To preface this article, I’d like to openly acknowledge the fact that there isn’t a single “great” film on this list. Furthermore, given the concept of this piece, it’s safe to say that you’re not going to read about any significantly original films either.
The whole remake thing kind of blew those hopes out of the water. That said, we’re going to eye 10 remakes/reboots/reimaginings that were forced through the meat grinder upon arrival, despite the fact that they didn’t entirely deserve such brutish treatment.
Believe it or not, there are a few remakes out there worth watching. The horror world would have you believe that not a single film on this list qualifies, but I’m here – battling valiantly – to prove the voices of many wrong. Dig in for a closer look at some remakes that, while not monumental, still offer some redeeming qualities.
Black Christmas: Okay, let’s be real; Bob Clark’s original Black Christmas is about as close as you can get to a perfect film. From the palpable tension, the deep mystery and the haunting anonymity of said mystery and mysterious killer, you can’t ask for much more. But Glen Morgan’s 2006 reboot differed in just about every way imaginable. Gone are imaginative camera angles, severe claustrophobia and legit intrigue; in place is a direct forward tale that paints the killer in bright and obvious light. We know exactly what’s unfolding in this film, and while that extinguishes the unknown, it works – in positive fashion – on a completely different level. The aesthetic value (this film looks like Christmas like none other has ever accomplished) is priceless, and while tense sequences are a tad predictable, the gratuitous payoffs can be priceless.
My recommendation: Pretend the original doesn’t exist and prepare yourself for dumb, violent fun. Just don’t eat those flesh cookies!
Fright Night: Let’s get this out of the way immediately: The visual effects featured in Craig Gillespie’s Fright Night remake are terrible. Okay, they’re not terrible; they’re nauseatingly bad, embarrassingly stomach aching and downright despicable (I haven’t checked stats, but there may have actually been theatrical fatalities after being embarrassed to death by this shit). If there’s a film you can point at and say, “Now those are wretched special effects,” Fright Night is that movie. However, there’s a lot going on in this flick outside of the special effects alone.
Colin Farrell is particularly impressive as Jerry, the resident bloodsucker who’s taken to feeding on local Las Vegas call girls. Anton Yelchin – once you’ve accepted his rather extreme personality shift as Charley Brewster – works as a fine protagonist (thank the higher powers his conscience finally begins to tug at him). And the final showdown between the two, if you can get beyond the horrendous CGI sequences featuring both Charley and Jerry in the build-up (in regards to visual effects exclusively), it actually feels quite rewarding.
What it boils down to is this: Be willing to look beyond the visual effects and you’ll likely have a fine viewing experience.
Halloween: Rob Zombie certainly didn’t nail a reimagining of John Carpenter’s Halloween in pitch-perfect fashion. There is an abundance of negative factors that come into play when studying this highly anticipated reboot. The pacing is horrendous, the casting is borderline embarrassing and the “Halloween” vibe earns serious neglect. That said, there aren’t many who could have made this one a certified masterpiece. John Carpenter did that quite well in 1978, and he may well be the only man capable of pulling off such a feat.
However, Rob’s attempt to bring Michael’s origin to the surface of things – something we hadn’t seen in previous installments – is noteworthy. Unlike countless filmmakers, Rob was driven to paint a more complex origin of the infamous Michael Myers, and whether you can support Rob’s first film as whole, it’s hard to deny the effort he put into the mythos of Michael Myers. The backstory makes for a completely new angle. It’s almost like watching a film from a completely different camera POV and catching a load of minor details you may have previously missed.
The casting could have been elevated quite a bit (sorry, Scout, but you fail), but at least we get a chance to see Brad Dourif in one of his greatest roles. This dude was born to play Sheriff Brackett.
Thir13en Ghosts: I won’t lie to you: The script for Steve Beck’s rendition of Thir13en Ghosts is a bit on the safe side. That said, it doesn’t really need to be overly intricate. William Castle’s original film is dreadful at best so virtually any director with a pulse could turn this one into a markedly improved product, even with a flat screenplay.
And that’s what we get from this reboot. The story isn’t spectacular, plot intricacies are nearly nonexistent, but what this flick has going for it is powerful visuals. The ghostly apparitions are quite jarring, and the breakneck pace of the film puts the original to complete shame. Hell, the introductory shot alone puts the original to shame. Is this remake amazing? No. But it’s a notably stronger effort than that offered by William Castle in 1960, and it’s profoundly more enjoyable than critics were eager to admit.
