The subjects of remakes can often be a contentious matter; some audiences can be open to the idea of a remake whereas others may be diametrically opposed to the thought of their favourite film getting the treatment.
Whether or not the remake proves to better than the original or not, its existence can sometimes obscure how influential its cinematic source material is and can often get most of the credit. Try Googling a popular horror film like ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ or ‘The Fly’ and it will be the remake which pops up on the search first.
This list aims to shed some light on 15 horror originals which spawned remakes and to discuss the remakes in conjunction with their original. Note: horror originals such as ‘Dawn Of The Dead’, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Halloween’ or ‘The Fog’ etc will not be discussed as their stature was arguably affected less by their respective remakes.
15. 13 Ghosts (1960)
Cyrus Zorba inherits an old mansion from an unusual uncle; he is left specific instructions to move his family in despite rumours that it is extremely haunted. Little does the family know that a hidden fortune is located somewhere within the house which has attracted other uninvited guests.
Compared to many of the haunted house films which came out in its day, 13 Ghosts looks undeniably crude; some of the special effects are amateurish and the overall final product feels slightly hokey. Yet, the film has an irrefutable charm to it via a series of neat twists and creepy atmosphere which keeps it safely afloat. ‘The Wizard Of Oz’s’ Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch) also features – unsurprisingly, as a supposed witch.
It’s too bad more people are probably more aware of the heartless remake (vapidly stylised as ‘Thir13en Ghosts’, oh dear) which is something of a vacuum for entertainment and features some truly hideous special effects (no, not in a good way). It’s actually a shame because the art production is highly commendable. But, a film can only score so many points for looking great.
It may not be a bona fide classic or the best of its kind, but stick with the original. The remake was – and is – just another insipid horror remake which removes all of the fun from the original, one of its key ingredients.
14. Into The Mirror (2003)
A year after a shopping mall is destroyed in a fire, a series of gruesome and unconventional suicides begin to occur with the reopening of the mall imminent. One of the mall’s security guards suspects that something inscrutable surrounds the deaths and begins his own investigation into the deaths.
Like Echoing Robert Hamer’s “The Haunted Mirror” sequence in 1945’s horror anthology ‘Dead Of Night’, Into The Mirror applies a deft combination of cinematography trickery and digital effects to produce some hauntingly surreal images evoking the perplexing feelings created by René Magritte’s, ‘Not To Be Reproduced’ painting. The final result is a freaky and competent chiller.
Directed by Alexandre Aja fresh from 2006’s ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ remake, this reboot failed to capture the success of that film or Into The Mirror. The lead character in the original is replaced with an effective Kiefer Sutherland and the film sometimes generates an even creepier atmosphere than the original, but the film is still hampered by what flawed the original – a heavily overcooked plot.
Nothing new is added via the remake, it was just another reimagining that was not translated so well. The original is not perfect, but it is still a damn sight better executed.
13. House Of Wax (1953)
When a talented wax figure maker, Henry Jarrod, refuses to sculpt more sensational and startling creations to attract more customers, the exhibit is then burnt down at the hands of his business partner for insurance money and Jarrod is presumed to have died. He soon returns… disfigured and seeking revenge.
This original helped to establish Vincent Price as a horror icon, despite the popular 50s gimmick of 3-D being utilized here, the film actually stands on its own as a terrific horror movie without it – even over 60 years later. Look out for Charles Bronson (credited as Charles Buchinsky) as the sculptor’s assistant, Igor.
Aside from the title, this would be 2005 “reimagining” of the original House Of Wax actually shares little resemblance to its narrative. Like many of the remakes, this one swapped the characters of the original with bickering teenagers driving somewhere who become inevitably stuck along the way. That said, the film is privy to most of its clichés and features some extravagantly gory deaths; so even if the result is merely throwaway fun, it is still certainly worth watching to see Paris Hilton getting skewered.
The original is an undoubtable horror classic whereas as the remake remains to be just another remake that emerged during the 00s, even if it not as bad as most people make it out to be. Ultimately, Vincent Price’s presence proves to be too vital.
12. Maniac! (1980)
Somewhere in the same vein of ‘Peeping Tom’ and ‘Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer’, Maniac! is an unblinking glimpse into the mind of a pathological killer. It focuses on Frank Zito – a rather disturbed individual who brutally murders anyone who takes his fancy whilst having a strong fondness for scalping women.
Zito is surely one of the most reprehensible characters in all of horror cinema (a disturbingly subtle performance from Joe Spinell) – he literally has zero redeeming qualities and his lumbering, unkempt, grubby appearance make him all the more scarier. We only see glimpses of the charming, or at least functional person he may once have been, but this is all part of his subterfuge to lure in more victims. Maniac! is one ugly, but compulsive movie.
