You read the headline correctly. The number of horror classics that could be remade outnumbers the number that shouldn’t be. I’ve bought into it. I’ve seen enough good examples of remakes done well to no longer balk at the announcement of a new one outright (and I’m sure 5 more will be green-lit by the time I’ve finished typ…okay 5 more just got green-lit…); and if early word on the new Evil Dead picture is to be believed then it’s just one more punctured notch into the human-skinned belt of worthwhile horror remakes.
No horror picture is safe from being resuscitated and put back through a brand new shiny meat grinder. Sometimes we get unexpectedly tasty ground sirloin; and sometimes we get mildewy grotesqueness reminiscent of “The Stuff” (which could use a remake).
Talented filmmakers will make a good picture while talented accountants will make money. Sometimes both can be satisfied, and that readily occurs in the production of a horror remake because they’re cheap to make, easy to sell, and fun to play around with. They’re the pancakes of the film industry. Almost any horror picture is capable of being remade well given the right kind of people with the right kind of attitude.
While it feels like everything’s already been remade, there are still a few stragglers that haven’t. Here are 5 that shouldn’t and 10 where an update might not be so bad.
5 Pieces of Sacred Ground
ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
Roman Polanski’s masterpiece of warranted paranoia about a housewife wary of her next door neighbors’ intense involvement and obsessiveness with the care of her unborn child would most likely yield a perverse remake that would foolishly try to be scary. Rosemary’s Baby is one of the horror classics that doesn’t attempt to frighten you so much as make you feel uneasily tense. The terror comes mostly in the final reveal, but up to then, it’s simply a story of who’s to be believed and who is to be trusted.
Unless you got someone with a little bit of maturity behind the camera (and a modern day cast to rival Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes and Ruth Gordon in an Academy Award winning performance) what you’d most likely get is a competent filmmaker caving under the pressure of a studio head to add in a ton of jump scares so the movie could be sold for Halloween, and someone like Jessica Alba to run around pregnantly in her underwear for no real reason.
A remake of Jaws would simply be a whole lot less. Too noticeably less. It’s a timeless movie in almost every regard short of fashion, and truthfully Roy Scheider makes male Daisy Duke-like shorts look pretty damn good. Everything about the picture is so close to flawless that it can’t be replicated. In fact, Spielberg had to mistake his way into a perfect picture about a shark terrorizing the waters of a vacation community.
In order to film a comparable remake of Jaws you’d have to go through hell to do so, and if you’re lucky you’d only be able to say that you attempted to remake Jaws. Jaws is what happens when you get some of the most talented people in the world and place them in the middle of the ocean with a camera and a tuba. The only way you could get something remotely good by remaking it would be to do a mockumentary about a group of people trying their best to do a remake of Jaws.
THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987)
Hopefully Platinum Dunes never gets their act together on this one. Casting a group of mostly inexperienced middle school actors to carry an entire movie primarily on their charm, chemistry and ability to read Shane Black dialogue is almost like capturing lightning in a bottle. The concept is beyond the realm of cool and sets up camp in the center of Badass Park. A gang of pre-teen horror film enthusiasts realize their small suburban town is gonna get taken over by the forces of evil, lead by the likes of Dracula, The Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and two of the more heartfelt and sympathetic portrayals of two of Universal’s key monsters with John Gries as the tormented Wolfman and Tom Noonan as the irresistibly sweet Frankenstein’s monster.
Much like the 4 other pictures on this list, it’s almost impossible to replicate the cast (especially the youngsters), and more so Black’s sharp-witted writing. This is something that Joss Whedon would do and do well, but even Whedon would have a very difficult time finding these types of kids to fill these kinds of roles. Not to mention, Duncan Regehr as Dracula gives one of the more under-noticed portrayals of the character. It’s top 3 of all-time level stuff. A new take on the flick probably wouldn’t be a failure, but it’s most certainly gonna come off as merely a poser.
28 DAYS LATER (2002)
One of the modern masterpieces of horror, Danny Boyle‘s picture single-handedly revitalized a stagnant zombie genre that’s resulted in a cultural zombie boom in the decade since. For the first time in the history of the planet, zombies are sexy and while Boyle’s picture was only a small spark, it helped ignite a humongous flame that was followed by Zack Snyder’s remake of the quintessential zombie picture (Dawn of the Dead), a fantastic sequel, and most recently the phenomenon that is AMC’s The Walking Dead.
While it seems strange to praise the remake of *the* zombie picture done by Zack Snyder and still condemn a potential remake of Danny Boyle’s film it’s more rooted in the fact that the zombie sub-genre of horror shouldn’t ever necessitate a remake of any prior story. The only thing that Snyder’s picture really shared with George Romero’s original was the shopping mall setting. He could have set it inside an IKEA and it still be just as good, even further removed itself from Romero’s movie, and had delicious meatballs for only $2.00. The point is a remake of 28 Days Later wouldn’t be bad, just useless. If you include a zombie in your story, you’re almost 40% close to being a horror movie. No need to borrow the other 60 percent. In fact, spend your time writing the prequel, The 27 Days In Between.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
It’s not too soon to think of this as a modern masterpiece of horror. Conceptually, we’re working with satirical brilliance that knows deeply about horror genre conventions and takes them someplace completely unexpected. It is almost impossible to guess what tricks are up this film’s sleeve. This is what happens when you get intelligent, insightful and witty individuals to focus on something as historically juvenile as the slasher genre.
