing can be so much worse.
6. Ringu/The Ring
I remember the buzz from this film, back in 1998, with kids in class claiming to have seen the cursed video from Ringu – it had become real to kids who’d half heard the plot from their older siblings. I was excited to get to see it considering the amount of hype, and I was right to be. The plot took technology and a curse and turned it into a fearful legend. The story begins with two teenagers discussing a supposed cursed tape which brings death to anyone who sees it after 7 days. It is discovered that one of the teens has watched the film and dies soon after, and coincidence has it that the dead teen’s aunt (Nanako Matsushima) is beginning an investigation to find the mysterious tape. Directed by Hideo Nakata, this is the first J-horror I ever saw and I believe it was one of the first to push the trend globally.
2002: A remake of ‘Ringu’ has been released.
What went wrong?
Firstly, the remake was released under the name ‘The Ring’ because not only can’t the Western world read subtitles, we have to English-up titles of movies too. The problem with the remake was exactly this – it was unnecessary and was made because Hollywood thought it would be a great idea to make some money from the Asian horror market by remaking anything that became successful from the branch of horror. The problem with this is that in doing this they are subtly appropriating Asian culture and making money from it; the Western world has a particular idea of what ghosts are, Asian culture has a completely different understanding of them, and all American remakes of Asian films just don’t capture the same chill you get from the originals; they come out weak and lack the complexity of the originals; this one especially did. It may seem like a good idea to remake Asian horror films so the stories will reach a wider Western audience but in reality we are just bastardizing the genre.
This 1978 parody of ‘Jaws’, directed by Joe Dante, is about a school of genetically engineered piranha accidentally being let loose from an abandoned military base in to a local body of water. The main characters have to rush to stop the dam from being opened so the school cannot get in to the lake and water park that the summer camp frequent. It knows it’s an awful film and it runs with it, that’s what made this parody stand out from the others that came during this time.
2010: A remake of ‘Piranha’ has been released.
What went wrong?
This remake was made for one reason only and it was in the name – ‘Piranha 3D’. The 3D craze was at its peak and someone, somewhere thought it would be a great idea to remake Piranha, with lots of topless women, for the ultimate 3D experience. The plot differed in that the Piranhas were prehistoric fish and not genetically altered ones. Directed by Alexandre Aja, this was a horrible excuse for a horror film and very clearly had a different agenda. It was an 88 minute 3D experience and nothing more – there was nothing amusing about it, but there was plenty to be offended about.
This Thai gem, from 2004 and directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, is about a photographer (Ananda Everingham) and his girlfriend (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) and the events that unfold when they discover an odd shadow that is appearing in all their photographs. Although the plot seems bland, it has excellent pace and never gets boring. It is a great example of how a simple plot can always be reinvented.
2008: A remake of ‘Shutter’ has been released.
What went wrong?
The same thing that always goes wrong with these; poor remake with no jumps (unlike the original that had a constant stream), and generally a simplified version of the original. Directed by Masayuki Ochiai and starring some guy from Dawson’s Creek, there’s not much else than can be said about this film but the original was so good compared to the remake that it really deserves its place in fourth.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street
The beginning of the 1984 franchise, written and directed by Wes Craven, was based on the old wives’ tale – if you die in your sleep, you die in real life. In the film a group of teenagers from a small suburban community all start to have strange dreams about a man with a burnt face, a striped jumper and one claw hand. When teens start dying in their sleep, a friend being torn apart while alone in a locked room, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) investigates to uncover the secret being kept by the adults in the neighbourhood while trying all the while not to fall asleep. Also starring Johnny Depp, John Saxon, and Robert Englund as Freddy the movie is a classic in the horror franchise-type. What makes it stand out is the outlandish effects that cross the barrier between dream and reality – it’s a movie that is truly dedicated to its storyline.
2010: A remake of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ has been released.
What went wrong?
The heavy use of digital effects, someone else playing Freddy, its lack of dark and camp-y humour – do you need more? Directed by Samuel Bayer and starring a host of new young actors on the horror scene, it has none of the character or creativity that began the original franchise. From 2003 onwards a horde of horror franchise remakes have been released; they are all terrible and the vast majority have one thing in common – they’re produced by Michael Bay…
2. The Wicker Man
The 1973 classic British horror film has the style and appeal of a Hammer film; Christopher Lee even stars in it. The amazing soundtrack has you feeling as though you are watching some kind of Pagan opera. The film is set on a small rural Scottish island, where a police sergeant has been sent to search for a missing girl, but the unusual townsfolk claim she does not even exist. Directed by Robin Hardy, this is a disturbing film that has the main character unsure of what is real throughout as the occult practices of the town become more and more obvious to the outsider.
2006: A remake of ‘The Wicker Man’ has been released.
What went wrong?
It was pointless and the atmosphere was destroyed by all the fiddling that was done with the plot (not to mention the changing of the soundtrack) and Nicolas Cage was just the worst guy for the leading role. It lacked the suspense and terror that gradually built up in the original and in fact was unable to build up anything but boredom. I feel the decade that the original film was set in was key to the quality of the original film. This is the perfect example of how some films should never be brought up to date.
1. The Hitcher
This 1986 road horror starring Rutger Hauer is one of my favourites. The characters and relationship development between the killer and the boy he’s hunting is so complex and refreshing. Directed by Robert Harmon and written by Eric Red, this is a tense and beautifully filmed story about a young man that escapes a dangerous hitchhiker only to be pursued by him on the road and framed for the murders he has committed. It really is a striking horror film with strong psychological aspects.
2007: A remake of ‘The Hitcher’ has been released.
What went wrong?
Everything. I remember watching this remake and thinking “Why did this happen?” It broke my horror fan heart to see something that was once so wonderful become the mess that was on my television screen. A woman was cast as the lead; I think to make it more modern. That’s great but if the characters are poorly put together it will not hold up. It certainly can’t be considered a feminist piece (which I thought may have been their plan) because the lead woman was accompanied by her boyfriend. Full of plot holes, most scenes don’t even link up to make a coherent plot. This is by far the worst horror remake I have ever seen, and it still hurts to think about.
Guess who was a producer – Michael Bay.