Remakes have been around almost as long as films themselves. Ok, so I may be exaggerating, but sometimes it sure as hell feels like it. You can’t walk into a cinema these days without being bombarded by posters and trailers for remakes, reboots and ‘reimaginings’. Remakes seem to be especially prevalent in the horror genre. So why is this? Considering that horror movies are supposed to fill us with a creeping sense of dread at the unknown and make us jump out of our seats with a well-timed shock, what is exactly the point of remaking a horror movie if all you’re going to do is rehash the original without adding anything new or inventive? The following 10 horror remakes send shivers down your spine, but for all the wrong reasons.
1.) The Fog (2005)
The plot of this 2005 remake of John Carpenter’s 1980 film of the same name, stays close to the original with a mysterious, sweeping fog rolling in over a small coastal town, bringing with it ghosts who start exacting revenge on the descendants of the people who killed them. Though the original was by no means a massive hit, it is rightly considered a cult classic by many horror fans. Revolution Studios apparently green-lit this remake before the script was finished, and oh boy, can you tell. With a script you can punch plot-shaped holes through and clichéd characters, including the token black guy providing some ill-judged humour, who for the first time, made me sorry that he wasn’t the first character killed off, this movie provides no originality whatsoever. The acting, including Tom Welling (Smallville) and Maggie Grace (Lost) is sub-par, with a lack of chemistry apparent between all the major players. Considering the advances in special effects since the original, the one thing I was at least expecting was an improvement in the effects. However, despite a couple of impressive scenes, in particular a shot of the crews’ ghostly figures standing in the fog on their stricken ship, the CGI was a complete let down. The biggest disappointment though is the complete and utter lack of scares, which for a horror movie is criminal. Considering the original film’s makers, John Carpenter and Debra Hill are both credited as producers for this remake; this could and should have been better.
This American remake, written and directed by Neil LaBute and starring Nicholas Cage is a remake of the British cult classic The Wicker Man (1973), but also draws from its source material, David Pinner’s 1967 novel Ritual. The plot is pretty much the same as the original, with a significant portion of the dialogue carried over, although sometimes in a different context. However a few changes have been made, which include changing the setting from Scotland to Washington, USA and recasting all the major roles, apart from Nicholas Cage’s as women. Apart from some cool cinematography, there is absolutely nothing to recommend about this remake, unless you’re looking for a bloody good laugh, which I’m pretty sure was not the filmmakers’ intention. Due to a predictable and banal script, all the mystery and suspense of the original has been lost. Exacerbating this are badly drawn characters who engender zero compassion for their circumstances. And while Nicholas Cage has put in his fair share of poor performances in the past, this must count as one of his worst, his range seeming to consist of befuddled to over the top with little in between. The Paganism vs Christianity narrative and sexuality of the original has been completely cast aside, resulting in a misogynistic, battle-of-the-sexes disaster. The original film’s writer and director, Robin Hardy, had his name removed from the film’s credits as he did not wish to be associated with it, and after watching this I can’t say I blame him.
The Hitcher is a remake of the 1986 film of the same name, which sees Sean Bean replacing Rutger Hauer as the titular psychopath terrorizing a couple of college kids (Zachary Knighton and Sophia Bush) on a road trip from hell. It’s directed by Dave Meyers who is more famous for directing music videos and it shows. This remake being the very definition of style over substance. While the original was a gripping thrill ride that balanced a rising level of tension with thrilling set pieces, this remake is a shallow imitation that fades from memory before the credits have finished rolling. While Meyers keeps the action moving at a steady pace, he seems more interested in cheap jump shocks and gratuitous gore. The complexity portrayed by Rutger Hauer in the original has been lost and in his place is a by-the-numbers performance by Sean Bean, which lacks any kind of intensity. The most significant change in this remake is that the lead hero is now a heroine, with Grace (Sophia Bush) replacing C. Thomas Howell’s Jim, but what is the point of gender reversal, if you don’t have anything interesting to say about the situation. If they were trying to portray a kick-ass heroine developing from meek beginnings, they failed. Grace shows no real character development throughout the film and therefore has no impact, other than perpetuating the ‘final girl’ trope.
