(As a way of welcoming my very favorite month of the year, I thought it would be fun to reprint one of the very few good articles I've ever written. So here it is!)
By: Scott Weinberg
House of Wax, starring Paris Hilton. The Fog, starring Wooden Superman. The Amityville Horror, starring Van Wilder.
Yep, it's tough to be an old-school hardcore horror fan these days, what with all the really atrocious remakes that keep flopping off of the studios' assembly lines. (If you paid money to see When a Stranger Calls, you're either one devoted horror fan -- or a really bored high school kid.) But since the Horror Fan is nothing if not loyally optimistic, we trudge off to each successive remake with a small kernel of hope -- maybe this one won't suck the proverbial egg. So while it's perfectly logical for a passionate horror geek to throw up his/her hands and shriek "Ack! Horror remakes! They all suck!!" -- the simple truth is that they don't all suck. The good ones are just pretty darn few and far between.
7. Night of the Living Dead (1990)-- Splatter-master Tom Savini got the chance to direct his own remake of Romero's all-time classic back in 1990, and -- whaddaya know? -- he did a pretty solid job of it! With extra gore dripping from the floorboards and the presence of genre favorites Tony Todd & Bill Moseley, this re-visit came long before the Remake Renaissance, but I think it still holds up pretty well today.
6. The Hills Have Eyes (2006) -- Yes, it's a new addition to the list, but I'm a guy who absolutely adores Wes Craven's original Hills, so feel free to take my recommendation as a seasoned gorehound who knows what's up. The re-do amps up the "nuclear family" subtext and delivers a little extra gore & humor for your $9.50. No, it's not better than the original, but it's not an outright slap in the chops either. Kudos to the High Tension guys for delivering a remake that respects its predecessor while claiming a little territory of its own. (Plus there's an Unrated version on the way!)
5. The Blob (1988) -- I've lost count of how many times I watched the original version as a kid, but Chuck Russell's 1988 remake shows off a comic-book sensibility, a whole lot of action, and a really goopy take on cinema's most amorphous monster. See it for the garbage disposal dispatch, for the freaky phone booth buffet, or for Kevin Dillon's hilarious mullet. The original flick might still be a classic, but I actually prefer the modern one nowadays. Basically, if you're opting for a Blob Double Feature, stick with these two and be sure to avoid the 1972 semi-sequel Beware! The Blob, which (oddly enough) was directed by Larry Hagman.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) -- I've got lots of hardcore horror pals out there, and the group is split right down the middle where Marcus Nispel's TCM remake is concerned. Some see a bleak and unflinching new horror flick; others see a klunky and over-directed rip-off. Me, I dig the thing a whole lot -- and it's not just because of Jessica Biel and her perpetually jiggly T-shirt. True, there's a big block of unnecessary back-story and, yeah, most of the remake's best ideas are snagged from Tobe Hooper's original classic, but I still see this one as a slick, stylish, and admirably grim rendition of one of horror's true immortals.
3. Dawn of the Dead (2004) -- Sure, Zack Snyder's remake is more "apocalyptic action" than "socially relevant horror parable," but I guess that's why they call 'em "remakes." You take a movie that people love, plant your own spin on the thing, and hope everyone comes out and enjoys it. Debate all you want about fast zombies vs. slow, but there's little denying that the new DOTD is a fast-paced, exciting, and oddly disturbing little experiment. Doesn't touch the original, of course, but c'mon, who really thought it could?
2. The Fly (1986) -- Finally, a horror remake that's actually better than the original! Doesn't happen too often, but I'm not surprised it was David Cronenberg who broke that particular seal. Call it an AIDS parable, a metaphor for the frailty of the human condition in the face of consumptive disease, the world's nastiest chick flick, or a down & dirty horror mega-classic... I'd agree on all counts. One of Cronenberg's very finest films, it features stellar goop effects, superlative work from Jeff Goldblum & Geena Davis, and a palpable sense of physical unease that still haunts viewers today. I know folks who HATE horror movies, yet love this one. Weird, eh?
1. The Thing (1982) -- John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece hit the theaters only a few short weeks after Spielberg's cuddly E.T. hit the scene, and I suppose moviegoers were more in the mood for benign space visitors who like candy than they were for a stunningly disgusting meta-morpho-monster who likes nothing more than to kill, devour, absorb, and replicate his victims. Their loss, I guess, because The Thing is, quite simply, one of the best horror movies ever made. Whether you're a fan of outrageously gory monster effects, the quietly effective "Ten Little Indians" style of body count, or the inescapable sense of isolated dread that runs throughout the whole freaky flick ... wow. This flick's really something special, and I find myself revisiting The Thing once or twice a year. Toss a great turn by Kurt Russell and a stellar Morricone score into the equation, and you're looking at the single finest horror remake ever made. (Although you could flip-flop The Thing and The Fly and you wouldn't hear any complaints from me!)
Did I leave something good out? Much as I enjoyed the new versions of The Ring and Dark Water (yes, I'm the one), I was hoping to stick mainly with "traditional" type remakes, and not the "OMG this horror movie rocks but it's in Japanese which means we need one made in English ASAP!" titles. Perhaps for my next installment, I'll do the seven worst horror remakes -- although, with so many terrible flicks to wade through, a project like that would take about 25 hours of real research.