Remakes are tricky. It feels as though the mass majority of them are loathsome and humdrum, uninspired and unimaginative. Some of them are just plain confused with themselves, uncertain of what the hell they want to be or aim to accomplish. But every once in a while we actually get a stunner. The kind of remake that makes you happy the original was created (The Fly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dawn of the Dead, The Ring, etc.), no matter how good or bad it was. We love those films, and we want to celebrate their existence.
This particular article began as a list of the 20 greatest remakes ever made, but quickly morphed into something more specific. We’ve seen enough of those “Best Remakes” lists, we thought we’d tighten it up just a bit and provide you with a guide to the absolute finest remakes of the last 10 years (we’re starting with 2006 as opposed to 2007, as we’re only a few months into 2016 and picking a star remake of the year is basically an impossibility at this point). The very best remake, each year, outlined and colored in for you, below!
The Hills Have Eyes
Alexandre Aja is both brave and talented. He’s got an eye for strong horror flare and he knows how to make big sequences feel very important to viewers. Haute Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors, Piranha and Horns are all impressive Aja films. Three of those are remakes. Mirrors – one of those remakes – is the weakest of the bunch and it’s still arguable that it’s a superior work to its very own source. The man is obviously quite passionate, and he’s obviously set out to do a few of his old favorites justice in a modern framing. The Hills Have Eyes is one of his greatest features, in many ways proving superior to Wes Craven’s original, and it absolutely crushed the remake competition in 2006. Not that that’s a colossal accomplishment when you’re competing with films like Black Christmas, The Wicker Man, The Omen, When a Stranger Calls and Pulse (okay, we’ve got to give a hint of love to “prequel” The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which is gratuitous and mediocre, but better than any other re-imagining to hit the market in ’06).
Outside of perhaps, The Invasion (and our pick, of course), 2007 was a pretty dismal year for genre remakes. The Hills Have Eyes II was nothing short of an embarrassment, The Hitcher was somehow completely flat and as far from creepy or fun as it gets. Don’t get me started on pictures like Freakshow and The Wizard of Gore. It was a rough year for horror remakes. Somehow Rob Zombie emerged as a lifesaver. His rendition of Halloween is flawed, especially in pacing and casting, but it attempts to shed an entirely new light on Michael Myers and we applaud the hell out of Rob’s extremely spirited effort. The final act of the film, which essentially turns into a very direct remake, with Myers pursuing Laurie relentlessly, is actually the weakest point of the film, meaning it’s actually Rob’s own bold decision to do something new with the story that acts as the most rewarding element of the movie. It’s not perfect, but in a year muddled by dull re-imaginings, Halloween is your big winner.
There are a few differences between Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s Spanish pic, [REC] and John Erick Dowdle’s American remake, Quarantine, but the bulk of both films unravel like near shot-for-shot transfers. There’s a hint of the magic of [REC] missing from Quarantine, but that could be a byproduct of familiarity. We can only jump so many times as a firefighter unexpectedly plummets to his death in the background. No matter how you slice it, Quarantine did the original justice, and which film you watch could really come down to one simple decision: to watch a film while reading subtitles, or not?
Friday the 13th
Here’s where the ax falls dangerously close to my exposed melon. It’s become cool to trash Marcus Nispel’s rendition of Friday the 13th, which freely utilizes key elements from the first four films and wraps them up in one single package. I’m not onboard with that idea, because the simple truth of the matter is this: Nispel’s film is a highly polished and very stylized alternative to Sean Cunningham’s pic of the same name. While I’ll always love the grainy image and low lighting of the original, I can’t help but admit that Nispel’s film is often noticeably creepier and intense. Voorhees, now an agile and dedicated murderer, rather than a middle-aged woman, or a slow, prodding bloke with a burlap sack on his head, is significantly more imposing. When he’s on screen, we know anything can happen at any time, and we know the chances of these young punks outrunning the man are slim to none. Nispel’s film may never hold the nostalgia factor that elevates Cunningham’s picture into the ranks of greatness, but it’s mighty enjoyable if you’re looking for a straight forward slasher film that pulls very few punches.
