“Remake”—the very word inspires the most dramatic of eye rolls for horror fans. That’s because so many horror remakes are unnecessary. All too often, remakes are based on films that were wonderfully crafted, and some producer somewhere is trying to make a quick buck by dragging a good movie’s legacy through the mud.
Seriously, how frustrating is it when a solid, well-made horror classic, like 1982’s Poltergeist, gets remade? Poltergeist didn’t need a remake! And if someone just had to remake it, couldn’t they have created something better than the 2015 remake?
But then, again, how cool is it when a horror remake actually adds to or improves upon the original horror film? As much as I love Dario Argento’s Suspiria, it has its flaws. Luckily, the remake of Suspiria paid homage to the original, avoided copying the original’s aesthetic, and dove deep into the plot. What resulted was an original film that preserved the original’s legacy and stood on its own.
Or take the most recent news about the remake of Candyman, a good film that could have been great. It’s set to be produced by Jordan Peele and promises to dig into the power of the Candyman mythos against the backdrop of the now-gentrified area where the Cabrini-Green housing projects once stood. With Peele at the helm, I’m optimistic that this remake will cover a lot of new ground when it comes to racism and class differences, which is sadly very relevant.
That got me thinking—what are some other horror films that deserve a remake? What are some films that were good but not great, full of potential that shouldn’t be wasted? For whatever reason, be it a shoe-string budget, uneven writing, or production troubles, tons of horror movies never reached their full potential despite having most of the parts to do so.
So here are 10 horror films that deserve remakes. Some of them had great ideas but fell short on execution. Others had excellent premises that shouldn’t be abandoned. Others could benefit from larger budgets and updated filmmaking techniques. And all of them could be amazing horror remakes if handled correctly.
Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
I love this underrated and near-forgotten classical vampire movie. It’s moody, foreboding, and stylish, like any good vampire movie should be. What makes Dracula’s Daughter special is its exploration of lesbianism, specifically as it pertains to the protagonist’s self-loathing attitude towards her vampirism and attraction to women. Horror has long used vampirism to explore homosexuality (not always in a humane, nuanced way), but Dracula’s Daughter was revolutionary for giving its lesbian vampire a great deal of character development and humanizing. And that was despite the Hays Production Code, which prevented the filmmakers from more explicitly exploring the themes.
I think Dracula’s Daughter would make an amazing remake, especially because there’s so much more to explore and no Hays Production Code to stifle a profound and nuanced examination of lesbian identity. It also wouldn’t hurt to update the scares for a modern audience with some actual horror.
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
As a huge fan of Richard Matheson’s novel Hell House, it pains me that we’ve never gotten a satisfactory film adaptation of the novel. Hell House is a horror fiction classic and reinvents the haunted house trope in a way that would look freaking awesome on film. If done right.
Unfortunately, the only film adaption of this classic is The Legend of Hell House, an admirable though lacking British horror film. It’s largely faithful to the novel’s plot points but lacks the malice of the horrific entity haunting the house. On top of that, both the novel and the film are anticlimactic and fail to live up to the horror promised. A remake of The Legend of Hell House, with sharper writing, stellar special effects, and a gifted director with an eye for menace would be an awesome horror movie.
Event Horizon (1997)
I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, but we need an Event Horizon remake, STAT. The film’s mind-blowing premise—that the spaceship has maybe crossed into an inter-dimensional hell or the spaceship has become sentient or both—never achieves its potential. Most of the film’s problems can come down to certain directing choices and script that is not as solid as it could have been. That’s a real travesty considering the strength of the cast, the legitimately horrific plot developments, and the ominous atmosphere. In fact, it’s these fantastic elements that draw attention to the film’s shortcomings, and why we desperately need a remake.
I wanted to like this movie. I did. On paper, this film has a lot going for it. The film is a period-piece, survival horror film/black comedy about the wendigo myth (why don’t we have more of those?). There’s plenty of gruesome and unsettling scenes of cannibalism. And Guy Ritchie is a strong actor, especially opposite the effortlessly creepy Robert Carlyle (28 Weeks Later).
But the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The idea of a black comedy or satire using survival horror is a good one, but Ravenous has a serious problem with tone. Instead of infusing dark, gory moments with searing satire, the film comes across as confused about the events it depicts. That might be because it suffered not only from a muddled script but a multitude of behind-the-scenes problems, including constant rewrites, changing directors, and studio interference. That’s why I think a steadier and more focused remake could really do the material and themes justice.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
This Canadian werewolf movie is one of the better werewolf movies available today. It checks off all the classic werewolf tropes. But more importantly, it breathes new life into the subgenre by using lycanthropy as a metaphor for female puberty and the fractured relationships sisters can experience while growing up.
