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23 Horror Remakes That Are Surprisingly Good

The Thing, Evil Dead, and — yes — Sorority Row.

Posted on June 29, 2018, at 12:39 p.m. ET

1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Director: Philip KaufmanWriter: W.D. RichterRemake of: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)Alien invaders show up on Earth and start replicating humans to take over the planet. The pod people of the '50s classic get a '70s revamp in a film that retains all the paranoid horror of the original while also adding some nifty new effects, like a mutant dog with a human face you won't be able to unsee. Perhaps the best update is a chilling ending involving one of the most piercing cinematic screams.
United Artists

Director: Philip Kaufman

Writer: W.D. Richter

Remake of: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Alien invaders show up on Earth and start replicating humans to take over the planet. The pod people of the '50s classic get a '70s revamp in a film that retains all the paranoid horror of the original while also adding some nifty new effects, like a mutant dog with a human face you won't be able to unsee. Perhaps the best update is a chilling ending involving one of the most piercing cinematic screams.

2. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

Director: Werner HerzogWriter: Werner HerzogRemake of: Nosferatu (1922)The 1922 Nosferatu was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's iconic vampire novel Dracula; Werner Herzog's stylish remake didn't have to be so coy, which means that Klaus Kinski is actually playing Dracula here. This is a more somber, thoughtful version of the classic story, with an emphasis on Dracula's isolation. It's also — like the film that inspired it — strikingly beautiful with gorgeously constructed shots throughout.
20th Century Fox

Director: Werner Herzog

Writer: Werner Herzog

Remake of: Nosferatu (1922)

The 1922 Nosferatu was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's iconic vampire novel Dracula; Werner Herzog's stylish remake didn't have to be so coy, which means that Klaus Kinski is actually playing Dracula here. This is a more somber, thoughtful version of the classic story, with an emphasis on Dracula's isolation. It's also — like the film that inspired it — strikingly beautiful with gorgeously constructed shots throughout.

3. Cat People (1982)

Director: Paul SchraderWriter: DeWitt Bodeen and Alan OrmsbyRemake of: Cat People (1942)Werecats but make it sexy. Yes, Paul Schrader's '80s erotic thriller takes the subtle sexuality of the far more restrained 1942 original and ramps it up to 11. There's a lot to enjoy here, whether you're more thrilled by Nastassja Kinski or the natural beauty of the black leopard. And if you're worried the film won't meet your standards of perversity, rest assured there's a deeply upsetting incest reveal.
Universal Pictures

Director: Paul Schrader

Writer: DeWitt Bodeen and Alan Ormsby

Remake of: Cat People (1942)

Werecats but make it sexy. Yes, Paul Schrader's '80s erotic thriller takes the subtle sexuality of the far more restrained 1942 original and ramps it up to 11. There's a lot to enjoy here, whether you're more thrilled by Nastassja Kinski or the natural beauty of the black leopard. And if you're worried the film won't meet your standards of perversity, rest assured there's a deeply upsetting incest reveal.

4. The Thing (1982)

Director: John CarpenterWriter: Bill LancasterRemake of: The Thing From Another World (1951)Technically speaking, The Thing is more a new adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? than a remake of the '50s film — but it takes enough inspiration from the latter that it merits inclusion here. There are so many memorable moments of body horror as the titular creature takes on new monstrous forms, but as with Body Snatchers, the real terror is the paranoia of not knowing who is harboring the alien host.
Universal Pictures

Director: John Carpenter

Writer: Bill Lancaster

Remake of: The Thing From Another World (1951)

Technically speaking, The Thing is more a new adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? than a remake of the '50s film — but it takes enough inspiration from the latter that it merits inclusion here. There are so many memorable moments of body horror as the titular creature takes on new monstrous forms, but as with Body Snatchers, the real terror is the paranoia of not knowing who is harboring the alien host.

