My last feature for Horror Freak News was a list of the Best Horror Remakes of the 21st Century. It was an attempt to counter the instant loathing so many horror fans have for remakes, as though the very notion of readapting a classic is sacrilegious. While sharing a disdain for Hollywood cash-grabs and acknowledging that many flop hard, I argued that remakes done right can be a glorious thing.
Yesterday’s announcement that Saw executive producer Peter Block will be rebooting the Pumpkinhead franchise is a perfect example. While adored by horror fans who came of age in the 1980’s, Pumpkinhead never received the place in history many of us felt it deserves. A reimagined Pumpkinhead will introduce the nefarious “vengeance demon” to a new generation; improvements in both practical and digital special effects should enhance the film’s brooding, gothic aesthetic. For these and other reasons, I’m absolutely thrilled to see what Block comes up with.
While the 1980’s are considered horror’s “Golden Age”, the genre didn’t carry as much weight a few decades ago. Even major studios made their horror movies on a budget, and no one expected them to have a lasting cultural impact. Like Pumpkinhead, there are numerous horror classics that could definitely benefit from an infusion of cash and talent, films that did the best with what they had but weren’t given the resources they truly needed. Below, in no particular order, are 10 genre classics I honestly believe would benefit from a remake. Stop the hate and participate!
Motel Hell (1980, Kevin Connor)
The story of cannibalistic Farmer Vincent and his sister Ida is ripe for reinterpretation. While originally received as a send-up of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film’s level of depravity is somewhat obscured by hilarious black comedy. With an improved scrip, some A-list actors, and a top-notch FX team, Motel Hell could be a deeply disturbing comment on our culture of consumption.
Official Synopsis: A seemingly friendly farmer and his sister kidnap unsuspecting travelers and bury them alive, using them to create the “special ingredient” of their famous roadside fritters.
From Beyond (1986, Directed by Stuart Gordon)
Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Stuart Gordon’s reimagining of H.P. Lovecraft’s tale of interdimensional terrors, but I’ve always found the campy script a bit of a distraction; Lovecraft certainly didn’t conceive From Beyond as a comedy. I’d like to see a serious version, something more reminiscent of the works of Clive Barker: A terrifying conglomeration of sex and transcendence.
Official Synopsis: A group of scientists have developed the Resonator, a machine which allows whoever is within range to see beyond normal perceptible reality. But when the experiment succeeds, they are immediately attacked by terrible life forms.
The Funhouse (1981, Directed by Tobe Hooper)
The fact that traveling carnivals are rarer today than they were in the 1980’s only makes the premise of The Funhouse more terrifying. Tobe Hooper did an incredible job directing a young cast, and Lawrence Block’s script crackles. The main reason I’d like to see this one remade is because not enough people know about it. While the script is still solid, improvements in special FX and animatronics could make for a kick-ass reboot.
Official Synopsis: Four teenage friends spend the night in a carnival funhouse and are stalked by a deformed man in a Frankenstein mask.
Night of the Comet (1984, Directed by Thom Eberhardt)
Fans of Night of the Comet should check out the French film Dead Shadows (2012) which was clearly influenced by Thom Eberhardt’s horror/sci-fi mash-up. I love the original, but the “Valley Girl” stereotypes are incredibly passé; modern audiences would have a lot of trouble detecting the subtext beneath it all. I’d love to see a serious remake that will endure the test of time.
Official Synopsis: A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive.
Silver Bullet (1985, Directed by Daniel Attias)
Horror aficionados have a lot of love for Silver Bullet, one of Stephen King’s lesser known film adaptations, but most mainstream horror fans have never heard of it. There’s nothing wrong with the film per se (King even wrote the screenplay himself), but a reboot with a big budget could be incredible.
Official Synopsis: A werewolf terrorizes a small city where Marty Coslaw, a paralytic boy (Corey Haim) lives with his uncle and his sister.
House (1986, Directed by Steve Miner)
What made House so much more than your typical haunted house movie was the protagonist’s struggle with post-traumatic stress following his return from the Vietnam War; it’s especially heady subtext for a comedy, but Steve Miner managed a film that was both thrilling and intelligent. With so many Americans suffering PTSD following service in Iraq and Afghanistan, House would be an especially timely candidate for reimagining.
Official Synopsis: A troubled writer moves into a haunted house after inheriting it from his aunt.
Dolls (1987, Directed by Stuart Gordon)
Films like Curse of Chucky, The Boy, and Annabelle prove there’s still an immense fascination with creepy dolls among horror fans. Improvements in puppetry, animatronics, and digital FX could make Dolls a mega-hit for a new generation.
Official Synopsis: A group of people stop by a mansion during a storm and discover two magical toy makers and their haunted collection of dolls.
The Gate (1987, Directed by Tibor Takács)
The fact that conservatives still purport a connection between heavy metal music and demonology (a viewpoint brilliantly lambasted in 2015’s DEATHGASM) prove The Gate would still resonate with modern horror audiences. While the original is highly entertaining, the FX are extremely dated; with a killer cast and a serious FX budget, a rebooted The Gate could be golden.
Official Synopsis: Two young boys accidentally release a horde of nasty, pint-sized demons from a hole in a suburban backyard. What follows is a classic battle between good and evil as the two kids struggle to overcome a nightmarish hell that literally begins to take over the Earth.
Near Dark (1987, Directed by Kathryn Bigelow)
Now that the Twilight saga is ancient history (knock on wood), Vampire mythology is once again a wellspring of inspiration for modern horror practitioners. Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark was ahead of the curve in 1987, portraying Vampires as ethically ambivalent anti-heroes. This one is Vampire romance done right!
Official Synopsis: A small-town farmer’s son reluctantly joins a traveling group of vampires after he is turned by a beautiful drifter.
Parents (1989, Directed by Bob Balaban)
Parents was such a subtle mix of horror and gallows humor, audiences didn’t know what to make of it back in 1989. To this day, this one is relatively unknown, even among more educated aficionados. But the tale of a young boy who suspects his parents are cannibals seems somehow more relevant in the 21st Century. Moviegoers, especially horror fans, are more astute at detecting terrors buried in subtext, making Parents a prime candidate for a remake.
Official Synopsis: A young boy living in 1950s suburbia suspects his parents are cannibalistic murderers.
Are there any horror movies from the 1980’s that you’d like to see remade? Sound off in the Comments section!