The 15 Best Horror Remakes Ever Made

Recently, I highlighted what I believed to be the worst horror remakes ever made in honor of this week's release of Flatliners. But enough negativity! Let's look at some good horror remakes, which do indeed exist! Every once in awhile, a filmmaker will come along, take an original film, and find a creative, exciting way to remake it. Sometimes these remakes even surpass the original films. It's rare, but it happens, and when it does, that's worth celebrating. Let's look at the best horror remakes of all time.

15. Psycho

You might be ready to instantly close the tab once you see I'm starting out with Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, but hear me out! I've already made a much, much longer case for the film, but it comes down to this: Van Sant's experimental shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's flick is fascinating. It's an experimental work of art turned into a piece of pop entertainment, and I'd rather watch a remake like this – one familiar yet strange – than some pointless junk that tries to improve on greatness. This film will never surpass Hitchcock, but it at least tries to do something interesting with the materials he already provided. This is a slick, strange remake with some of the best cinematography I've ever seen. If you've avoided giving this a chance for so long due to poor word of mouth, maybe give it a look now and see what you think.

14. House on Haunted Hill

William Castle's original House on Haunted Hill is a total hoot, with Vincent Price at his most Vincent Priceless, hamming it up in a house full of skeletons on strings and other things that go bump in the night as a group of people try to survive the night in a haunted house to win prize money. William Malone's 1999 remake isn't as classy as the original, but it is still a lot of fun. Some of it hasn't aged very well – it's a very 90s movie – but there it's hard to deny how much fun the film is. It's also surprisingly creepy, as Malone pulls out all the stops and goes wild, unleashing an effects-heavy second half that throws jittery ghouls and surreal sequences at you left and right. Best of all, it has Geoffrey Rush stepping in for Price, and hamming it up big time. Hammy Geoffrey Rush is the best Geoffrey Rush, and here you get him at the center of a big, silly haunted house flick.

13. House of Wax

This is another choice that might elicit a few WTFs from readers, but let me explain. First, some semantics: the "original" House of Wax, from 1953, about a mad wax sculpture who kills people and turns them into wax statues, was actually a remake itself, of the 1933 from Mystery of the Wax Museum. The 2005 House of Wax, however, is less of a remake of the 1933 or 1953 films, and more of a remake of the under-seen, weirdo horror film Tourist Trap. Confused yet? It's okay. All you need to know is this film's premise – a bunch of young people get stranded at a tourist attraction and are systematically killed off by a crazy man and his twin brother – is identical to Tourist Trap and has almost nothing to do with either Wax film. Now that that's out of the way, let me just say the 2005 film, from The Shallows director Jaume Collet-Serra, is surprisingly good! Yes, Paris Hilton is in it, and yes, she's terrible. But the rest of the film is stylish and often surprisingly nasty, with several brutal cringe-inducing moments that other slasher remakes would be afraid to touch.

12. Cat People

Paul Schrader turned the 1942 Cat People into a sexy, even kind of sleazy, thriller with this 1982 remake. The original film is all about subtlety, and what you don't see. The remake...not so much. But that doesn't make it bad. It's just an interesting new take on the story. Nastassia Kinski is a woman whose sexual awakening coincides with her possibly turning into a giant leopard. Yeah, it's weird. And violent. But ultimately fascinating. Schrader is a filmmaker who seems obsessed with sleaze and unease, and he puts that to great effect here. Also, you can't beat the film's soundtrack, which includes a theme song by David Bowie.

11. Willard

I'll just say it – the original Willard, from 1971, just isn't very good. You know what is good, though? This 2003 remake from Glenn Morgan, featuring Crispin Glover giving the most amazing performance of his career. Glover is a quiet loser who befriends the world's biggest rat, and then soon has an entire army of rats to do his bidding. It's a goofy little film, and the script is slightly uneven, but none of that matters because Crispin Glover is insane here. Glover has always been a strange performer, but this was the first time in a while he was given the opportunity to carry an entire film, and he certainly doesn't squander it. He rants, he raves, he looks like his head is literally going to explode off his body. It's a treat.

10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Let me preface this pick by saying Tobe Hooper's original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is in a class all its own. It's impossible to replicate, and there absolutely shouldn't have been a remake of it. That said, the remake we got, 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is surprisingly good, and surprisingly well made. While it has none of the gritty, grimy documentary feel of Hooper's original, which felt like a snuff film that accidentally got released into theaters, this film is still quite brutal and unrelenting for a studio remake. Overall, it's a genuinely unnerving, if a bit over-polished, horror film, with R. Lee Ermey giving perhaps his best performance since Full Metal Jacket. 

9. Maniac

William Lustig's sleazy, creepy 1980 serial killer thriller got a neon-drenched re-do in in 2012. Elijah Wood is the eponymous maniac, prowling the night looking for victims to scalp. This plot on its own might've just been another forgettable serial killer film, but what makes the 2012 Maniac so interesting is its style  – director Franck Khalfoun shoots almost the entire film through Wood's eyes, as if we're trapped inside his troubled head and seeing the world the way he sees it. It sounds gimmicky, but it actually works really well, making for an unnerving experience. Added into the mix is an incredible synth-based score courtesy of Robin Coudert.

