Grave-robbing cinema: horror remakes rarely stack up

The Carillon, Vol. 52, Issue 8 | Oct. 29 – Nov. 4, 2009
Co-written with Kimberley Carter

Time to dust off those blood-drenched DVDs: it’s Halloween again! As the first decade of the 21st century winds down, it’s a good time to look back and see what the pioneers of gore have created and recreated. The ’00s saw dozens of horror movie remakes, as Hollywood threw up its hands and declared that they were out of ideas. So they inserted white people into Japanese horror movies and renewed every franchise they could lay their grubby little hands on.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Original: 1974. With a brutal style drawing from writer/director Tobe Hooper’s days as a documentary cameraman, this is easily one of the scariest movies ever made. Despite its revolutionary gore, it still seems like it could be true.

Remake: 2003. Tons of gore-horror, but in the end you’ll feel that you’ve wasted your time. The plot is laughable and the violence is absurd, but the actors do their best to make this turkey fly. Watch the original if you want to be disturbed, and watch Saw if you want better gore.

Dawn of the Dead

Original: 1978. This is a painfully awesome movie. Romero’s special effects are limited to grey makeup and bright red blood, so the movie makes up for it in plot, characterization, dialogue, music, and suspense. Social commentary is there but isn’t as heavy-handed as in a lot of other movies.

Remake: 2004. The plot is thinner and the zombies are a lot faster. This is what happens when special effects are superior and budgets are bigger, but everything else ain’t what it used to be. However, the 100-minute run time is a lot easier to handle in one sitting than the original’s 139 minutes. Bonus: apocalyptic evangelist saying God is punishing us.

The Amityville Horror

Original: 1979. OK, the “events” upon which the movie was “based” were a pack of lies, but it was still pretty scary. Slow, deliberate pacing and an excellent score compensate for a cheesy plot and mediocre acting.

Remake: 2005. With a more carefully rendered atmosphere and a genuine sense of menace coming from the house, the remake edges out the original. Fortunately, the mood is not ruined by faster pacing. Kudos for whoever decided Ryan Reynolds was suited for the role of a possessed psycho killer.

Friday the 13th

Original: 1980. We all know the story: Jason drowns and his mother goes on a murderous rampage. It’s aged well and retains all of its suspense after all of these years, despite its slasher stereotypes and cardboard characters.

Remake: 2009. This reboot draws from the first four films. In the original, Jason’s mother was hidden until the third act, while in the remake, she is barely mentioned: Jason is the true star. Suspense and mystery are sacrificed for gory decapitations and fornicating teenagers.

Prom Night

Original: 1980. While both movies are truly awful, the original really takes the cake: all of the tackiness of a disco prom, plus the painfully extended internal monologues of Casey Stevens as Lt. Nick McBride. Bonus: funny hairstyles and necrophilia.

Remake: 2008. Continues the tradition of ridiculous escapes from mental institutions, but this time the villain is a stalker teacher with inadequately-defined motives, rather than a psycho bent on revenge. These kids are so easy to kill that they deserve to die. Epic fail.

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