October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article, about the best horror remakes, is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Remakes and reboots have been part of cinema for as long as the medium has existed. Filmmakers have always loved to tell new versions of the same stories. And yet, few things frighten film fans more than remakes. This is especially true for horror fans — whenever new remakes are announced, you can hear a collective groan ripple through the horror community.
It’s a bit of a bizarre phenomenon, isn’t it? It’s not like a remake replaces the film that came before it. One of your beloved movies is getting remade? Guess what, your movie is still there. Worst case scenario, the remake is bad and quickly forgotten. But the best case? The remake is awesome, and now you have two great versions of the same movie to love.
I can’t say for certain that horror remakes occur more often than remakes in other genres, but they feel more frequent. And their success rate is similar to any other film in the genre. Some work and some don’t. Most end up somewhere in between. Since we’re here to celebrate horror remakes, though, you can just push aside those middling films and those that are terrible.
We’ve put together a collection of remakes that you can enjoy and use to win arguments with your annoying friends who tell you remakes are never any good. A quick note: this is a remake list, not a list of new adaptations of stories, novels, etc. So no, you won’t see John Carpenter’s The Thing or David Cronenberg’s The Fly anywhere below.
Keep reading for a look at the best horror remakes as voted on by Anna Swanson, Brad Gullickson, Meg Shields, Jacob Trussell, Kieran Fisher, Rob Hunter, Valerie Ettenhofer, and myself. And if you don’t like our choices, please feel free to remake our list with your own picks.
10. My Bloody Valentine (2009)
The 3D gimmick has never been my thing, but now and then it works. And in 2009, it worked for Patrick Lussier and his remake of 1981’s My Bloody Valentine. Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles) returns to the small mining town he grew up in after the death of his father. His return coincides with the tenth anniversary of a Valentine’s Day massacre, from which Tom barely escaped. Much to his surprise, Tom is now viewed as a suspect.
Lussier shifts things a bit from the original, particularly with the killer, turning this one into more of a murder mystery. The kills are plentiful, with the 3D element used to celebrate the film’s gory carnage, throwing it straight out of the screen and right into our slasher-loving faces. And then there’s Tom Atkins. You always win with Tom Atkins. (Chris Coffel)
9. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
The best remakes improve on the film that came before, and in that regard, The Hills Have Eyes succeeds. Not to discount a single frame of Wes Craven’s classic 1977 shocker – it still shreds every nerve you’ve got four decades later – but by leaning fully into the nuclear-anxiety the original touches upon, Alexandre Aja’s remake has the metaphorical framework to build a blood-soaked story that (dare I say it) elevates it from being just another shocking rehash.
As much as you want the widowed father to kill ‘em all, you also feel a modicum of pity for these mutants caught between their shitty lot in life and the machines of war that created them. With Aja’s white-knuckled hand on the wheel, The Hills Have Eyes is a sticky, sweaty onslaught that proved in 2006 the mid-aughtss remake train could be so much more than a blind money grab. (Jacob Trussell)
8. Fright Night (2011)
Walking into a movie with your arms crossed is never fun, but sometimes our primordial brains can’t help themselves. We’ve been burned too many times by remakes. The original Fright Night from 1985 is a gosh darn delight. Who would dare put their spin on it? Say hi, Craig Gillespie. Huh. The guy who directed Lars and the Real Girl? Yup. He would also go on to helm I, Tonya. That’s a little unexpected, and that’s exciting.
Gillespie’s Fright Night achieves all the giddy bits of nostalgia that the original film was going for, but it does so with a different kind of bouncy glee. This Fright Night leans even further into the perpetual awkwardness that all teenagers face, and the courage we all must adapt to make our way out of high school and into adulthood. Ten minutes into this flick, and your arms will uncross and relax. The 2011 Fright Night is here to have a good time, and you will, too, if you allow it. And frankly, there are too few Anton Yelchin films in this world, and the heart he supplies in Fright Night is a pure blessing. (Brad Gullickson)
7. Maniac (2012)
Franck Khalfoun tackled his 2012 remake of William Lustig’s notorious 1980 slasher by using a point-of-view gimmick. On the surface, that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, and yet it works brilliantly. Elijah Wood stars as Frank Zito, a disturbed young man with mommy issues searching for love.
Unfortunately, Frank’s idea of love includes murdering his partners, scalping them, and attaching their scalps to mannequins. Khalfoun directs with style, Wood gives a chilling performance, and the POV perspective puts us in the killer’s shoes, giving us an intimate relationship with an onscreen killer rarely seen. (Chris Coffel)
6. House of Wax (2005)
“Remakes are always worse than the original,” you say? Then how do you explain the scenes in Jaume Collet-Serra’s House of Wax redux that’ll absolutely make your skin crawl? This is a gnarly take on the original that’s mostly remembered for its cast of mid-2000s TV heart-throbs, among them Chad Michael Murray, Paris Hilton, Jared Padalecki, and Elisha Cuthbert.
Instead, it should be remembered for the squirm-inducing sequence where one character tries to help free another from his wax encasing and instead peels off the guy’s skin while he sits helplessly immobile. Or the scene where a character whose mouth is super-glued shut tries to wave for help through a grate and gets her fingertips clipped off. The film overall might be less-than-perfect, but House of Wax deserves a spot in the body horror hall of fame for its most creatively excruciating moments. (Valerie Ettenhofer)