Few would argue that the past decade’s constant stream of horror film remakes has not been detrimental to the genre as whole. The vast majority of these remakes are completely unnecessary and while there is absolutely no substitute for genuine creativity or fresh takes on horror material, bright spots do exist in the field.
Classics like Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) were all remakes of films based on literary sources and Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake is an excellent film that Snyder and screenwriter James Gunn wisely only loosely based on George Romero’s milestone 1978 original.
Here’s a look at 12 horror films that would make superb foundations for remakes as they have great story ideas at their core that simply aren’t done justice by the execution they received.
Note: The films are in chronological order by release year.
1. Day the World Ended (1955)
In the wake of a nuclear attack, a small group of survivors finds shelter in an isolated, radiation-free valley. The group faces threats from within and without as tension between group members grows and their save haven is attacked by a monster. Directed by genre legend Roger Corman and scripted by Lou Rusoff, a remake of this film was announced in 2013 but no further news has been released.
There was a bad TV movie remake of Day the World Ended made in 1967 by Larry Buchanan called In the Year 2889 and a cable TV film from 2001 which bears the same title as the original but features a completely different story.
2. Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
A group of scientists investigating nuclear weapons test results are trapped on a sinking island as they are besieged by intelligent mutant crabs.
Directed by Roger Corman from a screenplay by Charles B. Griffith, this very low-budget film was an influence on films like James Cameron’s Aliens (1986)-the protagonists must fight monsters while the ground they stand on will soon be destroyed-and was itself heavily influenced by Robert E. Howard’s great short story “People of the Black Coast”.
The crabs’ ability to project human voices to lure their victims was adopted by the makers of John McTiernan’s Predator (1987).
The raw material is there for an outstanding film NOT done in the SyFy Channel style.
3. The Brain from Planet Arous (1957)
A floating brain creature from another world inhabits a human body, giving its host destructive telekinetic powers.
Director Nathan Juran of The Deadly Mantis (1957), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) teams with screenwriter Ray Buffum for this very strange low-budget film that begs to be redone with a better screenplay and a proper budget.
Like William F. Claxton’s 1972 Night of the Lepus, this film’s imagery can been seen in the background of numerous film scenes and a very brief clip also appears in the opening sequence of the Malcolm in the Middle television series.
4. Invisible Invaders (1959)
An invading alien force inhabits the bodies of the recently dead and attacks an isolated research station as the station’s crew of scientists and military personnel try to find a way to stop their extraterrestrial enemy.
Low budget genre film specialist Edward L. Cahn, who also directed 1958’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space, teams with screenwriter Samuel Newman for this combination of horror and science fiction that features a few very memorable scenes like the alien experimentation sequence but needs to be redone to make the most of the core story idea.
Scenes of recently reanimated corpses lumbering toward the research station were an obvious influence on George Romero’s landmark 1968 Night of the Living Dead.
5. The Devil Rides Out (1968)
An occult expert must use his special knowledge and skills to combat a satanic cult and its charismatic leader who are bent on abducting his friends.
Legendary horror film figures Terence Fisher and Richard Matheson tackled the directing and screenwriting duties on this adaptation of Dennis Wheatley’s novel that is sometimes known as The Devil’s Bride.
While this original version contains some great scenes like the protagonists’ first face-off with demonic forces and an outstanding performance from Christopher Lee in an all too rare non-villain role, this film is ultimately let down by weak special effects and an abrupt ending.
A remake of The Devil Rides Out has been talked about off and on for over 20 years now and would certainly seem to be the film on this list most likely to actually receive the “re-imagining” treatment.
6. Scream and Scream Again (1970)
Police investigate a series of murders and find themselves facing off against a twisted scientist and his group of surgically created supermen.
Gordon Hessler directs a Christopher Wicking screenplay based on the Peter Saxon novel The Disorientated Man and the result is a bit of an unfocused mess despite the presence of some very memorable scenes including a hospital patient’s realization he’s losing his limbs and a prisoner’s escape from handcuffs by ripping part of his own arm off.
There is a lot of great material here that begs to be integrated into a more solid and gripping narrative with better direction.