Ok, so that may be slightly misleading, but I had to get your attention. The truth is that remakes and sequels, horror or otherwise, tend towards merely being insipidly contrived shadows of their predecessors; retreading formulas with less impact or merely upping the genre staples whilst degrading the narrative, acting, and soul.
But every once in awhile something comes along that manages to somehow live up to the original and occasionally, very rarely, actually surpasses it. It’s the dirty truth that no-one likes to talk about since we all have far too much pride and taste to ever admit such a thing. But it’s true and I’m going to put myself out on a limb here by drawing up a couple of lists that are, like it or not, evidence in my favour.
Since Halloween is rearing it’s malformed, severed head I’ve decided to focus on one of my most comfortingly favoured genres of movie; Horror, to help create the second of what will be four features I do this year in honour of this much loved holiday.
First up are the remakes. Listed in order of greatness as a standalone film.
Top 12 remakes
- The Thing
- Try to argue with me here. Sure the original 50’s version had it’s charm, but Carpenter’s extraordinary re-imagining is a startlingly mature and atmospheric vision of horror that stands tall as one of the finest horror movies ever made and arguably Carpenter’s greatest achievement.
- Dawn Of The Dead
- Yes, you read correctly. I’m braving the torrents of abuse I’ll be dealt out here by stating that I think that Snyder’s remake is a better film than the original. Sure it’s not got the camp, relaxed adventurous feel of Romero’s classic. But it’s far more entertaining and is packed full of brilliant visual ideas. A modern horror classic.
- The Hills Have Eyes
- Back when director Aja meant business (and wasn’t goofing off with atrocity Mirrors or fun-but-dumb Piranha 3D) he followed up his sublime Switchblade Romance with this brutal, beautiful and incredibly entertaining flick. It’s twist on the original – with the victims tracking down the killers to bring them down – makes for the best scene in the movie and it finds just the right balance between entertainment and grim violence.
- The Ring
- OK, so I’m not stupid. I’m not actually claiming that Verbinski’s version is actually better than Ringu because it’s not. But it is just as good in a completely different way. The American slant means the characters are paper thin and just bumble through the narrative rather than investigating like their Japanese counterparts do, but Verbinski finds a style and atmosphere all of his own that lets his version shine on it’s own terms. A brilliant film regardless of it’s origins.
- Let Me In
- Pretty much the same can be said here; Matt Reeves mines the much-loved original and manages to find his own voice. Judged on their own merits purely as films it’s hard to pick a favourite, though Reeves version appeals to me ever so slightly more than the brilliant original. It’s just a shame it’s a gorgeous film born out of a completely pointless exercise in this case.
- The Crazies
- The surprise horror hit of the year wasn’t perfect but it was damn entertaining and it certainly surpassed Romero’s original version. It may not be as politically minded but it’s a far more successful horror movie on every level, sporting great set-pieces and a visual flourish that’s all but absent from it’s source material.
- The Fly
- This isn’t really my sort of film to be honest, but it’s pedigree is obvious. Which is why it’s so low on my list, perhaps unfairly. It certainly trumps it’s original and any film boasting a lead performance by Jeff Goldblum is fine by me.
- The Blob
- Currently being remade again by Rob Zombie, this 80’s remake of the classic b-movie is a few nudges away from being as good as The Thing and is certainly a lost gem. It’s fun, gory, and excellently paced and is perfect for a midnight viewing.
- Friday The 13th
- Come on. I know everyone seems to hate this film, but I still vouch for it as Platinum Dunes only real success. Sure it wasn’t all it could have been by any stretch but it’s a damn sight better than the original movie which was hokey, stilted and boring. This is a flawed but fiercely fun slasher movie.
- When A Stranger Calls
- Again. Everyone hates this movie but I really enjoyed it! So sue me. It’s slick, well paced, thrilling and sexy. The original has a cult following so my apologies for disagreeing with you all – this is a great little movie.
- I Spit On Your Grave
- Better direction? Check. Better acting? Check. A more believable feminist slant? Check. Just as harrowing? Check. This remake isn’t my favourite horror of the year by far, but it really surprised by packing a lot of punch and some real personality, particularly in the end scenes, where as the original was just offensively muddled.
