Halloween Overachievers:13 Remakes from Emily of The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense
13. House of Wax Sometimes a movie can tip its way on the positive scale by wearing a lot of the right kind of padding. In 2005, Jaume Collet-Serra (who could almost be doubly listed here for also directing the pseudo-Good Son remake, Orphan) did as such with House of Wax, a film primarily known for hosting the debut (and onscreen death) of Paris Hilton. Looking past that, this is an enjoyable enough R-rated horror brimming with actual artistic imagery, plus some surprisingly disturbing death scenes involving a whole lot of wax.
12. Reefer Madness The first of two cases on this list wherein a campy film was turned into an Off-Broadway musical turned into a film, this Showtime produced movie is a goofy good time along the lines of Cry Baby, with a bevy of good-natured, good rhythmed performances from Anna Gastayer, Kristen Bell, Alan Cumming, and, in plainface, John “The Crypt Keeper” Kassir.
11. The Hills Have Eyes II Talk about cheating, self. I’m aware Martin Weisz’s sequel to Alexander Aja’s superior remake is more sequel than remake, but have you seen Wes Craven’s 1987 sequel? You know, the one that features more flashbacks than Silent Night Deadly Night 2, including one from the point of view of a German Shepherd? The 2007 film is actually quite mean and not necessarily good, but it’s slick enough and could be considered Citizen Kane in comparison to Wes Craven’s sleepwalked previous effort. In hindsight, I probably should’ve gone with Aja’s film in this spot, since it manages to capture all the same terror of Craven’s original while amplifying the interesting nuclear fallout angle, but you know what? I just really hate Craven’s sequel that much that I felt the need to point that out more than anything.
10. Father of the Bride Not quite the film that typically finds itself on a list made by me, Charles Shyer’s 1991 family comedy is simply charming. From the bridal sneakers to Martin Short’s pronunciation of the word “cake,” the bittersweet final phone call to my oft-requoted rant about the conspiracy behind hot dog buns and hot dogs, I just kind of love this not-horror movie.
9. Cape Fear Martin Scorcese’s 1991 remake is by no means a perfect film, but for all its flaws, there’s a dirty meanness that allows it to function on a deeply unsettling level. As Max Cady, Robert DeNiro is truly fearsome, channeling the nasty charm of Robert Mitchum (who pops up, along with Gregory Peck, in a tongue-in-cheek cameo) but giving Max his own depraved spin. Nick Nolte’s protagonist is kind of a jerk, a scummy lawyer who’s betrayed both his profession and wife and is now faced with terrifying punishment. Jessica Lange and Illeana Douglas are equally good at bringing unique imperfections to token wife/girlfriend characters, but it’s the teenage Juliette Lewis’ uncomfortably flirty scene with DeNiro that ultimately tips Cape Fear into such successfully horrific territory.
8. Cat People I’m not saying Paul Schrader’s film is superior to Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 classic. I’m also not saying I’ve actually seen Jacques Tourneur’s classic (sooner or later, that will be remedied). But 1982‘s Cat People, starring such notables as Malcolm McDowell, Natassja Kinski, John Heard, and the fabulous breasts of Annette O’Toole, is an intriguing film, flawed sure, but also kinky and daring in a haunting, sexy way.
7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers In truth, I think all four major versions of Jack Finney’s sci-fi novel serve as excellent testaments of their time, from the McCarthy era ‘50s to the cold disconnect of the studio-marred (and dreadfully miscast) Nicole Kidman starring The Invasion. Even Abel Ferrara (who was ready to kill Werner Herzog for daring to remake his Bad Lieutenant, but seemed okay with taking his stab, family values style, at this tale in 1992) got in on the action. Of the four, however, it’s easily Philip Kaufman’s 1978 city-set take that works best as both a clear allegory of its world and a damn scary movie to boot, straight down to one of the scariest final scenes ever.
6. Little Shop of Horrors Technically a film adaptation of the Off-Broadway musical based on Roger Corman’s film, but still SOMETHING of a remake, right? Frank Oz directs a beyond-words-wonderful Rick Moranis (my pick to play Kermit the Frog should the occasion ever arise) in a campy but sweet Faustian tale set in a florist shop on Skid Row. Nine million bonus points for Steve Martin’s sadistic dentist, and another billion for Bill Murray’s OTHER great cameo.
5. Inglourious Basterds I kind of watched Enzo Castellari’s 1978 spell-checked original and aside from worshipping any ground tread by Fred Williamson, I can’t really think of anything else worth mentioning. Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 Oscar nominated film isn’t so much a remake as another movie set during WWII (at least by Academy Awards standards), but maybe there never would have been an Inglourious Basterds without The Inglorious Bastards, so that’s that.
4. Dawn of the Dead How can one possibly remake my, and many other genre fans’ most favorite ever movie of all time? Despite all odds, James Gunn’s clever script, put in the music video-trained hands of Zach Snyder, succeeds. Rich in everything from strong performances (Jake Weber, marry me), original story ideas (“it’s a girl!”), intriguing subplots (Andy!), adorable homages (Rev. Foree), and a kickass soundtrack that manages to unite Johnny Cash, Bobby McFerrin, and Richard Cheese, Dawn of the Dead ’04 manages to be a fun action-horror on its own terms. Sure, zombies as Olympic sprinters doesn’t quite make anatomical sense, but that doesn’t mean much when a pretty blond meets a clumsy chainsaw.
And the holy trinity:
3. The Blob Underrated doesn’t begin to define Chuck Russell’s 1988 remake of the campy ‘50s classic. With a script by Russell and some dude named Frank Darabont, The Blob is scary, funny, and genuinely surprising. Characters you expect to live meet gooey and painful deaths via an incredibly designed titular villain. Best of all, Russell makes a true full town terror with The Blob invading everything from a diner phone booth to a packed movie theater filled with unsuspecting, ill-fated locals. It’s simply a joy, even without Burt Bacharach’s catchy theme song.
2. The Thing Is there anything left to say about John Carpenter’s crowning achievement? Do I need to mention Kurt Russell’s badassness, Rob Bottin’s revolutionary practical effects, or Dean Cundey’s gorgeous cinematography? Nah, you know what’s more fun? Just watching the movie.
1. The Fly Half love story, half tragedy about old age/man’s limits/AIDS/whatever meaning you want to attach, David Cronenberg’s 1986 film (turned opera, go figure) is simply one of the best genre films of all time. Jeff Goldblum plays a geek who gets the girl (the equally tall Geena Davis) only to doom his body with a foolish act of ambition, pride, and jealousy. I adore aspects of Kurt Neumann’s 1958 original (primarily the terrifying screams for help by a fly stuck in a web) but with this remake, Cronenberg combines all his skills at horrific imagery so perfectly with good storytelling that the end result is as sad as it is scary.