It's no secret that Hollywood has an obsession with remakes, and a common response from fans and critics alike is a collective, exhausted groan. However, that aversion to updated versions of iconic stories can often be misguided, resulting in missing out on some truly amazing films.
The latest remake aiming for memorable status is Poltergeist, a 3D revamp of the '80s classic which comes out today. Judging by just how adored the original remains, it's a tall order, but there's no duo more up to the task than Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt. We spoke to them about the upcoming movie,
In the spirit of their enthusiasm, let's take a look at seven movies that prove that remakes can totally kill it.
7. My Bloody Valentine 3D
It's appropriate to start with a movie in 3D, and My Bloody Valentine used what's typically a gimmick and immersed the audience in a world full of protruding tree branches and pickaxes. As the first R-rated film to be projected in RealD, My Bloody Valentine opened the door for a new wave of pop-out horror, a spectacular legacy that Poltergeist continues.
This generation's My Bloody Valentine also has the rare distinction of being better than its original, which will hopefully encourage a similar approach to remakes in the future.
6. Evil Dead
With such a beloved franchise and a fervent cult following, the Evil Dead remake (or "reimagining" to sticklers) easily could have gone very wrong. In fact, my initial reaction was something along the lines of "No Ash? No thank you."
But, once the movie premiered, Fede Alvarez's vision turned out to be an engrossingly violent bloodbath. Though I appreciated all the campy elements of the original, 2013's Evil Dead played it straight, leading to some majorly intense scares. After a strong showing at the box office, talks of a sequel have been floated and shot down more times than I can count, but I certainly wouldn't mind another trip to the cabin.
5. House of Wax
House of Wax got written off by many horror fans when Paris Hilton was cast in a main role, a move that many considered to be stunt casting. However, for those of us that remained intrigued by the haunting premise and made our way to the theater, Hilton's performance (primarily that memorable death scene) turned out to be a chilling surprise.
The movie updated the atmospheric horrors of the original, though obviously impressive in their own right, to become a bloody slasher with a heavy dose of gore. House of Wax contains scenes of abject body horror—the kind that make you squirm under your skin—that stick with me to this day.
4. The Thing
Though the original The Thing from Another World is still considered a sci-fi classic, 1982's The Thing managed to become a cult classic in its own right. The phenomenal special effects and make-up work (yes, I still think they're outstanding even two decades later) made John Carpenter's parasitic alien tale a stomach-churning horror show.
The Thing is tense, grim, and terrifying, making it a worthwhile remake that everyone should see.
3. The Grudge
On its face, The Grudge probably shouldn't have stuck with me as much as it did. By 2004, the Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl trope was at least somewhat familiar (more on that later), and the creepy sound effects, specifically that guttural vocal fry from said ghost girl, were noises I could easily replicate. Plus, Japan's original, Ju-on, features the same story and director.
Yet, much like the curse in the movie, The Grudge has maintained a powerful hold on me. Maybe it's my diehard support of Buffy, but Sarah Michelle Gellar's performance was one of the more emotionally gripping from that era of horror. With her as a conduit to the chills of a haunting, The Grudge continues to creep me out.
2. The Ring
Like The Grudge, The Ring is based on a Japanese original and helped popularize the downright terrifying ghost girl with hair over her face. Though it removed some of the ambiguity of the original, the remake more than made up for it with an somber, dread-inducing atmosphere and a head-spinning ending. Not to mention the pacing is impressively deliberate, and the performances are top-notch.
Let's also not forget that, for better or for worse, The Ring started the whole new horror trend of remaking classic Japanese films. After my first viewing, The Ring became the movie that helped me develop my interest in horror.
While most of the entries on this list still owe a huge debt to their originals (no matter how much they manage to stand on their own), Maniac, in my opinion, far exceeds the 1980 original. It sadly flew under the radar when it was released in 2012, but it remains an impressive feat in horror.
Elijah Wood turns in one of the best performances of his career, and director Franck Khalfoun has a fresh take on psychological thrills. The execution, with the whole film shot from the main character's POV, would become tiresome in less skilled hands, but Maniac creates a mind-blowingly disturbing atmosphere. The struggle with identification—because who really wants to identify with a crazed killer?—becomes one of the most intriguing developments.
Will Poltergeist live up to these successful remakes? Check it out in theaters this weekend, and decide for yourself.