Let’s [try to] appreciate some remakes, huh?
Is it me, or has Hollywood finally finished taking every infamous horror title y’ever heard and turning it into a PG-13 tamo chiller full of shiny looking teen actors who are texting as much as the 14-year-olds in the movie theater are? It’s probably just a respite and won’t be long before that Hell Night redux is regurgitated, along with over-do’s of The Burning, He Knows You’re Alone, and Boardinghouse.
Soza, these are the 19 slasher remakes in worst-to-best order. Let’s open our minds and find good things, can we? CAN WE???
19. Children of the Corn (2009)
Stephen King reportedly hated the 1984 adaptation of his short-story about a Nebraska cult of homicidal brats who worship a corn-god called He Who Walks Behind the Rows. In this made-for-TV re-adap (so not really a remake, as such), things are stripped back to a more faithful interpretation, with David Anders and Kandyse McClure replacing Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton.
What’s good? Nothing. I’ve never been so bored by a COTC movie (OK, Genesis pushed it): The lead couple do nothing but argue, McClure perfects the role of unsympathetic, whinging cow, and, as Issac, original Dexter actor Preston Bailey drowns in both the dramatic weight of the role and the oversized hat he wears. Really, really dreadful.
18. April Fool’s Day (2008)
Another largely in-name-only affair: April Fool’s Day (1986) pit college kids against a mystery killer at an island mansion house. Twenty-two years later, they’re replaced by a group of repugnant rich kids whose prank at a debutante ball ends in a fatality. One year later, April 1st, natch, they are each stalked by a mystery loon who demands the responsible perpetrator fess up or they will die, die, die! The only common ground to be found is the is it/isn’t it a joke thread that runs through it.
What’s good? Again, sod all. Vile, unpleasant characters abound, and consecutive twists are piled up on top of one another at the end. Scout Taylor-Compton is something of a teen-horror jinx.
17. Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming (2013)
This British remake of the 1973 American proto-slasher is just too cheaply made to work effectively. Everyone in the town of Fairwood wants the old Butler house for various reasons, but anyone who ventures inside seems to meet a nasty end at the hands of a bandage-faced killer. What was bizarrely entrancing in ’73 translates without much ado forty years later. Some gore, but nothing you’ll remember by Boxing Day.
What’s good? Adrienne King as the phone voice. But that’s it.
16. Prom Night (2008)
A Prom Night remake was in the works since Randy mentioned it in Scream. It took 12 years, ironically the approximate age at which it seems to be aimed. Again, largely nothing to do with the 1980 classic, a bunch of high school friends are stalked at their senior prom (held at a hotel!?) by the deranged teacher who killed dull final girl Brittany’s family some years earlier.
What’s good? Idris Elba is normally good, though here he’s wasted as a one-note detective. Everything else is tamer than a puppy, polished with slick production values but – even for a teen slasher film – no soul.
15. Train (2008)
Originally conceived as a remake of 1980’s Terror Train, this Hostel-inspired organ-harvesting horror changed it’s mind during production and, by the end, all the remains to link the two films is the locomotive setting and the heroine’s name.
What’s good? Thora Birch, always a reliable choice, impresses as the sort of disinterested final girl, and there’s some grisly stuff.
14. Maniac (2012)
Alexandre Aja wrote this stylishly hollow update on William Lustig’s sleazy 1980 original, which saw loner Joe Spinell scalping young New York females. Elijah Wood takes over the role here, and is far easier on the eye than Spinell, somewhat flip-reversing things, although 95% POV camera work is interesting and Wood is suitably creepy.
What’s good? High-end production values juxtaposed with the seedy plot at least make Maniac interesting to look at if not completely uninvolving.
13. Halloween (2007)
Who’d have thought it? Will they remake Jaws next!? Rob Zombie’s brave (or foolish) retake on Halloween is divisive to say the least. With more of an origin story glued on the beginning, Michael Myers – now a hulking superhuman loon – hacks and hews his way through almost four times as many victims as the 1978 film on his way to track down lil sis Scout Taylor-Compton, a sorry replacement for Jamie Lee Curtis.
What’s good? The ‘remake’ part of the film is dreadful: A grimy, dirty slasher, thick with horrible characters, notable only for Danielle Harris as BFF Annie. However, the ‘young Michael’ years original material is okay fare if you divorce it from the source material.
12. Psycho (1998)
The surefire winner in any ‘pointless remake’ category, Gus Van Sant ventured on a shot-for-shot colorized remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous work. A pre-stardom Vince Vaughn struggles as Norman Bates, while Anne Heche was the natural choice to take on Marion Crane. Then there’s Julianne Moore and William H. Macy along for the ride too!
What’s good? The story will always be awesome, albeit 100% pointless. Look for the cow-of-death.
11. When a Stranger Calls (2006)
After seeing the original 1979 movie, I always thought a remake of When a Stranger Calls should just stretch out those petrifying opening 20 minutes and jettison all the dull character study crap that sent audiences to sleep. WASC 2006 does just that, but, as per Prom Night, tones it all down to PG-13 levels of kid-glove sap, with Camilla Belle as the teen babysitter tormented by creepy calls in a strange house…
What’s good? More of a slasher flick than before, with some dead bodies chucked in, and a nicely done first few minutes – but the film cops out of offing the kiddies, sucking out much of the power that original packed.
10. The Masque of the Red Death (1989)
Look! A remake of olde… Or, rather, a slasher version of the Edgar Allan Poe tale, in which a pretty young photographer crashes a costume party at a castle, where a cloaked and masked killer is laying waste to the guest list, including Sylvester Stallone’s brother Frank.
