Halloween still isn’t here yet and we aren’t done with the horror film coverage here on CXF! Sit tight because today we’re going to catch up with various horror film remakes.
A lot of people seem to have problems with remakes. They claim that they’re weak attempts by Hollywood to prosper off a name that already has an audience rather than taking a risk with creating a new concept. This is true for the most part but once in awhile, these pictures may actually come out of nowhere and succeed the former in quality. Some might even be good enough to stand on its own in comparison. Horror remakes are especially prevalent in the film industry. They’re relatively inexpensive to produce and easy to repackage to an already built-in fan base. By this time, I’m sure you’ve read everything there is about the remakes for popular franchises like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween. I’ll spare you all by not covering those. What I will cover however are other contemporary remakes for other popular horror films of yesteryear.
The 1998 remake of Psycho was an interesting experiment which sadly ended up disastrous. It was an exact shot by shot remake of the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic. While it was cool to see the original black-and-white cinematic darling in color, it weakened the movie on so many levels when Vince Vaughn was cast as Norman Bates and Anne Heche assumed the part of Marion Crane.
To be fair, Vaughn wasn’t properly established yet as the comedic actor we know him as today but as spectators quickly found out here, he doesn’t properly possess the chops to make him a respectable dramatic entertainer. He didn’t properly convey the personality of Norman Bates like Anthony Perkins did. Heche was also torn to shreds verbally for her performance even being nominated for a Golden Raspberry award (back when people still payed attention to that kind of stuff) for her rendition of Ms. Crane.
The remake left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and is one of the sole blotches in director Gus Van Sant’s filmography. It was a critical failure with no money returned on its $60 million budget. It wasn’t until the A&E series Bates Motel that people started to give another spin on Hitchcock’s film a chance. Very good show by the way. I recommend it to everyone.
Oh man, I can’t bring myself to review that hilariously atrocious Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation which starred Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey. Instead, I will focus on the 2003 remake of TCM which actually did the series justice. Yes, the timeless tale of family of disfigured sickos chasing after a band of friends was rebranded at the beginning of the new millennium.
The original 1974 TCM was a classic entry in the horror realm but its sequels left a lot to be desired. Hoping to redeem the masked, chainsaw-wielding freak, Leatherface, in everyone’s eyes, a revamped re-imagining hit theaters in 2003. It does a pretty good job in showing Leatherface as a menacing presence and has some genuine suspense. There’s one specific cringe-inducing scene where he places one of his victims on a meat hook.
The performances are surprisingly pretty good which is not something I can say many times about Jessica Biel. Outside of Leatherface, R. Lee Ermey by far plays the best character in the film portraying a creepy cop. This was the debut film from director Marcus Nispel who went on to helm the Friday the 13th remake six years later.
What followed was a 2006 prequel and in 2013, a 3-D interpretation was released. The TCM doesn’t seem to be vanishing anytime soon so look out for Leatherface’s trademark power tool in the future.
I absolutely adore George A. Romero’s Dead trilogy and like the general consensus, Dawn of the Dead is my favorite of the three. Since none of the characters from Night of the Living Dead survived, this one introduced an entire new cast. Here, a group of people find that their town is suddenly overrun by a zombie invasion. They’re able to escape and take shelter in a nearby abandoned mall where they struggle with survival.
I loved the film so much that once I found out a remake was coming out during my senior year of high school, I was actually excited and not indifferent like a lot of remakes are for me. I couldn’t wait for this to be released and when it finally did…I was disappointed.
I know I’m in the minority here but I didn’t really enjoy this like a lot of people seemed to. For one, I really dislike fast moving zombies. To me, they just take out all the suspense of the film. Slow mutants build up more suspense so when they finally score a victim and eat their flesh, it means more. Also, I feel like a zombie shouldn’t inherit every human trait and that includes speed. Something like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later gets a pass for this since they weren’t actually referred to as zombies in the movie. I should also mention that this was final movie I saw at the old movie theater by my high school before it closed its doors for good. I don’t want to say it was DOTD that did the place in but, yeah, it’s too coincidental!
Regardless, the remake had one freakin’ wonderful scene with a montage of the main characters passing the time set to Richard Cheese’s hilarious cover of Disturbed’s Down With The Sickness. I remember sitting in the theater bored watching this then instantly coming alive once that song started playing. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I laughed hysterically! That alone doesn’t make this unwatchable, just bland.
