Remakes and reboots are often scoffed at by moviegoers, including myself. The vast majority of the time they come across as silly or forced, and it appears that Hollywood has nothing better to do with their time and money other than re-hash old ideas. When it comes to horror, there has been a wave of remakes in recent years and a majority are adaptations of foreign films that never quite hit in America. Most are bad but a decent number of them were really good.
I'm going to walk you through the best horror remakes that have seen the light of day, in an attempt to give you some faith that not all of Hollywood is bad and you don't always have to say "ew, gross" whenever you see a remake is being released. I want to emphasize that just because it's on this list doesn't mean it's the best movie I've ever seen. It just means that in the sea of remakes and reboots, it was better than others. However, some of these were fantastic. You'll just have to watch for yourselves!
Let Me In (2010)
This vampire film by Matt Reeves is an Americanized version of the Swedish original, Let the Right One In, which was released in 2008. The film hit all of the right notes when it came to adapting the novel of the same name, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and it tells the story of a heavily bullied pre-teen boy who develops a close friendship with a decades old vampire child in the early 1980's.
Reeves brought the story to a new light in his adaptation starring Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen and Chloe Grace Moretz as the vampire child, Abby. I had seen Let the Right One In prior to the remake and I was very impressed by how great the remake was. The casting was solid, the tension was consistently present, and the tone was perfect. There were even whispers of Moretz getting an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the character. It didn't happen, but if it did, it wouldn't have surprised me. Aside from my love of the film, it was received very warmly by critics and achieved top honors when it premiered at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival. Moretz also took home awards from the Austin Film Critic's Association, Empire Awards, Saturn Awards, and Scream Awards while McPhee took home an award from the Phoenix Film Critic Society.
The Ring (2002)
This American adaptation starring Naomi Watts was adapted from the 1998 Japanese film, Ringu. Many people write this movie off thinking it's just another Hollywood horror flick meant for teenagers on a Friday night, but it's actually pretty decent. It carries over a lot of the visuals and the creep factor from the Japanese original and it has some solid character development.
The Ring brings in Watts as a Seattle-based journalist who gets dragged into investigating a series of mysterious deaths among people who viewed a mysterious videotape. Granted, The Ring sparked phone pranks of "seven days" for years, but if you put that aside you will enjoy it for what it is. Even watching it as an adult I can still enjoy it. The actual videotape in the movie is creepy enough.
Evil Dead (2013)
I'm mentioning this primarily because as a standalone movie it wasn't bad. That, and it wasn't a complete insult to the original. Fede Alvarez's 2013 adaptation of Sam Raimi's 1981 cult classic, Evil Dead, resonated with audiences and is considered by many critics to be one of the best remakes ever released. Personally, I found the story to be changed enough to be more of a standalone film rather than a remake. It's more of a revision based off the source material.
Similar to the original, it follows five friends as they head to a secluded cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. While at the cabin they unknowingly, and unwillingly release an ancient demon onto themselves and the woods. This adaptation really amped up the gore factor, so if you aren't the biggest fan of bloody movies you might want to stick with the original. When I saw this in theaters there were people who walked out after the first scene.
I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
Not many people are familiar with I Spit on Your Grave, both the remake and the original. The 1978 film, originally titled Day of the Woman, is considered to be more of a cult classic as it was shunned by several outlets due to the subject matter. Critics slammed the film for its depictions of rape, murder, graphic violence, and for obscene language. It eventually received a wide release in 1980, but it's considered to be one of the most violent horror films ever made.
The central plot follows a woman who seeks revenge after being beaten and gang raped. The 2010 adaptation is really no different and it definitely holds a candle to the original as far as the violence goes. Similar to the original, it received overwhelmingly negative reviews by critics but I honestly didn't think it was that bad. It's better than most remakes out there.
The Fly (1986)
This is one that most people don't know is a remake. Director David Cronenberg adapted this version off the 1958 film with the same title and amplified it up lightyears beyond what was brought by Kurt Neumann in the 50s.
Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis starred in this remake centered around an eccentric scientist who begins morphing into a fly after an experiment goes wrong. By today's standards, The Fly can come across as pretty hokey and cheesy but it's not a bad movie. It even won an Academy Award for Best Makeup. I have always preferred the 80's version to the original and I'm happy that Hollywood hasn't attempted to reboot it once again.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
This is one movie that Zack Snyder got right. This reboot of the 1978 George Romero film of the same name rose to popularity among horror fans for its dedication and ability to stand on its own while paying homage to the original.
The story is centered around a group of survivors seeking refuge in a shopping mall after a flesh-eating, worldwide plague turns a majority of the population into zombies. I personally like the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead and I never saw it as insulting or anything like that to Romero's original.