House on Haunted Hill: House on Haunted Hill and Thir13en Ghosts play out as essentially carbon copies of one another. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, but don’t anticipate any mind boggling differences between these flicks. Visually the edge likely goes to Thir13en Ghosts, but House on Haunted Hill has some creepy atmosphere going for it… and that damned super-fast blurry motion effect that – admittedly – blows my mind every time I see it.
There may be quite the abundance of plot holes to contend with here, and one of the strangest onscreen ensembles you’ll spot, but there’s brainless fun to be had. When compared directly to the original Vincent Price piece, the pic holds up pretty well. I love William Castle’s original, but let’s be real: The film is a little bit of a hackjob, despite its charm.
The Stepfather: It’s a little baffling how much disdain this remake drew. The ire was almost tangible, and truth be told, this Stepfather doesn’t really deserve that form of response. It’s not remotely near as chilling as Joseph Ruben’s flick, no doubt about it. Dylan Walsh is no Terry O’Quinn for that matter either. However, when Dylan snaps, it’s startling, and the man, no doubt, is frightening in his darkest moments. It’s a little flashy, I’ll openly admit. But any time this one hits the waves, I can’t help but to watch it.
You’ve got to admit, the “Who am I here?!” scene is exponentially better than it should have been. Those kinds of iconic shots seem damn near impossible to pull off, but in this case it actually worked out. That alone deserves really big points.
This is the type of motion picture that had no hope of rivaling the original source. It wasn’t going to happen. Terry O’Quinn delivered a once in a lifetime performance back in 1987, and kudos to him. That however isn’t a valid reason to crucify Walsh, who himself did a solid job as the face-changing killer in search of the perfect family.
The next time you’re thinking of dismissing this one, or refusing it a second chance, think for one moment and pretend the original film was never made. Now ask yourself: Could you have dug Nelson McCormick’s flick and the outrageous idea on display if an original feature had never been made? It’s still a cool enough idea that I’d be interested whether Joseph Ruben’s pic existed or not.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: Here come a few picks that all but guarantee death threats via email. Sometimes a film is so insanely beloved that rebooting or reimagining it is considered two levels beyond taboo. A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of those movies. How dare Samuel Bayer and Platinum Dunes touch this oft-worshipped classic?! They just defecated on brilliance!
Well… not exactly.
There are some horrendous pacing issues in the film (a recurring theme on this list), and character focus is so blurred that we the viewer aren’t even certain of whom we’re supposed to be cheering for. Is it Kris? Is it Nancy? If not for Craven’s original, we’d never have a damn clue with how much emphasis is placed on Kris in the first act of the film. Okay, big, big errors there. Hell, there are problems with the cast as well. Rooney Mara is a despicable human being who phones in a flat performance, and Thomas Dekker couldn’t act his way out of a community college class. However – and this is where it gets tricky – Jackie Earle Haley is a pitch-perfect, astoundingly terrifying Freddy Krueger. Significantly more unsettling than Robert Englund, dare I say.
It’s messy, but between Haley’s depiction of Fred (the moment in which he advances on Dekker’s character and asks, “You think you can bring the dead back to life?” to which Dekker’s character quickly answers, “No,” before Krueger leans in even closer and says, “I didn’t fuckin’ think so!” is the single most frightening shot I’ve ever seen from the famed Krueger character), the amazing and shockingly realistic makeup work and Kyle Gallner’s all or nothing approach to the film, there’s something good to see here. Is it as good as Wes Craven’s original or Dream Warriors or even Wes Craven’s New Nightmare? Nah, but it’s damn chilling when it needs to be, and it’s clearly better than many would have you believe.
Friday the 13th: Oh no, he didn’t! Yes, he did. If you didn’t get a kick out of Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th reworking, you might not have a pulse. First off, the manner in which the writing crew successfully incorporated key elements of the first four Friday flicks was genius. It was new… and not new… simultaneously. Swing, and a hit. Next up, we get treated to one of the strongest ensembles any Friday film has ever boasted. Acting has never, ever taken priority in these films, but there are strong performers cast in this case, completely breaking the expected mold.