8. Dawn of the Dead

Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a Dawn of the Dead remake probably never should have happened. I distinctly remember the lead-up to this 2004 remake being filled with dread and anger from fans. How dare someone remake George Romero's zombie classic? And how dare they make the zombies run? But you know what, it turned out surprisingly well. This may in fact be Zack Snyder's best film. It helps that Snyder was working with a script from future Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. While Snyder's Dawn of the Dead is not as intelligent as Romero's, it's a fun, often scary film that unfolds at a rapid pace while taking the time to develop its cast of characters.

7. Night of the Living Dead

Make-up effects guru Tom Savini stepped behind the camera to helm this 1990 remake of George Romero's zombie classic. While not as groundbreaking as Romero's film (how could it be?), Savini's remake is much better than it gets credit for being. For one thing, the zombies that pop-up in this film are much more disturbing looking than the pale faced ghouls in Romero's film. For another, the character of Barbara, played here by Patricia Tallman, is actually given something to do and able to grow into a strong, ass-kicking heroine, while the Barbara in Romero's film spends almost the entire runtime in a semi-catatonic state. The only disappointment with this film is its ending, which takes a shocking, depressing moment from the original film and sanitizes it ever so slightly, with less impactful results.

6. The Blob

Chuck Russell's 1988 remake of the 1958 horror flick of the same name is funny, inventive, creepy and surprising. In fact, I'll just say it: it's better than the original. The blob effects from the first film leave something to be desired, whereas here they're an absolute blast. It's an icky, gooey good time as a sentient mass of purple goo arrives in a California town via meteorite and starts melting the hell out of people. One of the things I love most about this movie is the way it keeps faking out the audience, setting up characters you assume will end up being heroes only to have them quickly dispatched via blob.

5. Nosferatu

Werner Herzog takes the silent vampire classic Nosferatu and remakes it as a melancholy, deliberately paced exploration of everlasting death. While Herzog's take isn't as expressionistic as the original, but it is one of the most haunting films ever made. Frequent Herzog collaborator Klaus Kinski is remarkable as the the lonely, rat-like vampire, here officially named Dracula, unlike the original film where the character was named Count Orlok due to legal issues. The slow pace of Herzog's film may turn off some, but those who stick with it will be rewarded with a poetic, gothic wonder.

4. The Ring

This may not be a popular opinion, but I firmly believe that Gore Verbinski's 2002 remake of the Japanese horror film RinguThe Ring, is the superior version. I'm not saying Ringu is a bad film, I'm just saying Verbinski takes the scenario of that film and turns it into one of the most gorgeous, somber studio horror films ever made. Every frame of this film is like a painting; an dread-inducing painting that gives you the creeps by just looking at it. The film's set-up – a VHS tape that kills whomever watches it – is obviously a bit dated by now, but The Ring still packs a punch. It helps that it has Naomi Watts in the lead, guiding nearly every scene of the film.

3. The Thing

John Carpenter took the somewhat stiff 1951 B-movie The Thing from Another World and recreated it as a claustrophobic body-horror nightmare. Carpenter surpasses the original in every conceivable while, creating a nihilistic, ice cold horror movie with special effects that are still mind-blowing all these years later. This is one of the best examples of a remake – take a pretty good idea (in this case, people stranded in the Arctic with an alien life form in their midst), and improve on it. Take what was already in place and make it bigger, badder, scarier. The Thing was a box office dud when it hit theaters in 1982, but has since earned its rightful status as a horror classic, and one of the best remakes of all time.

2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Like The Thing, the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers takes a pretty good idea and makes it great. There have actually been more than one remake of Don Seigel's 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but the best one is Philip Kaufman's 1978 take on the tale. You know the story: people are slowly being replaced by alien pods that hatch eerie clones. Kaufman updated the original film's Cold War paranoia for the waining days of the free love 1970s, and improved on the original in nearly ever conceivable way. The original is a B-movie, perfect for drive-ins and late night reruns. Kaufman's remake is something altogether different, and better. Meticulously crafted and constantly disturbing. If the ending of this movie doesn't give you the chills, check to make sure you haven't been replaced by an unfeeling pod person.

1. The Fly

Here it is. The best horror remake of all time. This is the absolutely 100% correct choice and if you disagree you are wrong. Sorry, I don't make the rules here. Like the aforementioned The Thing and Invasion of the Body SnatchersThe Fly takes what was basically a B-picture and makes it into art. I'm not knocking the 1958 The Fly, but all you need to know is that during the now-famous "Help me!" scene in the original, featuring a fly with the head of a human is trapped in a spider web, was just too silly to film for the actors. So much so that you can see Vincent Price struggling not to laugh in the final version. Years later, Price would say, "We were playing this kind of philosophical scene, and every time that little voice [of the fly] would say 'Help me! Help me!' we would just scream with laughter. It was terrible. It took us about 20 takes to finally get it."

There's nothing silly about David Cronenberg's 1986 remake, which takes a basic concept – a science experiment leaves a man (Jeff Goldblum) slowly mutating into a giant insect – and turns it into a disgusting nightmare. This is one of the nastiest, most squirm-inducing films ever made, and Cronenberg handles it all perfectly. Underneath all the body horror there's also an oddly touching love story between Goldblum and Geena Davis. Most of all, The Fly does what all great horror movies should do. It takes a terrible real-lie scenario – slowly watching a loved one die – and uses it for a launchpad for a tale of terror.  It's both the best horror remake of all time, and one of the best horror films ever made.