5. The Fly (1986)

Director: David CronenbergWriter: Charles Edward Pogue and David CronenbergRemake of: The Fly (1958)Speaking of body horror, the master of the genre gave the story of a man-fly hybrid a distinctly Cronenbergian update in his 1986 film. Jeff Goldblum stars as scientist Seth Brundle, who accidentally gets his DNA spliced with a housefly's. His metamorphosis into the Brundlefly is both revolting and affecting — there's surprising pathos alongside the nausea-inducing effects.
20th Century Fox

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: Charles Edward Pogue and David Cronenberg

Remake of: The Fly (1958)

Speaking of body horror, the master of the genre gave the story of a man-fly hybrid a distinctly Cronenbergian update in his 1986 film. Jeff Goldblum stars as scientist Seth Brundle, who accidentally gets his DNA spliced with a housefly's. His metamorphosis into the Brundlefly is both revolting and affecting — there's surprising pathos alongside the nausea-inducing effects.

6. The Blob (1988)

Director: Chuck RussellWriter: Chuck Russell and Frank DarabontRemake of: The Blob (1958)It doesn't get much more fun than The Blob. I mean, it's a movie about sentient pink slime turning people into mush — what's not to love? The '80s remake, made 30 years after the original, majorly upped the gore, offering a much more visceral look at what happens when the blob consumes you. It's truly disgusting, which is a big part of what makes the film such a delight to watch.
TriStar Pictures

Director: Chuck Russell

Writer: Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont

Remake of: The Blob (1958)

It doesn't get much more fun than The Blob. I mean, it's a movie about sentient pink slime turning people into mush — what's not to love? The '80s remake, made 30 years after the original, majorly upped the gore, offering a much more visceral look at what happens when the blob consumes you. It's truly disgusting, which is a big part of what makes the film such a delight to watch.

7. The Ring (2002)

Director: Gore VerbinskiWriter: Ehren KrugerRemake of: Ring (1998)A cursed videotape causes people to die seven days after they view it — and the whole thing is a lot more terrifying than the concept sounds. The Ring ushered in an era of US remakes of Japanese horror, most of which were pretty forgettable. The Ring, however, is as good as if not better than the original. Samara (Daveigh Chase) is easily one of the scariest horror villains of all time — no small feat for a young girl.
DreamWorks Pictures

Director: Gore Verbinski

Writer: Ehren Kruger

Remake of: Ring (1998)

A cursed videotape causes people to die seven days after they view it — and the whole thing is a lot more terrifying than the concept sounds. The Ring ushered in an era of US remakes of Japanese horror, most of which were pretty forgettable. The Ring, however, is as good as if not better than the original. Samara (Daveigh Chase) is easily one of the scariest horror villains of all time — no small feat for a young girl.

8. Willard (2003)

Director: Glen MorganWriter: Stephen Gilbert and Glen MorganRemake of: Willard (1971)It's not that Willard — about a socially awkward man who trains a colony of rats to do his bidding — is especially good. It's more that it's a vehicle for Crispin Glover to lean into his weirdness and deliver a performance that exaggerates his distinctly unsettling qualities. He is relentlessly creepy as an outcast whose only real friend is a white rat named Socrates.
New Line Cinema

Director: Glen Morgan

Writer: Stephen Gilbert and Glen Morgan

Remake of: Willard (1971)

It's not that Willard — about a socially awkward man who trains a colony of rats to do his bidding — is especially good. It's more that it's a vehicle for Crispin Glover to lean into his weirdness and deliver a performance that exaggerates his distinctly unsettling qualities. He is relentlessly creepy as an outcast whose only real friend is a white rat named Socrates.

9. Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Director: Zack SnyderWriter: James GunnRemake of: Dawn of the Dead (1978)Zombie purists had a tough time with Zack Snyder's remake of the classic George A. Romero film Dawn of the Dead. The main issue: These zombies can run. It's a pretty significant departure from the original, and from zombie films as a whole, but frankly, the genre needed a bit of a reboot. Faithful or not, the movie is a blast: fast-paced, funny, and genuinely stressful.
Universal Pictures

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: James Gunn

Remake of: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Zombie purists had a tough time with Zack Snyder's remake of the classic George A. Romero film Dawn of the Dead. The main issue: These zombies can run. It's a pretty significant departure from the original, and from zombie films as a whole, but frankly, the genre needed a bit of a reboot. Faithful or not, the movie is a blast: fast-paced, funny, and genuinely stressful.

