5 – The Ring (2002)
Considering I didn’t find the original scary, it’s impressive that I was thoroughly creeped out by the nearly shot-for-shot remake. There is always something a little more interesting in the exploration of the unknown, so if your senses have been dulled by the formulaic slasher film, then its quieter take on the tried-and-true ghost story formula might do the trick.
4 – Psycho (1998)
There’s a part of me that still thinks – why? Why remake a film that is already flawless? What I do find interesting about the 1998 version of Psycho is the excuse given by Gus Van Sant to back up these questions. He called it an experiment, saying he wanted to see if he could equal the greatness of the original by shooting the picture almost frame by frame. The answer was an obvious ‘no,’ but I argue that someone seeing the film for the first time with no knowledge of its predecessor might consider it to be great because the film functions well on its own terms. Certainly, the cast could never outshine Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh, and yes it’s true that is could never have the same effect with today’s audience has it did back in 1960. Some call it plagiarism and to be honest, I still doubt my decision in placing it on my list. Still, I can’t ignore the gorgeous cinematography by Christopher Doyle and the solid direction by Van Sant. Vince Vaughn won’t make anyone forget Perkins, and nothing beats Leigh’s classic shower scene, but Van Sant proves he knows a thing or three about inducing terror. Nowadays we get hacks like D.J. Caruso ripping off Hitchcock in films like Disturbia without any mention of the original Rear Window. At least Van Sant is willing to stand in the spotlight, admitting his crime, ready to be judged. But don’t be fooled – it is indeed a crime of passion, and this is his love letter to Hitchcock.
3 – The Fly (1986)
What can be said about David Cronenberg that hasn’t been said? The man is twisted but talented. The film shows more originality, wit and invention than possibly any other film you might call a remake. It was easily his most commercially successful film at the time, even winning an Oscar for makeup. Body horror has always been a running theme in Cronenberg’s work and here he shows every gory detail in Jeff Goldblum’s slow, excruciating, metamorphosis into the titular creature. Where the film truly excels, however, is in something that most horror movies ignore; character development. No horror film in recent memory has provided as thorough a character study as the one provided here for Goldblum.
2 – Dawn of the Dead (2003)
Before ever adapting Bob Dylan’s music to the opening credit sequence to Watchmen, director Zach Snyder mixed in some Johnny Cash to his remake of George Romero`s Dawn of the Dead. That ended up being the first of many things he got right. In changing small details such as making the zombies faster and stronger than regular humans, Zach Snyder helped launch a new era of zombie films. Most of which went on to make a profit at the box office and on DVD. It also spawned a wave of video games, a half dozen zombie dedicated podcasts, tons of memorabilia and one of the most popular comic series currently in publication. Dawn of the Dead might not have been the groundbreaker Night of the Living Dead was, but it helped start a new era in which horror movies topped the box office. It may not be better than Romero’s original, but it’s a close second.
1 – The Thing (1984)
John Carpenter’s version of the 1951 B-movie The Thing From Another World is hands-down his best film and, in my opinion, the best horror movie remake. Here, Carpenter takes the basic ideas of the original and elevates his film to a whole new level. Remake, re-imagination or re telling; No matter what you call it, the film delivers great suspense, a dark moody atmosphere, superb acting from an all-star cast and fantastic practical effects. Released on the same day as E.T., it was overlooked and quickly forgotten by the masses. As a result, The Thing remains the most underrated horror film of all time. Its tagline says it all – “The ultimate in Alien terror.”