Any dedicated horror fan knows that remakes suck hard. Until, that is, they don’t. There are a few greats, which are improvements on the original or creative re-imaginings that just work. From the influential Ringu to reboots like The Hills Have Eyes and The Dawn of the Dead, these best horror movie remakes are here to claim their second helping of screams.
1981 | 2013
Last year at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, all three of the filmmakers on one panel agreed that the best horror remake of all time is 2013’s Evil Dead. Drawing from the first, now classic movie from 1981, this remake re-imagines that quaint cabin in the woods, flipping the gender from Bruce Campbell’s Ash to Jane Levy’s Mia, who is not only battling demons but also an addiction to heroin. With all the kitsch of the first movie, this Evil Dead remake is even gorier, scarier, all-around more intense than the original.
1998 | 2002
The Japanese film Ringu was a sensation in Japan and in the States, making it prime source material for an American remake starring Naomi Watts in 2002. Director Gore Verbinski’s moody take on the plot, with all its eerie imagery, only emphasized the inherent dangers of single parenting and home video. The movie was a huge success at the box office, eventually becoming the most financially successful horror remake of all time.
Night of the Living Dead
1968 | 1990
What this 90s remake of George Romero’s essential original film loses in cultural criticism, it gains in pure devastating nihilism. Unlike the original, this movie’s in color—and there’s something even more terrifying about that opening scene in the cemetery taking place in broad, full-cover daylight. This remake, directed by Romero’s prosthetics and makeup artist Tom Savini, focuses on the character of Barbara as the heroine, shifting the discussion from race to gender.
Dawn of the Dead
1978 | 2004
Controversially, this remake of George Romero’s 1978 classic features zombies that race toward their victims like rabid dogs rather than the lumbering menace of the original. Critics and contemporary audiences were snarky and claimed that the remake couldn’t possibly have the heart of the original. But dedicated horror fans love the remake for its intense gore (with special effects done by Heather Langenkamp’s studio, AFX) and superhuman zombies. Whether you like your zombies more like humans than monsters is, after all, a matter of taste.
1958 | 1986
Most modern audiences probably don’t realize that Cronenberg’s delightfully disgusting 1986 film The Fly is a remake of a kitschy classic from the 50s. Starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, this gross-out body horror movie is a cult classic and fan favorite. The movie was critically acclaimed when it premiered, with its makeup effects and Goldblum’s performance the focus of the praise. The Fly remains the most commercially successful movie of Cronenberg’s to date.
1985 | 2011
Adapted from the original movie from 1985 by none other than Marti Noxon, writer and producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this 2011 remake starring Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell does exactly what a remake is supposed to do: It honors the source material while updating it with joy for a new audience. Much of its success is thanks to the aforementioned great writing, but it’s also Farrell’s vampire Jerry (originally portrayed by Chris Sarandon) that keeps us watching. Though, to be honest, we’d watch Colin Farrell do just about anything (even sitting through Alexander).
The Hills Have Eyes
1977 | 2006
Who would be crazy enough to touch Wes Craven’s 1977 masterpiece The Hills Have Eyes? The two French filmmakers responsible for Haute Tension. Okay, fine. There are just some things you can do in 2006 that Craven couldn’t do in 1977, and boy, does it show in this terrifying joyride through an open desert.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
1974 | 2003
There’s no replacing Tobe Hooper’s original horror masterpiece of 1974. You just can’t. But this 2003 remake still scares in major ways. Starring Jessica Biel (who could’ve had a longer career as a final girl), if this terrifying remake gets younger audiences to see the original movie then it’s done its job. And it’s still plenty horrifying. We may have double, ok, triple-checked all the doors in windows after a screening at our house.
We Are What We Are
2010 | 2013
Horror buffs are the first to acknowledge the excellent source material for this 2013 American remake of a 2010 Mexican horror movie, but most agree that the remake is better. Whether it’s the relish that the filmmakers take in the cannibalistic scenes or its commentary on the dangers of religious obsession, this movie just bangs.
Featured still from "The Ring" via DreamWorks