10. The Grudge (2004)

Director: Takashi ShimizuWriter: Stephen SuscoRemake of: Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)Another Japanese horror remake, The Grudge gained a leg up on its contemporaries by letting the director of the original film, Takashi Shimizu, helm the US iteration. The Grudge wasn't all that well received by critics, but the nonlinear narrative and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself) as the lead make it worth watching. The sequels, on the other hand, you can probably do without.
Columbia Pictures

Director: Takashi Shimizu

Writer: Stephen Susco

Remake of: Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)

Another Japanese horror remake, The Grudge gained a leg up on its contemporaries by letting the director of the original film, Takashi Shimizu, helm the US iteration. The Grudge wasn't all that well received by critics, but the nonlinear narrative and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself) as the lead make it worth watching. The sequels, on the other hand, you can probably do without.

11. House of Wax (2005)

Director: Jaume Collet-SerraWriter: Charles Belden, Chad Hayes, and Carey HayesRemake of: House of Wax (1953)Yes, this is the movie in which Paris Hilton is murdered, which was a big selling point for people upon its release. But rest assured there's more to House of Wax than Ms. Hilton's iconic death scene. Very loosely based on the '50s film, the movie includes some really horrifying visuals: Wax figures are inherently frightening. Real people turned into wax figures? Total nightmare fodder.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writer: Charles Belden, Chad Hayes, and Carey Hayes

Remake of: House of Wax (1953)

Yes, this is the movie in which Paris Hilton is murdered, which was a big selling point for people upon its release. But rest assured there's more to House of Wax than Ms. Hilton's iconic death scene. Very loosely based on the '50s film, the movie includes some really horrifying visuals: Wax figures are inherently frightening. Real people turned into wax figures? Total nightmare fodder.

12. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Director: Alexandre AjaWriter: Alexandre Aja and Grégory LevasseurRemake of: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)The O.G. Hills Have Eyes, one of Wes Craven's earliest films, is a gritty, nasty piece of work. Alexandre Aja's remake is sleeker — the French filmmaker has made a name for himself as part of the New French Extremity movement, and his penchant for artful gore is readily apparent here. The story about mutant cannibals attacking a family is nothing special, but there's real beauty in the execution.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Director: Alexandre Aja

Writer: Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur

Remake of: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The O.G. Hills Have Eyes, one of Wes Craven's earliest films, is a gritty, nasty piece of work. Alexandre Aja's remake is sleeker — the French filmmaker has made a name for himself as part of the New French Extremity movement, and his penchant for artful gore is readily apparent here. The story about mutant cannibals attacking a family is nothing special, but there's real beauty in the execution.

13. Quarantine (2008)

Director: John Erick DowdleWriter: John Erick Dowdle and Drew DowdleRemake of: REC (2007)Did we really need an English-language remake of REC? The Spanish film was a hit with critics and audiences, and a standout of the found footage genre. But it had subtitles, which are tough for some people apparently, so we got Quarantine. All shade aside, the US version is worthwhile in its own right, using the shaky-cam style to its advantage: It has an immediacy and claustrophobia that make for a harrowing viewing experience.
Screen Gems

Director: John Erick Dowdle

Writer: John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle

Remake of: REC (2007)

Did we really need an English-language remake of REC? The Spanish film was a hit with critics and audiences, and a standout of the found footage genre. But it had subtitles, which are tough for some people apparently, so we got Quarantine. All shade aside, the US version is worthwhile in its own right, using the shaky-cam style to its advantage: It has an immediacy and claustrophobia that make for a harrowing viewing experience.

14. My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

Director: Patrick LussierWriter: Zane Smith, Todd Farmer, and John Beaird Remake of: My Bloody Valentine (1981)OK, it's not high art — most films with "3D" in the title aren't, as in the case of Piranha 3D below — but the original My Bloody Valentine was trash, too. Here, at least, there's that really delightful 3D gimmick to keep things moving along, and when you've got a slasher flick about a guy in a gas mask and mining gear slaughtering teens with a pickax, that gimmick is more than enough.
Lionsgate

Director: Patrick Lussier

Writer: Zane Smith, Todd Farmer, and John Beaird

Remake of: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

OK, it's not high art — most films with "3D" in the title aren't, as in the case of Piranha 3D below — but the original My Bloody Valentine was trash, too. Here, at least, there's that really delightful 3D gimmick to keep things moving along, and when you've got a slasher flick about a guy in a gas mask and mining gear slaughtering teens with a pickax, that gimmick is more than enough.