Jared Padalecki is a fine hero, Travis Van Winkle is extremely convincing as the Super Dick, Danielle Panabaker is a young Scream Queen worthy of supporting and Aaron Yoo delivers some honest to goodness funny punch-lines. And finally, the real kicker of this flick: quick, agile, wrecking ball, Jason. This hulking beast isn’t shambling through the shadows this time around. He’s more likely to clothesline your ass runnin’ 30 miles per hour. That alone could take a head off, who needs a machete?
Derek Mears brings a superb physicality to this one, and he alone travels a great distance in stealing the show. But he doesn’t, entirely, and he doesn’t carry the entertainment exclusively. He’s got help, and it’s a damn pleasure to see. Not since the first few Friday films has the Voorhees’ murderous family tradition been this thrilling, his victims so engaging.
The Thing: Technically, The Thing wasn’t a remake. Except it kind of was a remake… of a remake. Redundancy was going to be a challenging obstacle to avoid as it is, given the fact that John Carpenter’s own remake painted the fate of the Norwegian base camp members pretty damn clear. It looked awfully obvious that the alien had been thawed/escaped and tore that camp apart from the inside out thanks to that nifty ability to absorb and shapeshift. You know, exactly what happens back at the American camp. So, right off the bat, it was probably reasonable to ward off any hope of a deeply thought-provoking concept.
With that said, the other big misfire comes in the excessive visual effects use. High caliber practical work isn’t easy, cheap or timely. It can actually be hell on set and delay schedules like you couldn’t imagine (look into the production of Jaws for a fine example of this form of hiccup). But computer graphics, while tedious in the task of creation, are something of a safer bet. The challenges that can occur when dealing with practical effects can typically be worked around and properly manipulated with the assistance of computers. But to remake The Thing (or make a prequel, if you prefer) with CGI-heavy SFX feels truly blasphemous.
The effects of the original were instrumental in the pic’s overall greatness. They are still to this day among the best effects you’ll find on film. You simply cannot cheat in that particular department if you’re out to create an amazing new chapter of a cherished story. In case you forgot, someone did some serious cheating.
But oddly enough, outside of those detriments, there are some real strengths to be unearthed. The script is much sharper than I initially believed after my inaugural viewing. There are some layers to the story that work, and the steady stream of tie-ins to Carpenter’s classic are greatly appreciated. A female is successfully infused into the story, and oddly enough (I have no idea if this was intentional or not) Ulrich Thomsen, who basically plays the “mad scientist,” looks a little bit like Robert Cornthwaite, who plays his mirror in The Thing from Another World, the first cinematic transfer of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s story, “Who Goes There?” It’s a really loose link that plays as strangely charming.
I certainly can’t claim the latest rendition of The Thing is a great movie. At all. But there are some killer sequences in the picture. I know because it’s one of those pics that no matter when it’s on, I find myself watching. That means something in my book.
House of Wax: Sometimes it’s best to just completely discard established groundwork, which is pretty much what director Jaume Collet-Serra opted for when putting together a House of Wax remake. The very first time this story was shot, it was loaded with comic relief and dumped on the masses under the title of Mystery of the Wax Museum. Fast forward 20 years and director André de Toth cast Vincent Price in the lead and eliminated a whole lot of the hokey jokes that hurt the first film.
Now, fast forward 52 more years, and not only has Collet-Serra kept the laughs away, we’ve also got what is basically a totally different story. In the Price version it all boils down to greed, jealousy, a flaming museum and a little cruel justice dealt to his seedy business partner. Warner Brothers’ 2005 flick has nothing to do with any of that… other than a building engulfed in flames.
This one travels the teen slasher route as a handful of kids find themselves stuck in what seems a ghost town. Well, it is a ghost town, as all the inhabitants have been turned into real life wax displays by a pair of lunatic brothers, and this group of traveling youngsters are next in line. Although radically different, this could easily be labeled the most entertaining House of Wax pic yet. Paris Hilton gets herself mutilated (always a plus), Jared Padalecki makes an appearance, the stunning Elisha Cuthbert flaunts her stuff and Chad Michael Murray proved he’s capable of shaking that awful “One Tree Hill” stigma.
So much better than pundits initially chirped!
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