I am constantly ridiculed for liking this remake of Halloween, but I will continue to defend it because it wasn't that bad. Iconic metal singer Rob Zombie made the shift to filmmaking in the early 2000's and broke through a lot of doors when he announced he was remaking John Carpenter's 1978 classic, Halloween.
Zombie's remake starring Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris, Malcolm McDowell, and Tyler Mane carried the same premise as the original. Convicted killer Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield, IL after breaking free from a mental hospital that had housed him for the past 15-years after he was arrested and convicted of committing gruesome murders as a small child. Zombie took a different approach and dedicated the first 25min or so of his film to Myers' childhood showing his family and allowing the viewer to see the development of the character instead of just seeing a masked killer slowly stalking teenage girls on Halloween night. I thought the casting was enough to carry the film, although Scout Taylor-Compton wasn't as good as Jamie Lee Curtis. The only downside is it continued in typical Zombie fashion and was stocked full of unnecessary gore, vulgarity, and nudity.
The Crazies (2010)
This revision of the 1973 film by George Romero is one of the rare few that actually blow the original out the water. Timothy Olyphant leads the cast as you are taken through a small Iowa farming town that is hit by a mysterious illness morphing its residents into the violent undead.
The Crazies was pretty successful at the box office in 2010 and received mostly positive reviews from viewers and critics. I don't by any means hate the original, but given the choice I would rather watch the newer version. It had a lot more tension and life to it.
This one is a tough remake to gauge because not only was it made so close with the foreign predecessor, [REC], but it's very close both plot wise and even in its dialogue. Another zombie remake, it follows a young journalist and a group of emergency workers as they are quarantined in an apartment building after the residents begin to come down with a violent illness.
I didn't dislike Quarantine at all and I don't necessarily think it's worse than the Spanish original, [REC], but I don't think it's any better. They are pretty level on the playing field for me. I prefer the foreign version a bit more mainly due to the American casting choices, but for anyone who hasn't seen either I don't think you're missing a whole lot if you choose one over the other.
This remake of the 1980 film of the same name starred Elijah Wood as a young owner of a mannequin shop who slowly allows his deepest desires to unfold. I personally hadn't seen either Maniac film until just recently and although I enjoyed both, this was another where I enjoyed the remake a little bit more. Wood brought a serious creep factor to the character and to the story, and the fact that the film was shot in a first person style was really unique. It's not too often where you see a horror film from the killer's point of view.
Similar to most recent horror remakes, the gore and nudity elements were more prevalent but in this case I don't think it hurt the film. It oddly accentuated it and fit in with the tone of the movie.
The Blob (1988)
Another 80's remake which by today's standards seems a bit cheesy, but it's a cult classic that resonates with a sweet hum to most horror fans. Pretty much responsible for launching the careers for both Shawnee Smith and Kevin Dillon, it follows a pair of teenagers who attempt to save their small town from a deadly blob consuming and destroying everything, and everyone, in its path.
The original 1958 film was pretty cheesy in itself, so I don't know what people expected. However, it works here and it's actually pretty well done. There were even rumors a year or so back that Rob Zombie was interested in adapting a new remake. I enjoy watching it every so often and usually have it in my list of Halloween movies to watch every October.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
For what it's worth, this isn't a horrible remake. It was typical and continued the nudity and F-word trend of the 2000s, but it stayed true enough to the premise of the original and wasn't a bad revision.
Similar to the remake, the film landed a group of friends in the middle of Texas where they encountered a chainsaw-yielding maniac and his murderous, cannibalistic family. The cast included Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, and Mike Vogel and was enough to make the teenagers scream in the theaters. I know because I was in those theaters trying to ignore them.
The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter brought us The Thing in 1982 as a revision of the 1951 story, The Thing from Another World. Starring Kurt Russell, it followed a group of scientists in the Antarctic as they're confronted with an alien that can assume several forms to stalk and kill its prey.
The Thing is a bit cheesy, but it's enjoyable as hell to watch. It brings a sense of humor to the story, whether it's intentional or not, but it gets you through. It also has some of the best practical effects seen in the genre.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
I haven't seen this one in long enough that it's not completely fresh in my mind, but I do remember not hating it. It's a modern twist on Wes Craven's 1977 original and, like many others, amped up the gore factor, but in this case it wasn't a bad thing. The film focuses on a family who is hunted by a group of mutants after their car breaks down in the middle of the desert.
It's worth watching at least once. I wouldn't bother with the sequel, though.
That's all of the remakes I have to recommend to you guys for now. If there are any that you disagree with or think I missed some, mention them in the comments! If you don't see something, like the reboot of Friday the 13th, that's probably because it's in my "worst remakes" list.