- House Of Wax
- One last controversial choice (I actually think the original My Bloody Valentine is far better than it’s sequel which is why it’s not included on this list in case you were wondering!); this extremely polished affair is surprisingly thrilling and builds to a very well shot and bizarre finale. Far better than you’d imagine.
Now we come to the sequels. I have to admit that my argument comes a little unhinged here as there’s only two titles that I can confidently state surpass they’re predecessors completely. But the others on this list are incredibly strong candidates that certainly manage to equal their originals and depending on your mood may actually trump them.
Top 10 Sequels
- Jeepers Creepers 2
- The first half of it’s prequel was a sterling exercise in slow-build tension and uncertain dread but then collapsed into a Stephen King-alike hokey second half that scuppered any fear. The sequel is essentially the 2nd half of the original done right and remains one of the most enjoyable blockbuster horror films of the past few decades with a great simple premise reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.
- Jamie Lee Curtis returned to the franchise with this magnificent entry that was her own pet project. Thankfully Carpenter didn’t return and the ever reliable Steve Miner took over and crafted the ultimate 90’s slasher flick. It’s fun, post modern (but not cringe-worthy), thrilling and slick with perfect pacing and an incredibly satisfying finale that was only tarnished by the insipid sequel.
- [REC] 2
- The second in what is now a quartet of movies –this is, in my humble opinion, a better film than it’s predecessor. But only just. It’s multiple protagonists, more assertive narrative, and surprisingly nasty twist on the mythology help to create an even more claustrophobic and visceral experience than last time round. Brilliant.
- Dawn Of The Dead
- Night of the Living Dead was the movie that changed my life when I first saw it at the impressionable age of fifteen and it remains my personal favourite zombie film of all time. But there’s no arguing that Dawn of the Dead is a scintillatingly enjoyable alternative. Packed with subtext and boasting a gloriously meandering narrative that may lack any fear whatsoever but really ingests you into the mundane reality of day-to-day life in an apocalypse, this is an absolute classic and is still just as relevant today as it was in the 70’s.
- Cold Prey 2
- With the prequel coming to screens this year in Norway, this worthy sequel to the brilliant original manages to follow on from the very moment the first ends to create the perfect double-bill. It’s essentially what Halloween 2 (either version) should have been, set largely in a hospital the night after the originals murders. It’s equally slick, thrilling, and stylish with some great moments and the pair remain one of the very best examples of 90’s style slasher horror despite being made in the past few years.
- Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
- Craven’s return to Freddy was an incredibly exciting prospect and New Nightmare is still possibly the most successful post modern horror film working as a clear predecessor to his own Scream that would break a couple of years later. There’s a few dated effects in there now but for the most part this is an incredibly successful sequel that’s stood the test of time as one of the most unique and fascinating takes on the slasher genre. A truly brilliant movie.
- Paranormal Activity 2
- New to cinema’s last week and with a third instalment already announced –this may essentially be more of the same but it manages to work itself convincingly into the originals narrative and comes away almost as successful a sequel as [REC] 2. The pacing and twists won’t please everyone, but if you enjoyed the original then this more than lives up to it.
- The Devil’s Rejects
- One of the most bizarre sequels of all time, this follow up to Zombie’s own House of 1000 Corpses shares characters with the first film but little else. Where-as the original was a 70’s style grimy funhouse of surreal horrors, the sequel is a focused 70’s style road thriller with the bad guys as the protagonists. For some this will undoubtedly be their preferred film and it’s certainly more assuredly made. For me the nightmarish world of 1000 Corpses trumps it.
- 28 Week’s Later
- Without a third instalment this sequel to the low-budget sensation 28 Days Later is a pretty pointless exercise since it basically exists as a set up for the following films. Thankfully not only is 28 Months Later currently being worked on with Boyle back at the helm, but 28 Weeks Later is a ferociously admirable sequel all in itself. Retaining the loose almost documentary style of the original but adding gloss, this is a fun and worthy successor.
- Any Friday the 13th sequel apart from nos. 5 or 9.
- Let’s be honest, we may all love Jason, but he’s never really had the quality film he so clearly deserves. But the best episodes in the series (2, 6, 7) are all sequels and in fact pretty much any of the follow-ups (save for 5 or 9) are better than the amateurish, sluggish, drab original. Sorry, but it’s true.