15. The Last House on the Left (2009)

Director: Dennis IliadisWriter: Adam Alleca and Carl EllsworthRemake of: The Last House on the Left (1972)Another remake of an early Wes Craven classic, The Last House on the Left is actually somewhat less depraved — and a little less bleak — than its predecessor. It's still a tough watch, and potential viewers should be warned that the sexual violence of the original has not been toned down. What makes this remake work is the strong cast, particularly Garret Dillahunt as the sadistic Krug.
Rogue Pictures

Director: Dennis Iliadis

Writer: Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth

Remake of: The Last House on the Left (1972)

Another remake of an early Wes Craven classic, The Last House on the Left is actually somewhat less depraved — and a little less bleak — than its predecessor. It's still a tough watch, and potential viewers should be warned that the sexual violence of the original has not been toned down. What makes this remake work is the strong cast, particularly Garret Dillahunt as the sadistic Krug.

16. Sorority Row (2009)

Director: Stewart HendlerWriter: Josh Stolberg and Pete GoldfingerRemake of: The House on Sorority Row (1983)Yes, really. A polished update of cult classic The House on Sorority Row, the 2000s version is about as absurd as you'd expect. Just look at that cast: Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, The Hills' Audrina Patridge, and yes, Carrie Fisher as sorority house mother Mrs. Crenshaw. It's probably unfair to call Sorority Row underrated; perhaps it's more accurate to say it's misunderstood. Go in with the right expectations and have a blast.
Summit Entertainment

Director: Stewart Hendler

Writer: Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger

Remake of: The House on Sorority Row (1983)

Yes, really. A polished update of cult classic The House on Sorority Row, the 2000s version is about as absurd as you'd expect. Just look at that cast: Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, The Hills' Audrina Patridge, and yes, Carrie Fisher as sorority house mother Mrs. Crenshaw. It's probably unfair to call Sorority Row underrated; perhaps it's more accurate to say it's misunderstood. Go in with the right expectations and have a blast.

17. The Crazies (2010)

Director: Breck EisnerWriter: Scott Kosar and Ray WrightRemake of: The Crazies (1973)The original Crazies, one of George A. Romero's lesser offerings, has been largely forgotten. The much better remake is too often overlooked. The "crazies" here aren't zombies in the traditional sense — they're the residents of a small town driven into a bloodthirsty rage by a tainted water supply. Some truly frightening set pieces make this a tense, effective thriller.
Overture Films

Director: Breck Eisner

Writer: Scott Kosar and Ray Wright

Remake of: The Crazies (1973)

The original Crazies, one of George A. Romero's lesser offerings, has been largely forgotten. The much better remake is too often overlooked. The "crazies" here aren't zombies in the traditional sense — they're the residents of a small town driven into a bloodthirsty rage by a tainted water supply. Some truly frightening set pieces make this a tense, effective thriller.

18. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)

Director: Troy NixeyWriter: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew RobbinsRemake of: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)Evil fairies don't necessarily sound like prime horror film fodder, but the malevolent creatures here are scary enough to convince any naysayers. This surprisingly dark remake of a 1973 TV movie was cowritten by Guillermo del Toro, and it has some of his trademarks — the twisted fairytale feel and a strong emotional core. It's a pleasant surprise that works better than it comes across on paper.
Miramax Films

Director: Troy Nixey

Writer: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins

Remake of: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

Evil fairies don't necessarily sound like prime horror film fodder, but the malevolent creatures here are scary enough to convince any naysayers. This surprisingly dark remake of a 1973 TV movie was cowritten by Guillermo del Toro, and it has some of his trademarks — the twisted fairytale feel and a strong emotional core. It's a pleasant surprise that works better than it comes across on paper.