However, despite the film’s strengths, it has one glaring flaw—it’s super-low budget. The cheap werewolf prosthetics and special effects distract from the film’s strong points, frustrating the viewer’s suspension of disbelief. A remake with an increased but still modest budget could have done wonders for this film and its message.
Van Helsing (2004)
When I think of promising premises that failed to become entertaining films, I always think of Van Helsing. I just don’t understand how Universal messed up this movie so badly! Between bad CGI, embarrassing acting, and ham-fisted writing, Van Helsing is just…not fun. It’s action sequences are somehow…boring. The villain is…unintentionally hilarious. And then there’s the fact that the film treats its legendary source material with such disdain, keeping and discarding key points of Universal’s Monster Movie lore without any real coherence. (Seriously? A werewolf bite is the only way to kill Dracula? That plot point reeks of a soulless grab to replicate a certain fight scene from Underworld.)
And to waste Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale like that. You have two smokin’ hot leads who have proven themselves as action stars, and your movie still sucks? For shame.
Sigh. What I wouldn’t give for a cheeky action-horror adaptation of Universal’s Monster Movies.
The Wicker Man (2006)
Alright, we all know that the American remake of The Wicker Man sucks, just like we all know that the 1973 British folk horror film is seriously good. The 2006 remake has so many faults, including but not limited to terrible writing, lack of scares, and Nicolas Cage’s unintentionally hilarious performance. But most of all, The Wicker Man remake totally forsakes the thematic gravitas of the original. The 1973 film explores some very British concepts of paganism vs. Christianity, centralized authority vs. local sovereignty, and sexual repression vs. sexual freedom.
Now, think about a well-made horror film about a cult in a backwoods American community that explores the American equivalent of those themes? HOLY SHIT, that movie would be awesome! Especially because America has its own confusing, complicated relationship with all of those conflicts. Such a remake would have looked very different from the original and would have been miles more resonate than the 2006 remake, which was about…feminism? Vaguely scary matriarchs? Or something? Who cares?
The Purge (2013)
Ok, let me first say that I really liked The Purge for what it was. And what it was an extremely low-budget horror flick. Now, it was a very effective low-budget film—it’s actually quite impressive how much it accomplished on its $3 million budget. But a bigger budget could have gone to a more talented screenwriter, who could hopefully create a script with more nuance and less clumsy social commentary. Also, high-quality production values go a long way. In The Purge, I never quite believed that the Sandin family and their neighbors were as rich as the movie insisted they were. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the homes looked like suburban McMansions, and not the kinds of homes that super-affluent, privileged people would live in. A remake with a bigger budget would have given The Purge the extra oomph necessary to make the satire and commentary incendiary.
Crimson Peak (2015)
Were you like me, hoping that this Guillermo del Toro flick was going to hearken back the wonderfully creepy classic horror films like The Innocents and The Haunting? I was so excited for a gothic horror-romance helmed by del Toro, director of Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, all of which were atmospheric and creepy and scary.
And yet, the film was too heavy on the atmosphere and too light on the creepy and scary factors. If anything, Crimson Peak was an exercise in indulging del Toro’s inner Romantic Goth Kid. While beautiful and mesmerizing, that is not what I wanted (I don’t think anyone wanted that). There should have been way more ghosts, way more fucked up scares, and way more of Jessica Chastain going batshit. Crimson Peak was a perfect opportunity to show how gothic romances can also be scary. I’m hopeful that a remake can address that issue while still paying homage to the artistry of del Toro’s vision.
Neon Demon (2016)
I’ve long said that Neon Demon was director Nicolas Winding Refn’s attempt at making his own version of Dario Argento’s Suspiria. While beautiful, his film doesn’t touch the violent beauty of Suspiria, and because of this, there’s nothing to distract from the completely lame plot. I mean, goddamn, I’ve seen scarier and more provocative episodes of America’s Next Top Model (like in Cycle 6, when Jade walked the runway with a bejeweled cockroach and then she kissed it?).
The Neon Demon is gorgeous and sparkly without any depth or meaningful development. And because it’s so shallow, what little creepy violence there is fails to make any real impact on the audience. Because I’m feeling charitable, I’ll offer that there were many half-formed but worthwhile themes in The Neon Demon, like the relationship of a muse and an artist, the consumption of female bodies, and the dissection of our concepts of beauty. Give me a remake that actually develops those themes with scares and solid aesthetics.
Are there any horror movies you think deserve to be remade? Let me know if I left any off my list that you’d like to see!