Oh and by the way, the remake was the feature film debut of Zack Snyder. That’s a bad or good thing depending on who you ask.
House of Wax (1953 & 2005)
This one is fascinating because there isn’t just one but actually two remakes for House of Wax. Each taking place in different eras of film making. In 1933, The Mystery of the Wax Museum was released. In 1953, a more well-known remake entitled House of Wax starring Vincent Price came into the world. I’ve never gotten a hold of the original myself, but I have caught the ‘53 version. It’s about a talented wax sculptor who is left for dead by his backstabbing business partner as he watches his museum along with his life’s work go up in flames. After being deemed physically unable to sculpt again following the incident, he resorts to murdering people, engulfing them in wax, and using them as his new work. Some pretty unsettling stuff on display here.
In 2005, yet another remake dropped into theaters. It was originally supposed to be a titled Wax House but studios decided to name it House of Wax to cash in on the name. Here, a group of young people on a camping trip are killed off one by one by two savage brothers who run the town’s wax museum and make the residents along with anyone who passes through their exhibits. A pretty mediocre film but it was nice watching the nod to its predecessor at the end where they burn the museum to the ground and see all the statues melt which happened at the beginning of ‘53 version.
Other than the name, one of the main draws of the film was Paris Hilton who unfortunately was still a thing in 2005. Hell, one of the movie’s taglines was “See Paris Die”. That tells you everything right there. In all fairness, her death scene was pretty glorious.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
Being from New York, I took plenty of trips to Amityville, Long Island back in college to check out the infamous Amityville horror house. The home was the basis of the 1979 film, The Amityville Horror, where a series of murders happened behind those doors years prior. It is based on the book of the same name which chronicles the family of George and Kathy Lutz who inhabit the house after the killings but move out just a month later after supposedly being haunted by its past.
The movie is so-so, as are its sequels, but it did make a ton of change ($86 million on a $4 million budget) from moviegoers and its score was even nominated for an Academy Award. It was composed by Lalo Schifrin who’s biggest claim to fame is probably writing the well-known Mission: Impossible theme.
In 2005, a remake starring Ryan Reynolds was released. While the original isn’t great, I actually prefer it to this snooze fest. I don’t hate Reynolds but there’s something not genuine about his acting here. He just never seems especially frightened about what’s going on.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
The late Wes Craven directed The Hills Have Eyes back in 1977. It was one of his first films and was released way before he became known for A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was filmed with only a few hundred thousand dollars but wound up raking in millions at the box office. Its strong following led to its remake almost 30 years later.
This film had a much larger budget than the original and like the former, was financially successful in theaters. The story follows a family on vacation who wind up getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. Of course, terror strikes and soon, they’re prey for a clan of deformed maniacs. I was skeptical at first since the trailer didn’t excite me but wow, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. I was shocked by how unapologetic it was. There’s a scene where the family’s young son is held by gunpoint and another where the mother and her oldest daughter are brutally raped in front of one another. I would have expected content like that to be cut but nope, it’s all there.
Craven also directed a second film, The Hills Have Eyes II, in 1985 which is universally disliked by fans. The 2006 remake had a sequel of its own with the same title in 2007 which is just about as well liked at Craven’s sequel.
Carrie (2002 & 2013)
Like House of Wax, Carrie actually had more than on remake (and a little talked about sequel which we won’t get into). Following the iconic 1976 adaptation of the popular Stephen King novel that solidified the career of Sissy Spacek, a made-for-television version was produced in 2002.
Here, Carrie is played by Angela Bettis while her mother is portrayed by the always great, Patricia Clarkson. It aired on NBC on November 4th, 2002. It’s weird that the movie premiered a few days after Halloween and not before it but alas, it did decent ratings for the network and wasn’t a bad film at all, really if only a bit cheesy at parts. Bettis did a decent job at with the role of Carrie White, a reclusive teenager harboring telekinetic abilities.
As we all know, Carrie returned for a big Hollywood remake in 2013 with Chloe Grace Moretz as the titular character and Julianne Moore playing her religious but abusive mother, Margaret White. It was directed by Kimberly Peirce who previously directed the Academy Award winning picture, Boys Don’t Cry.
I thought Moretz did an above average job but I feel her performance was a little too forced at parts particularly during the climax scene at the school prom. She tried a wee bit too hard to look psychotic. Overall, the film wasn’t bad but my life wouldn’t have changed if it were never remade.