George A. Romero’s 1973 offering, The Crazies had a ton of potential. However, the film feels a tad sloppy and hasn’t aged very well. It’s also something of a rarity, which is why it was nice to see Breck Eisner approach the content with a fresh vision. The Crazies remake had fair but not spectacular buzz surrounding it in advance of arrival, and ultimately performed in similar fashion, debuting at #3 at the domestic box office before eventually topping out with a worldwide take of $54.8 million. It wasn’t a smash hit and it wasn’t an utter failure. What it is, all numbers cast aside, is one of the finer remakes we’ve seen released in the last decade. The movie is loaded with tense moments, moves at a comfortable pace, boasts one of Timothy Olyphant’s (absolutely love this guy!) strongest performances to date and plays fairly faithful (as a result of Romero’s position as producer) to the source. If you haven’t already, look into it!
Silent House kind of wins this one by default, as the marquee remakes, Fright Night and The Thing both suffer from some of the same problems: ridiculously bad CGI and extremely uneven pacing. There’s some entertainment value to be found in each film, but speaking from a technical standpoint, Silent House, in my opinion, is stronger than both. It’s also an interesting film, and while many feel as though the Uruguayan original warranted no American remake, I’d argue against that notion; the foreign film wasn’t receiving the love it deserved. Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s piece opened a lot of eyes.
There were a few remakes in 2012 that garnered our respect. Chief among them are Silent Night and Maniac. As much as I enjoyed Silent Night (I did, quite a bit), the nod has to go to Frank Khalfoun’s Maniac. Not only is the film superior – technically speaking – to Silent Night, in every way, shape or form, it also gives us some stunning improvements on the original film (itself a wildly entertaining and creepy feature), like the incorporation of an unlikely (really, who thought Elijah Wood could pull it off?!) but perfect antagonist and some of the cooler scalping scenes ever shot. The opening 10-minutes alone is pitch-perfect, and the film maintains that steam up until the credits roll.
Here’s my personal pick for greatest remake of the last 10 years. Fede Alvarez did something very, very special with Evil Dead. While Sam Raimi’s legendary film plays it a little safe in regards to plot and character motivation, Alvarez changes things up and delivers an insanely clever spin on the story. Raimi’s movie was about friends heading out of town to blow off some steam, inevitably running into evil; Alvarez’s flick is about a group of friends who head out to an isolated cabin so that their junkie friend, Mia can detox without distraction or the convenience of an easy escape route. That’s genius and it completely explains why these kids are out in this cabin, and it does so without being cheap or uninventive and following Raimi’s film to a T (I’m not implying that Raimi’s film is cheap, or uninventive, as his concept wasn’t remotely near as exhausted in 1981 as it was in 2013). It’s wildly graphic, features absolutely stunning practical special effects, awesome performances and a savage finale. Evil Dead, 2013, is a top notch, 5-star film, plain and simple.
The Town that Dreaded Sundown
The Town that Dreaded Sundown feels like more of an outright reboot than a remake, but it’s categorized as a remake and the bulk of the film (just about everything leading up to the final act, which takes the picture in a very different direction) is relatively (there are some obvious changes, and the film has been modernized, obviously) faithful to Charles B. Pierce’s awesome kind-of-mockumentary, kind-of-true-story, all-creepy-early-slasher-installment. For some reason Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s picture is a bit slept on, with many seemingly forgetting that it was ever released. I scratch my head at that one, as it’s a wicked, wicked good remake and easily one of the greatest films featured on this list. The Town that Dreaded Sundown looks awesome, boasts generally strong performances and actually feels like a throwback slasher.
Most don’t even realize it, but if you watch Knock Knock and feel a very pronounced sense of deva vu, it’s because – if you’re a super hardcore fan – it’s entirely possible you’ve already seen it. The original, which is actually pretty damn similar to the remake, is known as Death Game, and it’s well worth your time. Roth’s film is going to work for many (I enjoyed it quite a bit), but those who didn’t find it enjoyable would be advised to tune into its source, which is a quality throwback flick. No big budget, no insane bells and whistles, just good old fashioned drive-in horror.