One Missed Call is a 2008 American supernatural horror remake of Takashi Miike’s 2003 Japanese film of the same name. The film was written by Andrew Klavan and directed by Eric Valette and concerns a college coed, Beth (Shannyn Sossamon) who teams up with a detective (Edward Burns) to investigate when her friends start dying in freak accidents after receiving strange phone messages. While preparing for the film, apparently the director Eric Valette and his actors never watched the original version. In retrospect, perhaps they should have, as it might have shown them how to make a decent horror movie. While the original was a creepy, well-told tale, full of atmosphere and tension, this remake suffers from poor story-telling and bland performances. Though it does build suspense in some parts and contains some genuinely disturbing moments, including the sinister ‘warning’ ringtone, the never ending slew of flash bang wallop sound effects, which are not remotely creepy or scary deaden their impact. An overbearing score that tells you how to feel, rather than just enhancing how you feel doesn’t help either. While the premise isn’t necessarily bad, you will have come across it done better in films such as The Ring, Dark Water and the Final Destination series. The conclusion, which inevitably leaves the door open for a sequel, frustrates more that it intrigues and results in this being one of the weakest entries in the J-horror genre. It has a 0% approval rating based on Rotten Tomatoes, and after sitting through this, I can see why.
Black Christmas (2006), written and directed by Glen Morgan is a loose remake of the 1974 film of the same name, which is credited as being one of the first slasher films. It tells the story of a group of sorority girls who begin receiving disturbing phone calls that soon escalate into them being stalked and murdered by one of their house’s former inhabitants during the Christmas period. This is a gratuitous, uninspired and lazy remake with numerous plot holes and poorly explained ‘twists’. The original movie never revealed the identity or motives of the serial killer. From what little information was given, you had to piece together his back story through the phone calls he made to his victims. However, in this remake the killers (yep, one serial killer’s not enough for this film) are made obvious from the very beginning, complete with a spoon feeding of their back story and thereby draining the film of all mystery and suspense. And while the violence of the original’s murders were only implied, resulting in your imagination filling in the blanks and thereby making it more horrific than it actually was, the killings in this remake are unnecessarily gorier and over the top. Though there are a few decent creepy moments and the acting is not particularly bad, the sorority girls are given little to no personality and feel interchangeable. Their lack of character development and constant stupid decision making, such as refusal to leave the very place they are being repeatedly murdered means that we lose interest in their fates.
Prom Night (2008), directed by Nelson McCormick, is an American re-imagining of the 1980 Canadian film of the same name. This is a ‘remake’ in title only, with the only real similarity being the fact that someone is stalking and murdering high school seniors at their prom. In this version, Donna (Brittany Snow) and her friends are targeted by an obsessed killer, who was also responsible for murdering her family 3 years earlier. Though horror movies are sometimes misconstrued as perpetuating a series of worn-out tropes, in this case they would be completely right. The writer pulls out every cliché in the slasher handbook, including inane decision making, inept authorities and BOO! jump scares. A poor script is compounded by a lack of suspense and atmosphere (unlike the original) and predictable plot turns. Though the film is well shot, there is a tendency for jarring jump cuts and to repeat setups. There are only so many times you can show a person behind the victim in a mirror or closet before repetitive fatigue sets in. Not even the killer (Jonathan Schaech) can save this remake as he proves to be the least scary and intriguing villain to ever grace the screen. The film’s PG-13 rating also does it no favours, with some of the murders being carried out off screen. Those that are shown are extremely sanitized and are often carried out without a drop of blood being spilled. Now who wants that from a slasher movie?
When a Stranger Calls is a 2006 American psychological horror remake of the 1979 film of the same name based on the urban legend “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs”. In this film, Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle), a high school student on a routine babysitting gig receives increasingly threatening calls from a brutal serial killer. While the original was a moderate success based on its heart pounding opening, this remakes attempts to take that 20 minutes and stretch it for a full runtime. Though this may only be 87 minutes, it still means there is little time for anything close to a complex or engaging plot and is further hampered by juvenile elements, such as the lead heroine being forced to babysit because she went over her cell phone minutes and having to deal with the fact that her best friend kissed her boyfriend. Heavy stuff, I know. Though there is some impressive Set design, with the beautiful look and isolation of the house creating a genuinely creepy atmosphere, this is wasted by repeated scenes of Jill walking around, bumping into every horror cliché she can find, including shadows in dark hallways, cars that won’t start and the classic cat jumping out of a closet. Also, when the killer does finally appear, he turns out to be one of the lamest villains ever. He doesn’t appear to even carry a weapon and is devoid of any reasonable or even unreasonable motivation for his actions and as a result is never particularly threatening or frightening. The longest 87 minutes of my life.
