Remakes, reboot, reimaginings, and or reconfigurations get a bad rap. Just as there is no guarantee an original horror movie will be worthwhile, not all remakes are lazy, cynical cash grabs leveraging the name recognition of the original film of franchise. Some of the best horror movies of all-time are remakes (or, in the case of Aliens, a sequel). The Thing and The Fly are remakes. More recently, the outstanding The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a remake. While your list may vary, the list of recent remakes that are actually pretty decent is a long one: The Ring, Maniac, Piranha, The Hills Have Eyes, My Bloody Valentine, Evil Dead, and House on Haunted Hill. The reflexive nature of loathing remakes and lamenting the lack of originality in Hollywood is tired. They are here to stay, and it’s better to accept their existence and judge each one on its own terms as opposed to groaning every time there’s a new update on the next Friday the 13th movie. So in the spirit of learning to live with and even embrace remakes, here is a list of five underrated remakes that deserve more respect (or a viewing if you’ve never bothered).
This one came and went from theaters pretty quietly and quickly. The general consensus seemed to be that it was OK but nothing to write home about. It’s actually better than that, thanks, in no small part, to the exceptionally talented Timothy Olyphant’s great performance as the small-town sheriff. He’s aided by a strong supporting cast and an effective sense of mounting dread as neighbors start to turn on one another. For the most part the “boo” scares work and there’s some top-notch work from the makeup effects team at Almost Human.
Yes the CGI is terrible, and yes there should be less of it. Now that that is out of the way, let’s focus on the positives, and there are many. This is a really fun, funny movie. Colin Farrell (underrated in his own right) is a great Jerry Dandridge and Anton Yelchin is a very likeable Charley Brewster. Add to that Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Dave Franco, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse and you’ve got an excellent ensemble cast. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s rife with humor, and it delivers the gore when needed.
A box office dud as well as a letdown after The Hills Have Eyes remake turned out so well, this remake of a sequel (or is it a sequel of a remake?) penned by Wes Craven and his son is a really nasty piece of work that plays well on the small screen. Lots of people die in excruciating, graphic fashion, and it does not hold back on the red stuff. The isolated, desert setting remains a suitable fit for the genre, and as per usual the fine folks at KNB do stellar makeup effects work. Not as good as its immediate predecessor, but better than you’d expect.
As far as slashers that provide nothing more or less than dumb fun, this one fits the bill and is incredibly easy to watch. It boasts some totally over-the-top and bloody kills (the bottle is a highlight), a rapid pace, and a lot of familiar faces you love or love-to-hate (Jamie Chung, Matt O’Leary, Carrie Fisher, Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes). As a mystery it doesn’t really work, and you won’t much care who the killer is, but anyone who enjoys slasher movies and mindless entertainment will find their time is well-spent.
A disappointment based on the original theatrical viewing (and wouldn’t it be a VOD movie today?), director Glen Morgan’s update of arguably the best slasher movie ever plays much better at home. It’s much easier to ignore the unintentional humor, general inanity, and complete lack of even token attempts at developing appealing characters. You can relax in your favorite chair and enjoy the extremely gruesome violence and talented collection of actresses. It doesn’t hold a candle to the original, but when judged as straightforward home entertainment, it holds its own.