Many people would tell you that the horror genre was destroyed by rip-offs. They’ll say that they sacrifice originality, that they’re an insult to the great creators, directors and writers who make horror so special. But the reality is that the horror genre has been defined by remakes, sequels and, yes, rip offs.
The film business is a business first and foremost and that’s where the money has always been, in copying what’s come before. Usually, it’s a surefire way to make as much money, if not more, while spending less. For a producer, it’s a no-brainer. It’s expected.
Obviously a rip off is rarely, if ever, as good as an original idea. But just like sequels, there are good ones out there. They might not top the original, but some have come surprisingly close.
Even horror fans tend to generalize The Burning as nothing but a complete rip off of Friday the 13th. The accusations make sense: It’s about a legendary killer who’s treated like a campfire story, killing teenagers at the summer camp where he supposedly died. But despite those similarities, The Burning is an extremely satisfying and well put together slasher. Tom Savini’s gore effects equal, if not top, his work in Friday the 13th. Not to mention, the score is great.
Of all of the post-Jaws animal attack movies, Alligator has to be the best. It’s a better film than I think anyone was expecting it to be. The script by John Sayles is scary, funny, and has genuinely believable and sympathetic characters. Plus, you’ve got a great creature in the form of this giant alligator and they really get their money’s worth out of it. It’s carnage candy. We get to watch this beast rampage through a wedding, we get to see it take out unsuspecting swimmers and the whole concept is based around the age-old urban legend of alligators in the sewers.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Exorcism of Emily Rose followed thirty years after The Exorcist, but the bulk of people still referred to it as a rip off at the time—and many do, even now. That’s because The Exorcist defined exorcism movies so completely that it’s all we really associate them with. Plus, this was really the first big, theatrical, high profile exorcism picture to come along in some time. But it stands on its own and features a unique concept in that you can never be totally sure that Emily is even possessed.
After Paranormal Activity, we found ourselves with a surge of found footage movies that we never thought was going to come to an end. Even now, it’s only just beginning to disappear. Not all of them were bad, but a ton of them were. Of those found footage features, Grave Encounters was easily one of the best. It took the idea of a paranormal TV show that just plays things up for the camera and planted the crew in a location that’s haunted beyond belief. The concept was gold and they ran with it in an impressive way.
Cherry Falls may have some budgetary issues and there are more polished post-Scream slashers out there. But I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend didn’t try to do much with the slasher concept in the way that Scream had and Cherry Falls really did make the effort. And in that, I actually think it succeeded. There’s a lot of impressive stuff in this movie. The idea of a killer that only targets virgins is a perfect horror trope inversion that would later be revisited in Chastity Bites.
Or Zombi 2 or Zombie Flesh Eaters or whatever you want to call it. It’s an Italian rip off of Dawn of the Dead that in its own country was actually released as a sequel. And it’s gone on to become a zombie classic in its own right, which is kind of amazing. It’s one of the quintessential productions of gore master Lucio Fulci and remains his most recognizable work. It might not be as polished as Dawn, but it is a masterpiece of blood and guts.