‘Torture Porn’, J-horror, found-footage, and remakes. At the turn of the century, these were the major trends that would define horror for several years. Though remakes were nothing new in Hollywood, studios seemed particularly interested in ransacking 70’s and 80s horror catalogues. Sadly, most of these remakes were watered-down PG-13 knock-offs starring CW Network cast-off’s. Still a few of these remakes managed to find some inspiring twists on old classics. For this edition of The Chopping Block, I take a look at some of the best horror remakes from 2000 to 2009.
Eco-horror was big in the 1970’s. Clearly, the environment was on a lot of people’s minds. As as if sensing the public’s anxiety, Hollywood churned out several horror movies where nature rises up against humanity. Food of the Gods, Frogs, Kingdom of Spiders, Long Weekend, and a little movie called Willard. Released in 1971, Willard was a modest box office hit. It’s the story of social misfit, Willard, who befriends rats that he trains to take revenge on his enemies.
…Glover delivers an eccentric performance befitting of his idiosyncratic performance befitting of his idiosyncratic real-life demeanour.
Over 30 years later, New Line Cinemas tasked Glenn Morgan (Black Christmas) with directing a remake. In terms of its story, Willard is a pretty by-the-numbers ‘do over’ of the original. Yes, there are some differences, but what sets the remake apart is the casting of Crispin Glover. In this 2003 update, Glover delivers an eccentric performance befitting of his idiosyncratic real-life demeanour. For his part, Morgan gives Willard a polished update with some fun dark humour. But it’s Glover’s performance that makes this horror remake work.
The Last House on the Left
I have mixed feelings about Wes Craven’s directorial debut, The Last House on the Left. An early 70’s exploitation flick, Last House on the Left is equal parts powerful and repulsive. In contrast to most of the 2000’s horror remakes, The Last House on the Left remake never compromises on the original’s violence. On the contrary, director Dennis Iliadis (Delirium) eschews rapid editing and loud jump scares for long, unnerving camera shots. The stark contrast between the brutal violence and beautiful camera shots adds surprising depth to the film. With a significant upgrade in the acting department, the Last House remake largely does justice to Craven’s original vision.
The Hills Have Eyes
Another Wes Craven classic, another decent horror remake. In spite of its 70’s horror credentials, The Hills Have Eyes was a good candidate for a remake. Thanks to its extremely low budget, it’s a movie that hasn’t aged well. Alexandre Aja’s (High Tension) 2006 remake retains the basics while upgrading all the production values. Most importantly, The Hills Have Eyes remake makes absolutely no compromises on its violence. Aja commits some genuinely shocking imagery to the screen. Not only was this one of the better horror remakes, The Hills Have Eyes is one of the better horror movies released in the 2000’s.
Dawn of the Dead
Let’s face it, no one was asking for a Dawn of the Dead remake. To date, George A. Romero’s original ‘Dead Trilogy’ of zombie movies remain horror classics. Though Zack Snyder’s work often proves divisive, horror fans rightly hold his Dawn of the Dead remake in high regard. You knew the remake had potential from its first trailer. On the one hand, Snyder’s remake lacks Romero’s subversive subtext. But it makes up for it with faster zombies, a bigger and excellent, cast, and a finely tuned balance between action and horror. Snyder also maintains Romero’s nihilistic tone, ensuring his remake never strays too far from the original.
For a brief period in the 2000’s, Hollywood studios were enamored with Japanese, or J-horror. From The Grudge to Pulse, Hollywood raided Asian horror cinema for their own remakes. Arguably, Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake of Ringu, The Ring, is the best of these Americanized remakes. In fact, The Ring may one of the best horror remakes produced.
…The Ring is a near perfect horror remake.
First, the mysterious VHS tape’s visuals have lost none of their creepiness factor. Ehren Krueger story update weaves an intriguing mystery. In addition, Krueger includes some interesting subtext about media coverage of tragedy and public consumption. Like the best horror movies, it’s a subtext that has only become more resonant. To this day, Samara remains a frightening antagonist whose origin is appropriately shrouded in mystery. When you factor in the excellent performances and one the best jump scares in horror, The Ring is a near perfect remake.