The 2012 edition of Maniac! features the fresh-faced Elijah Wood as the deranged killer. This time, he independently runs a mannequin store in addition to simply living in his basement talking to himself like the murderer in the original did. However, killing and removing scalps of women is still the obsession of this film’s Frank Zito.
Elijah Wood made a sinister turn as Kevin the mute cannibal in ‘Sin City’ but it is sometimes hard to take him as serious as the killer here whereas in the original, Joe Spinell seemed to inhabit the character of Zito all too well. What the remake manages to pull off successfully, however, is having almost the entirety of the film be seen from the perspective of the killer – something that makes the chase scenes all the more torturous.
Despite the films being essentially the same story and often featuring the same level of depravity, the original and the remake are stylistically disparate. It is certainly refreshing (and somewhat brave) to see the remake be tackled in such a different way but it lacks the sleaziness and pure ugliness of the original.
11. House On Haunted Hill (1959)
A quirky millionaire invites five random guests to what he says is a party for his fourth wife in a 100-year old mansion that has been the home of seven past murders. Curiously, he has promised each guest $10,000 if they manage to last the night, but is this a ruse for something more sinister…
House On Haunted Hill is another camp William Castle entry and surely one of his best. It features moments that provide genuine terror including the blood-freezing (yet hilarious) blind maid jump-scare and the discovery of the severed head. The film is gimmicks galore with Vincent Prince hamming it up by breaking the fourth wall at every chance, the kooky effects and the fact that the plastic “Emergo” skeleton was floated over the audience when it was first shown in theatres.
Not as bad as one might think; this remake ups the gore and maintains the scares of the original and features an exuberantly demented performance from Geoffrey Rush and a cameo from ‘Re-Animators’ Jeffrey Combs and Peter Graves. This remakes’ main downfall is the use of now-very-dated CGI, the major faux-pas of the remake of The Haunting which was released in 1999 also.
The remake should be given more of a chance than the other remakes which emerged during its particular era. But – more than the feelings of dread – it will simply inspire you to watch/re-watch the original.
10. The Hitcher (1986)
A cult horror thriller from the 1980s starring Rutger Hauer as an elusive and murderous hitch-hiker who has targeted the young Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) to ruin his life during his cross country journey. The film seems to ride the line between reality and fantasy rather frivolously allowing certain lapses in logic to be accepted; it even throws in a spectacular car chase for good measure.
The film is bending the rules of the genre, just as Hauer is bending the rules of reality by managing to shoot a helicopter out of the air with a pistol and by managing to break out of handcuffs as if they were non-existent. Elsewhere, the unsettling symbiotic relationship between the two characters suggesting that the hitcher is some sort of mentor for Halsey is never fully explored but it keeps the film as intriguing as it is deviously puzzling.
Arriving at a time when horror remakes were being released ten to the dozen, the 2007 version of The Hitcher is one of the least successful ones. The major error here is replacing the lone Jim Halsey character with a trendy couple as it sacrifices a huge chunk of tension.
The increased amount of action also has the same effect, as does the excessive gore – something which the original showed commendable restraint with by leaving it to the audience’s imagination. Sean Bean does a reasonably menacing job as the titular hitcher this time around, but his slipping accent never really helps.
Rutger Hauer’s inimitable and sinister presence proved to be massively helpful as it made the original film stand the test of time whereas Sean Bean struggles to make an impact that has a similarly lasting effect. It may have gone under the radar in recent years (thanks in part to the remake) but the original is the one to check out here.
9. Piranha (1978)
A private investigator is hired to solve the disappearance of two teenagers at a defunct army base. When she and her guide arrive they accidentally let loose the base’s past experiment; a shoal of genetically engineered species of Piranha that were supposed to be unleashed as a weapon during the Vietnam War but are now wreaking havoc downstream.
In the hands of another director, this unashamedly brazen cash-in on the success of ‘Jaws’ could have been an unbearable parody. Thankfully – with Joe Dante at the helm – Piranha proves to be one hell of a fun movie, winking at its similarities to ‘Jaws’ at every opportune time (even the poster is a massive replication of the original blockbusters’). Dick Miller does a great job at impersonating Murray Hamilton and Bradford Dillman heroically manages to keep a straight face throughout.
The first remake emerged in 1995 as a TV movie directed by Scott Levy and completely lacks the tongue-in-cheek nature that its source was built of. This version takes itself far too seriously and it is hard to enjoy when you miss what made the original such a fun feature. A major misfire.
Jumping on the recent 3D revival wagon in 2010, this second remake deliberately goes for the over the top comedy and ‘Jaws’ intertextuality at any given times (just like the original); Richard Dreyfuss even features as a victim before the credits. The 2010 Piranha shamelessly goes for broke an actually succeeds without trying to be big or clever about its B-Movie-remake stature.
The 1995 version should be skipped completely, but the original and the 2010 are both equally fun, even if one is decidedly crasser than the other. Both are great in their own idiosyncratic way.