Remakes are everyone’s favorite go-to conversation topic when they want to be really angry. They’re the number one thing in horror that people get the most aggressive about. And I’m starting to notice more and more that the people who argue this topic do it in absolutes. There’s plenty of “All remakes suck!” and “All remakes are great!” going around.
Of course, that’s not the norm. By and large, there are the remakes that are almost totally maligned and those that are typically praised. It would be completely nonsensical of me to put something like John Carpenter’s The Thing or David Cronenberg’s The Fly on a list of underrated remakes. But when you get into the 2000s, it does get a little tougher to determine which remakes were unfairly despised and which ones weren’t.
I would say that Dawn of the Dead is a pretty beloved remake, and I think Hills Have Eyes is up there, too. For me, it’s a combination of critical reception and fan response that goes into determining something like this.
Here are some movies that just didn’t get that strong reaction from the horror community or the critics, and so are often seen as complete failures when they’re really not.
The Amityville Horror
2005’s Amityville remake is not a great movie. But neither is the original. This one succeeds exactly where it needs to succeed: at being scary. There are not only great jump scares, but great atmosphere and plenty of dread. Ryan Reynolds actually gives a solid performance that’s far removed from the roles he was getting at the time—and the roles he continues to get, for that matter.
This one sort of won people over at the time and then was quickly turned on. After a decade, a lot of people either don’t care or have forgotten about it. But I actually think it’s a pretty solid remake, giving us a new family and a new Leatherface, really a totally different approach to the same basic story, which is what all good remakes should do. Where the original was designed to almost look like it was actually happening, this is a very stylized film, and it works. It’s great to look at.
Craig Gillespie’s Fright Night didn’t win over many fans. It tells the same basic story as the original, but it changes a lot. Fright Night 2: New Blood is actually more faithful to the original. But there’s still a lot of fun to be had in 2011’s Fright Night. It’s got a stellar cast and every one of them really makes the best of their roles. Anton Yelchin stands out as Charley—and his struggle this time is as much focused on the concept of masculinity and what it means to be a man and why you would even want that, as much as it is focused on defeating the vampire.
My Bloody Valentine 3D
My Bloody Valentine 3D is an insanely fun, goofy, gory slasher and that’s exactly what its predecessor was. It’s faithful to the original story, but there are twists and turns for those who’ve seen the original so that they don’t know what to expect. That’s an important thing for remakes to do in order to keep things fresh and different, and it’s something that My Bloody Valentine definitely excels at. Plus, seeing it in the theater back in 2009, it made top-notch use of the 3D gimmick.
Friday the 13th
I almost feel like I’m cheating including this one because I don’t consider it a remake. And I don’t mean that from a point of view of a fan trying to fit it into their sacred, precious continuity, I mean that by looking at the definition of remake. This doesn’t retell the story of Friday the 13th, the original film. It recaps that first feature no more than Friday the 13th Part 2 or The Final Chapter do, and I don’t consider those remakes simply because they recap the end of the first, either. But Friday the 13th is universally considered to be a remake, so I’ll happily include it. It felt like a good, old-fashioned Friday with a great Jason and some inventive kills too.
Village of the Damned
Village of the Damned is far from Carpenter’s best movie, but it’s not his worst, either. There’s actually a lot to like in it. The concept is interesting, the kids are creepy, Christopher Reeve is a really strong and good natured lead and the score is excellent. As much as this is an underrated Carpenter flick, this is absolutely one of his most underrated scores.
It has as many fans as it has detractors. It’s probably the most talked about horror remake ever. Most old-school, diehard fans think it’s the worst remake ever made, though, and that’s far from the truth. I’m not saying it’s perfect or even great. I don’t think all of it works. I think there are moments where the dialogue absolutely doesn’t fit a story like this. But I think it took the right approach to the story in general. This tells the basic story of John Carpenter’s Halloween, but it is completely its own thing, and that’s what a remake should do. It’s not sacrilegious to the first by taking the concept in a different direction. Instead, by doing that, it respectfully manages to avoid stepping on the original’s toes.