What’s good? 80s horror is usually funny if nothing else, but my hazy memories of The Masque of the Red Death really only bring to mind a woman tied down beneath a giant pendulum with a sharp edge that swings ever closer to her…
9. Black Christmas (2006)
The original, pre-Halloween Black Christmas is one of the best slasher films ever made, as evidenced by it’s Top 5 placing on the 100 Greatest Slasher Movies not so long ago… This remake, from the team behind the Final Destination films, and featuring some starlets from those movies, is about as stupid as they come, but admittedly fun in a guilty pleasure kinda way. Sorority girls are done in by an eyeball-eating maniac who used to live in the house and has returned for the festive season.
What’s good? The cast, primarily, including an actress from the original film. There are too many characters and a gazillion logical flaws, but Black Christmas has a stupidity charm to it and doesn’t appear to be taking itself too seriously. One of three films on this list that stars Katie Cassidy.
8. My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
My Bloody Valentine of 1981 was a more likely candidate for a remake. It’s awesome but not nearly as well known as some other films that got stuffed through the remake machine. In a largely faithful re-telling, years after a massacre at a mine in a small town, the killer returns to pick-axe the locals anew! Or has he? Credibility was traded in for cheesy 3D FX work, overt nakedness, and a lot of red stuff.
What’s good? Jensen Ackles as beleaguered hero Tom Hanniger fighting with Kerr Smith for the love of his old flame is all good, plus there are some halfway decent chase scenes throughout.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
From Elm Street to Emo Street, Michael Bay was behind this one as well… Teenagers being tormented by bad dreams of a burned, razor-fingered maniac discover that dying in your dream means dying for real – and staying awake isn’t all that easy either. Sticking like flypaper to the original‘s general story, what deviations are made severely detract from the horror. Audiences seemed to agree and plans for sequels seemed to all but collapse.
What’s good? There’s a passing-the-baton between victims, with each one ‘inheriting’ the nightmare from the previous victim. Micro-sleeps are an interesting addition, but the sulkiness of the leading couple is so numbing you’ll think you’re asleep.
6. House of Wax (2005)
Like The Masque of the Red Death, this was a slasherama take on 50s Vincent Price film. Here, a group of young people become stranded in a town dominated by a wax museum that houses some very real looking waxworks…
What’s good? Much was made of it-girl Paris Hilton’s gruesome death scene during promotion, but House of Wax is a fun little flick regardless, with some nasty denouements for a cast of semi-knowns and a good final act as the house literally begins to melt…
5. Silent Night (2012)
Nihilistic, parent-upsetting 80s flick Silent Night, Deadly Night was famously pulled from its theatrical run thanks to picketers at cinemas showing it. Nevertheless, it generated four sequels, and the title was picked up for a remake in 2012. Rather than an arc of a kid who grows up petrified of Santa until he’s forced to don a costume, goes mad, and axes up ‘naughty’ people, it’s a more anonymous-lunatic affair, with the Santa-clad psycho going around a run-down town murdering various miscreants.
What’s good? Malcolm McDowell (not long off the Halloween remake) and Jaime King (not long off the My Bloody Valentine remake) are cops trying to stop the madness. While not taking itself too seriously, there are some brutal, gooey, slayings, and bit of dark humour.
4. Toolbox Murders (2004)
The 1977 original was a skeezy exploitation film had Cameron Mitchell as a woman-hating wacko, whose victims always seemed to be in a state of undress… The 2004 film concerned an old Hollywood hotel-turned-apartment block ‘haunted’ by a deformed killer, who’s less discriminate about who he does in.
What’s good? Everything is better than the first time around; Angela Bettis is a good heroine, while the supporting cast includes Rance Howard and Juliet Landau. Far more of a ‘horror’ film than the original.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Probably the film most responsible for the remake storm, Michael Bay was behind this revisit to Texas, where a van load of teens run afoul of Leatherface and his deranged family. The ’74 original is one headfuck of a film, difficult to ‘get on with’, and is often at the top end of Best Horror Film lists due to its nerve-shredding, head bending, production attributes.
What’s good? If you like to able to ‘rationalise’ your films more easily, then TCM ’03 is more process-friendly. Not that horror should be all straight-forward and ordered, the horrific nature of the original is largely found in its chaos. Still, the brutality was maintained and production polish sugarcoats things somewhat.
2. Sorority Row (2009)
Few people-on-the-street would have ever heard of The House on Sorority Row in the first place to object to this Mean Girls-inspired overhaul, which keeps close to the college-girls-with-a-secret opus, although rather than kill the housemother by accident, it’s another sorority girl who dies in a misfired prank and, eight months later, the responsible party find themselves hunted by a cloaked maniac at their graduation party.
What’s good? Sorority Row strikes a nice balance between horror and comedy, most of which comes from Leah Pipes’ relentlessly bitchy house president, who only cares about saving her own ass, but still comes across as a strangely likeable character. Bloodier than its predecessor but lacking the emotional punch, it’s still one of the better remakes around.
1. Friday the 13th (2009)
Proving it’s quite hard to go wrong with the Jason formula (unless you count Jason X), Michael Bay – again!! – was behind this ‘reboot’, which took elements from the first four Fridays to create this one. A young man searching for his missing sister collides with a group of college kids on vacation and all of them soon find Jason on their asses.
What’s good? Primarily, the first twenty minutes are the epitome of ‘That Friday feeling’: Horny teens, campfire story, bloody murders for all. Things slide a bit for the rest of the film, but for the most part it’s solid by-the-numbers stalk n’ slash, with an abundance of boobs, beer, and stupid decision making. But easily the best slasher remake, redux, reboot, re-whatever so far.
What can we learn from all this?
- Katie Cassidy did a lot of horror remakes
- So did Michael Bay
- He also did those horrible Transformers movies and thus cannot be trusted
- Jason wins all my countdowns
- Almost none of them are as good as the originals