Rip-offs are a huge part of the horror genre. That’s a fairly well known fact. As soon as something new and innovative comes along that changes the game and makes a ton of money, it kicks off a trend.
That makes the genre oversaturated and tough to wade through at times, but every now and then, there’s a diamond in the rough. A movie can be good no matter why/how it was made. Some of the biggest cult classics, most fun slashers, most entertaining creature features all followed in the footsteps of something that had come before.
Yes, it’s true that most rip-offs are made on the cheap, for a quick cash grab. But every now and then, something stands out. Those unexpected gems can be part of what makes being a horror fan so great.
Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II
Prom Night II might not be as great as Carrie, but it’s an improvement over the original Prom Night, even though it can hardly be called a true sequel. This is such a fun, quirky flick that is entirely its own thing. It’s only fitting to turn a prom-themed slasher into a Carrie rip-off, but it’s done with tongue firmly in cheek.
Cherry Falls is one of the best of the crop of meta teen slashers that followed on the heels of Scream. In some ways, it almost out-Screams Scream itself in its approach to teen slashers and genre tropes and standards. The concept of a killer who only targets virgins is still brilliant.
The best of the post-Jaws animal attack movies, Alligator is better than I think anyone expected it to be. It’s got a great sense of humor, surprisingly strong character work and several great set pieces, particularly when the gator crashes a wedding. The whole thing is such a great twist on the old urban legend of alligators lurking in the New York City sewers.
Motel Hell feels like an attempt to be the next Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It follows so many of those same tropes. It’s a southern, rural setting. We’ve got a pair of hicks killing passersby and turning them into barbecue. There’s even a big chainsaw duel at the very end. But there’s so much food industry satire inherent in this one that I just can’t help but love it.
Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile is marketed to be based on the true story that inspired Psycho. And it definitely is that. It follows several aspects of Ed Gein’s life fairly closely. But the influence of Psycho still hangs over the whole thing, and there are many aspects of this greasy, sleazy, kind of mesmerizing horror that are clearly lifted from Hitchcock’s film in particular.
Critters is well known for being a rip-off of Gremlins. It’s one of several from that era, with similar themed movies like Ghoulies and Hobgoblins. But Critters is different enough to stand apart as its own thing. Yes, the influence is there, but there’s more going on than that. This feels like its own kind of film. There’s much more of a siege element to it, as the Critters have their sights set on a farmhouse instead of destroying the whole town—though they’d get to that in the sequel.
Sure, Friday the 13th was made to cash in on the success of Halloween, but it’s still very much its own movie. The Burning, however, is such a similarly themed summer camp slasher that it’s hard not to see it as a rip-off even when the filmmakers claim they conceived the idea beforehand. Even still, it challenges Friday at its own game and definitely gives that slasher a run for its money. Great score, great kills, memorable villain. That’s all a film like this really needs.