8.) Shutter (2008)
This film is an American remake of the 2004 Thai horror film of the same name and is directed by Masayuki Ochiai. A newlywed couple, Ben and Jane (Joshua Jackson & Rachael Taylor) move to Japan for a promising job opportunity and after a car accident, start to discover disturbing, ghostly images in their photographs. Is the spirit of the girl they hit on the road returning to exact vengeance for leaving her to die or does she have another motive? This remake is derivative and predictable stuff. While the basic premise, which is taken wholesale from the original isn’t bad and the Tokyo locations admittedly look great, it is let down by incredibly plodding pacing and you can’t help but feel like you’ve seen it all before. The brilliant sound design and music of the original has been culled in favour of exaggerated sound effects, which do nothing but annoy. It has also padded out the original’s story with unnecessary exposition and melodrama, replacing the horror that is so badly needed. The ghost adds further disappointment, appearing as a standard issue ‘emo’ girl, rather than resembling a rotting corpse as in the original. This, along with her lack of any discernable personality or sense of threat, means she doesn’t hold your interest and more importantly isn’t even remotely scary. However, this film’s biggest crime though is the fact that it’s so incredibly boring.
April Fool’s Day (2008) is a direct-to-DVD remake of the 1986 film of the same name, directed by The Butcher Brothers (which proves to be an apt name). A year after an April Fool’s Day prank resulted in the death of one of their friends, a group of rich, entitled socialites find themselves targeted by a twisted killer out for revenge. While the original isn’t anything to shout about, this remake proves to be even worse. Apart from keeping the original’s title and twist ending, it ditches practically everything else, and in doing so, becomes a cheap rip-off of ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’. Worse than that, it does so without an iota of that film’s suspense, thrills or gore. Though there’s some great production and costume design at work, the acting is a mixed bag. While the main duo, Taylor Cole (Desiree) and Josh Henderson (Blaine) perform adequately, the supporting cast are a little bland and add little to the mix. This is probably not helped by the fact that their characters are walking stereotypes, i.e. bitchy queen bee, princess, philandering playboy, etc. and so obnoxious that you’ll soon find yourself begging for them to get horribly murdered. This means you’ll be sorely disappointed by their death scenes, which are bland, unimaginative and completely bloodless. You’ll be disappointed further when their supposed deaths are revealed to all be part of an elaborate hoax. So disappointed in fact, you’ll find yourself wanting to throw something at the screen. That’s if you’re not too busy predicting the ‘shock’ ending, which you can see coming from a mile off.
10.) Psycho (1998)
An obvious one I know, but there can be no underestimating the pointlessness of this 1998 Gus Van Sant directed remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). It is virtually a shot-for-shot copy of the original, even down to the camera framing and editing. The script is nearly identical and Bernard Herrmann’s musical score is reused, though with a new arrangement by Danny Elfman. By taking this copycat approach, it opens itself up to direct comparisons to the original, which is rightly considered a classic and it does not come out favourably. Van Sant seems to have the attitude that a splash of colour, modern actors and a more contemporary setting is all it takes to transform his film from simply a direct copy to something more. Unfortunately, he’s wrong and I find this attitude that modern audiences refuse to watch anything in black and white or set before 1980 to be insulting and erroneous, as the success of The Artist proved. If Van Sant thought casting Vince Vaughan and Anne Heche was the answer to creating a fresh perspective, he was seriously mistaken. Though it would be difficult to surpass Anthony Perkins performance, which is considered to be one of the most memorable, Vince Vaughn is completely miscast in the Norman Bates role. While Perkins portrayed Bates as a seemingly harmless, if slightly awkward boy-next-door, Vince Vaughan’s performance practically screams ‘Psycho’ from his very first scene. Overall, this film has nothing new to say or show. Apparently, when asked why he did a shot-for-shot remake, Gus Van Sant replied “So no one else would have to.” And I’m sure the rest of the film making community is eternally grateful to him.
Remakes, particularly horror remakes are given a bad rep these days. However, for these 10 horror remakes in particular, with their unoriginal ideas, poor scripts and a distinct lack of scares, that reputation is richly deserved.