5 Of The Best… Horror Remakes

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This Friday (29th November) the remake of Brian de Palma’s 1976 horror Carrie, based on Stephen King’s novel, will hit UK cinemas. Remakes can be a hit and miss affair, and it remains to be seen whether this reimagining of Carrie (directed by Kimberley Peirce) will fly or flop. Here’s our countdown of the top five horror remakes.

5. Last House On The Left (1972)

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Few viewing experiences are as arduous as Wes Craven’s directorial debut, his deeply unsettling remake of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. Refused certification by the BBFC on its release and banned under the Video Recording Act 1984, it was only passed uncut in 2007.

Last House On The Left is, however, a film that possesses far more cultural weight than its gritty veneer of exploitation would suggest. Gruelling and nearly impossible to enjoy, it is nonetheless rightly lauded as an integral work in the evolution of horror cinema, along with a social commentary pertaining to America’s involvement in Vietnam. On the whole it is well executed, though the comic sideshow involving two police officers is at best juvenile, at worst, wildly misjudged.

4. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)

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Don Siegel’s 1956 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers still remains one of the most significant and influential science fiction films of all time. Heralded as an allegory of the reverberant paranoia and deep-set suspicion of America’s anti-Communist condition, it stands as one of the most charming and troubling films of its kind.

The first, and best known, of its remakes is Philip Kaufman’s 1978 film of the same name. It’s a coarser, less urbane picture, fuelled by unrelenting intensity. Marrying terrific direction and a superb cast, it is effortlessly distressing and can boast one of the most alarming images of anything in the science fiction catalogue. It lacks the ingenerate allure of the original film, and with an arguably flimsy juncture halfway through, it can at times feel a less satisfying experience. It is, however, a piece of work that’s influential and enthralling in its own right.

3. The Thing (1982)

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Filmed in the last decade before the domination of digital film, the visual effects in The Thing are a testament to tireless craftsmanship and visceral authenticity. Made on the brink of the body-horror boom, in an aesthetic obsessed 1980s, John Carpenter’s film is rigidly tense and visually breathtaking.

Moving the creature on from James Arness’ walking carrot in the original The Thing From Another World, to a parasitic, shape shifting extra-terrestrial, Carpenter’s work is as infectious as it is disquieting. A timeless film, in a mostly throwaway era The Thing is maybe not only one of the best remakes, but one of the best modern horror films: a staunch argument for the command of pre-CGI effects.

2. The Fly (1986) 

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David Cronenberg’s body-horror classic might be the only film on the list that supersedes its 1958 namesake, or at least, surpasses it by such a huge distance. Though not strictly a remake, owing a debt more to the original George Langelaan short story, it would have certainly seemed a glaring omission from the list.

Jeff Goldblum’s performance – a portrayal of fated scientist Seth Brundle – is simply a tour de force. Geena Davis is also fantastic as the investigative journalist intent on breaking his discovery.

Receiving wide critical acclaim on its release and an Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, The Fly went on to gain the most commercial success of any of Cronenberg’s films. It was also seen by many as an analogy for the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic. 

The Fly is as shocking a picture as it is touching, refreshing and tremendously gratifying.

1. Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979)

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Few horror films are as visually arresting or as awe inspiring as Werner Herzog’s doting remake of the 1922 silent classic Nosferatu, which itself was inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Klaus Kinski assumes, fittingly, the role of Count Dracula. (Herzog, untroubled by the copyright issues of the earlier film, was able to retain the name). According to Roger Ebert, Kinski’s performance ‘equalled or rivalled Max Schreck’s’. Kinski’s is joined by the extraordinary performances of Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz.

One of the film’s most distinctive qualities is its patient, listless pace:  shots are held languorously, and possess an eerie quality that at times verges on the ethereal. Its immersive and drizzled landscapes make this tale of the supernatural resoundingly real; a gothic masterpiece by one of cinema’s most fascinating directors.

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