A remake of Cabin in the Woods would only say the same things about a genre that may no longer be bound by the same conventions and probably wouldn’t be nearly as funny. It’s difficult to make an audience laugh at the same joke twice. You’d almost have to hope the horror genre evolves and makes new tropes, but then we wouldn’t have a remake of Cabin in the Woods. It’ll probably be Cameras Irritate Ghosts.
As for these next 10 bad boys, a second go-around may not be too bad of an idea.
10 Horror Movies That Could Be Remade
Helmed by one of horror’s great masters and the man behind one of the greatest remakes of all-time, someone giving him the same treatment and level of respect with this somewhat outdated picture could be welcome. This is hardly one of Cronenberg’s best, but it’s amongst his most famous because of one specific, “mindblowing” scene and the make-up work involved. Keep the scene and the practical effects work and almost everything else could conceivably be upgraded for the better.
Not exactly up to par with Carpenter’s other work from the ’80s (most notably his own classic remake),t this Stephen King adaptation of a possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury is not the pristine classic that the car itself is. The story itself is somewhat ridiculous, but it can be done well. If nothing else it could be consolidated into a Fast and Furious sequel. Fast Seven: The Possession.
A prostitute gets pricked with a demonic artifact in a movie theater and proceeds to infect other patrons. If Zack Snyder can do a good job remaking a classic zombie movie that takes place in a shopping mall, someone else can have a ball doing something similar to a movie that isn’t quite as highly revered as Dawn of the Dead, yet is still one hell of an entertaining gore picture. As long as no rappers are cast, everything could turn out just fine and just as fun.
The first picture from Alejandro Amenabar (The Others and the Vanilla Sky original Abre Los Ojos) is very much the work of a recognizably talented storyteller with very little money. A university student is doing research on violence and comes across a snuff film of a girl being tortured to death. When she comes to find out the girl in the video was a former student at the university, she immerses herself into the investigation of the film’s history.
This is the picture that 8MM attempted to be. Given the right talent, a remake of this could be the picture that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (either of them) turned out to be.
THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)
This underseen classic starring Boris Karloff from the canon of Val Lewton, and directed by a younger Robert Wise, was one of the more difficult to consider being remade if only because of the powerhouse performance from Karloff as the conniving buggy driver and grave digger for hire. It’s seductively sinister with an air of sophistication, yet unpolished. However, the story of a surgeon going through illegal channels to obtain carcasses of test cases for his experiments and research has been told many times since. Cast yourself a Ben Kingsley or Jeremy Irons in Karloff’s role and you could really have something. Whichever one you don’t cast for Karloff’s role you should cast as the surgeon and really get a magical duel going.
Clowns are freaky. Giant demon spiders disguised as clowns are not. Change the story. Or, benefit from a decade’s worth of CG work on the likes of giant spiders and make it look better.
The obvious difficulty in remaking this Stephen King TV miniseries will be in finding a suitable replacement for Tim Curry in his frightening portrayal as Pennywise. Worse comes to worse you can always rehire Tim Curry, or cast Denis Lavant (Holy Motors) because that guy can practically do anything, and Pennywise would be more terrifying speaking French. Imagine being in the presence of a demon clown you can’t understand. Shivers.
An extended director’s cut of Clive Barker’s adaptation of his own novel has been in sporadic circulation for the past 3 or 4 years when old, previously unreleased footage had been recovered. While I’m sure the additional material can add to some of the strange story leaps early in the picture, something tells me that Barker was going for something a bit more grand and epic visually with this story.
With thematic undertones that are possibly more pertinent today than they were upon the film’s initial release, and with the advancements in CG to help with the scope of the underworld of Midian that maintains the exceptional make-up work (think something like Del Toro’s Hellboy pictures), a revisitation to Nightbreed could result in something truly special.
Not to condone a remake of this French shock picture, nor to say that a remake would even be welcome, but more an admission that a remake could produce something good. If the new Evil Dead is as gruesome as advertised then there’s nothing keeping this film from being retold. And, unlike its contemporaries from France (High Tension and Inside) there’s more to Martyrs than just the desire to shock with its visceral brutality.
A remake of Inside or High Tension that was just as extreme as the original would wield the exact same movie only in English, while a remake of Martyrs could say something different in respect to its themes in the process of translation from old film to new.
NEAR DARK (1987)
This is the third picture on this list from early in the career of an eventual Academy Award winner. If nothing else let that be a lesson to you that the young horror filmmakers of today are likely to be the Academy Award winners of tomorrow…when they stop focusing on horror and make war movies, musicals or adapt J.R.R. Tolkien.
This early picture from Kathryn Bigelow about a young man who joins a group of killer vampires when he falls in love with the younger female is ripe for a remake, and in fact, many of the elements of this picture have been applied to vampire pictures released since. This is the movie that men wished Twilight would have been. A remake should happen just so men can look at their girlfriends and say “…but it has romance…”
Finding a suitable substitute for the intimidating presence that is Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man is no small feat, but almost everything else about this Don Coscarelli picture could benefit from a well-intentioned facelift. While Scrimm is the face of the franchise, the killer orbs are the star of the show, and I’m pretty sure finding shiny flying tree ornaments won’t be an issue. Plus, finding new ways for them to dig into their prey’s skull is what an energetic young filmmaker lives for.
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