19. Piranha 3D (2010)

Director: Alexandre AjaWriter: Pete Goldfinger and Josh StolbergRemake of: Piranha (1978)The original Piranha was a satire of Jaws; the remake features Richard Dreyfuss listening to the same song he sang in Jaws. That's probably the smartest thing about Piranha 3D, which also includes a sleazy Joe Francis-inspired character who gets his dick bitten off. (Two piranhas then fight over it.) Alexandre Aja makes another appearance on this list, once again stretching the limits of gore and good taste.
Dimension Films

Director: Alexandre Aja

Writer: Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg

Remake of: Piranha (1978)

The original Piranha was a satire of Jaws; the remake features Richard Dreyfuss listening to the same song he sang in Jaws. That's probably the smartest thing about Piranha 3D, which also includes a sleazy Joe Francis-inspired character who gets his dick bitten off. (Two piranhas then fight over it.) Alexandre Aja makes another appearance on this list, once again stretching the limits of gore and good taste.

20. Fright Night (2011)

Director: Craig GillespieWriter: Marti NoxonRemake of: Fright Night (1985)Like the original, Fright Night rests firmly in the horror-comedy genre, and Buffy veteran Marti Noxon's screenplay is very funny. There are some smart updates that bring the story of a teenage boy discovering his neighbor is a vampire into the 21st century. Most notably, the character of Peter Vincent — in the original, a late-night TV host played by Roddy McDowall — is reconceived as David Tennant's Criss Angel-esque magician.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Director: Craig Gillespie

Writer: Marti Noxon

Remake of: Fright Night (1985)

Like the original, Fright Night rests firmly in the horror-comedy genre, and Buffy veteran Marti Noxon's screenplay is very funny. There are some smart updates that bring the story of a teenage boy discovering his neighbor is a vampire into the 21st century. Most notably, the character of Peter Vincent — in the original, a late-night TV host played by Roddy McDowall — is reconceived as David Tennant's Criss Angel-esque magician.

21. Maniac (2012)

Director: Franck KhalfounWriter: Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur, and C.A. RosenbergRemake of: Maniac (1980)Alexandre Aja didn't direct Maniac, but as the cowriter and producer, his fingerprints are all over it. And this is indeed a nasty, bloody piece of work, with Elijah Wood delivering a chilling performance as a brutal serial killer who scalps his victims. The remake's most effective (and stomach-turning) innovation is that it's shot almost entirely from the murderer's point of view, making the audience complicit in his crimes.
IFC Midnight

Director: Franck Khalfoun

Writer: Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur, and C.A. Rosenberg

Remake of: Maniac (1980)

Alexandre Aja didn't direct Maniac, but as the cowriter and producer, his fingerprints are all over it. And this is indeed a nasty, bloody piece of work, with Elijah Wood delivering a chilling performance as a brutal serial killer who scalps his victims. The remake's most effective (and stomach-turning) innovation is that it's shot almost entirely from the murderer's point of view, making the audience complicit in his crimes.

22. Evil Dead (2013)

Director: Fede ÁlvarezWriter: Fede Álvarez and Rodo SayaguesRemake of: The Evil Dead (1981)Evil Dead doesn't have quite the whimsy (or schlock factor) of the cult-classic original, but for a straight-faced adaptation, it's pretty damn good. This is a shockingly gruesome movie with some gasp-worthy gore, but the real standout here is Jane Levy as Mia. In a fabulous twist, she gets to be both the evil demon and the final girl, culminating in a blood-soaked finale with a chainsaw.
TriStar Pictures

Director: Fede Álvarez

Writer: Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues

Remake of: The Evil Dead (1981)

Evil Dead doesn't have quite the whimsy (or schlock factor) of the cult-classic original, but for a straight-faced adaptation, it's pretty damn good. This is a shockingly gruesome movie with some gasp-worthy gore, but the real standout here is Jane Levy as Mia. In a fabulous twist, she gets to be both the evil demon and the final girl, culminating in a blood-soaked finale with a chainsaw.

23. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

Director: Alfonso Gomez-RejonWriter: Roberto Aguirre-SacasaRemake of: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a remake of the cult film of the same name, but it's also a semi-sequel in which the '76 Town That Dreaded Sundown is a real movie that exists. Confused? Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's script is a meta meditation on the slasher, and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon helps turn the film into a worthy entry in the genre.
Orion Pictures

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Remake of: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a remake of the cult film of the same name, but it's also a semi-sequel in which the '76 Town That Dreaded Sundown is a real movie that exists. Confused? Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's script is a meta meditation on the slasher, and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon helps turn the film into a worthy entry in the genre.

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