EXPLORING: Slasher Remakes

If there’s one thing Hollywood can’t get enough of, it’s mining the past to try and one-up what has come before. With the resurgence of the slasher after 1996’s Scream as well as a world where teenagers riled the box office, all manner of once-dormant properties now had a new lease on life. The only difference is that now, most of the grisly carnage would be achieved via computer-aided effects.

It’s a rough assignment remaking a movie that is beloved by a fanbase. No matter what you do, someone isn’t going to be happy. If you’re too slavishly devoted to the source material, why even remake it? If you go too far from it, why would you even call it a remake? That’s when the reimagining word started getting used, as modern directors had their own spin on how to retell the mythos that we’d grow to know and love, whether it was in the theater, the drive-in or via video.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) remade as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

This was the first film produced by Platinum Dunes, who would go on to produce remakes of several other 20th-century horror films. Most of them are on the list that follows. For this remake, they brought Marcus Naspiel, a music video director, on board. Original plans would have had the story told in flashback from original actress Marilyn Burns reprising her role as Sally Hardesty and that Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel would be writing the script. None of this happened.

To his credit, Nispel was against the idea of remaking the film, saying that it was blasphemy to director of photography Daniel Pearl, who was the original cameraman for the 1974 classic and this movie. Pearl encouraged Nispel to join the project, however, as his goal was to bookend his career with the remake. The result? A glossy, gory and louder version of the first film, which does more with mood and menace than with shoving any blood into your face. A prequel,  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, would follow in 2006.

Friday the 13th (1980) remade as Friday the 13th (2009)

Naspiel directed this reimagining — there’s that word — of the first four films in the franchise. Jason would go from a hulking beast of a killer to a trap and weapon using mastermind out to wipe out a cabin full of rich kids, set to MTV tunes and quick cuts. Your mileage may vary on this one, but the fact is that it’s the second most profitable film in the entire franchise. Then again, that may be less of a sign of quality and more that people really missed seeing Jason on the silver screen.

Prom Night (1980) remade as Prom Night (2008)

This Nelson McCormick film — he also directed the 2009 remake of The Stepfather — is another reimagining of the source material. This one is all about Donna Keppel, a high school student who is pursued by the teacher who killed her entire family to get closer to her. When he’s released three years later, the horror begins all over again. Surprisingly — actually, I shouldn’t say that because slashers always end up shocking people by making good money — it debuted at #1 at the U.S. box office.

My Bloody Valentine (1981) remade as My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

Patrick Lussier edited nearly every one of director Wes Craven’s later films, including Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Vampire in Brooklyn and the Scream series. He started directing with The Prophecy 3: The Ascent before co-writing and directing Dracula 2000. He also took over the Halloween series from Rob Zombie and when the third film was canceled, then moved on to direct Drive Angry. This remake was shot all around the Pittsburgh area, in towns like Kittanning, Ford City, Bethel, Tarentum, Oakmont and Ross Township. Speaking of Pittsburgh, one of our favorite sons, Tom Atkins, shows up in this, one of the few remakes that’s compared somewhat favorably to the source material.

When A Stranger Calls (1979) remade as When A Stranger Calls (2006)

The first twenty minutes of the original — based on the urban legend of “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs” and cribbed from Black Christmas — was so influential that Scream completely ripped it off. The remake is pretty much that twenty minutes stretched out over the film’s entire running time. It was directed by Simon West, who directed Con Air and the remake of The Mechanic.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) remade as Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

When people discuss remakes that they hate, this one always comes up on the list. It does start with an intriguing premise: Perhaps Freddy Krueger wasn’t the Springwood Slasher and the parents killed the wrong man. That storyline is instantly proven false and the film soon falls into a by the numbers remake of the original films that makes you wistful for Robert Englund. That’s the danger of remaking a movie with a character — and actor — that people love so much. After this movie caused such a backlash, Platinum Dunes never attempted another remake.

April Fool’s Day (1986) remade as April Fool’s Day (2008)

The Butcher Brothers were behind the film The Hamiltons and were given the opportunity to create this direct to video remake of this Canuxploitation slasher. That said, the original isn’t well-known to the general public and slasher fans mostly hated this reimagining — that word again — so I have no idea who this movie is really for.

Child’s Play (1988) remade as Child’s Play (2019)

Perhaps seven movies of continuity weren’t enough for Chucky’s fans, who pretty much turned away from the attempted remake in droves. Then again, negative kudos to the studios for releasing it at the same time as another killer doll film, 2019’s Annabelle Comes Home. Original creator Don Mancini has a TV series remake under development while a fan film entitled Charles is also due for release. As for me, I didn’t mind the remake, but I had no real ties to the source material.

Halloween (1978) remade as Halloween (2007)

Boy, talk about divisive. There is a camp that adores everything that Rob Zombie has ever made and feels that his take on The Shape and Haddonfield is perfectly awesome. Then there are those that were perfectly fine with the first two John Carpenter films and see any attempt at remaking them as blasphemy. It’s kind of like never discussing politics or religion, because whenever someone gushes about these films, I pretty much instantly think less of them. Except for that wacky part with the dream horse that felt like it ran straight out of The NeverEnding Story. That was kind of hilarious.

Black Christmas (1974) remade as Black X-mas (2006) and then about to be remade as Black Christmas (2019)

A wise man once sang, “Only love can break your heart.” Well, if you’re a fan of this proto-slasher piece of Canadian holiday insanity, you may disagree. The 2006 remake is the kind of glossy mid 00’s film that people say, “It’s not that bad” about. Sure, fine. But when you’re trying to remake what is perhaps one of the most note perfect slashers, you expect more. I’m refraining from commenting on this year’s upcoming remake — honestly, I desperately want to shit all over it, but I’m giving it a chance — until I see it.

Death Game (also known as The Seducers, made in 1977) was remade as Vicious and Nude (1980) and Knock Knock (2015)

Much of the principal cast and crew of the original film all participated in the remake, with Peter S. Traynor, Larry Spiegel, Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp (who also shows up in a cameo) are all credited as executive producers. Plus, director Eli Roth credited Anthony Overman and Michael Ronald Ross for their story.

As for the earlier Spanish remake, as you’d expect with a title like that, the sex scenes are a lot more explicit, as is the violence. PS — this is yet another film “based on true events” and if you’d like to argue if it’s a slasher or a home invasion story, you should probably save that for the next entry on our list.

The Last House On the Left (1972) was remade as The Last House On the Left (1972)

Pretty much the ultimate home invasion movie is Wes Craven’s debut. Well, he produced this one, which interested him as he wanted to see if a larger budget would lead to a better film. The original script was rejected because it had some supernatural elements and director Dennis Iliadis (HardcoreDelirium) sought to avoid turning this into torture porn. It basically does what every remake does — make it louder, have sexier actors and make it gorier, if not better. Garret Dillahunt (he plays John Dorie from Fear the Walking Dead) had the hapless task of taking over the role of Krug from Davis Hess, who pretty much replayed that role in Ruggero Deodato’s The House On the Edge of the Park. Ah, the whole thing is kinda sorta a remake of The Virgin Spring anyway, right?

Maniac (1980) remade as Maniac (2012)

Elijah Wood is a big fan of grindhouse movies, so maybe we should cut him some slack. After all, the 2012 retelling was a critical darling, told from the killer’s POV nearly the entire film, putting the audience into the actual eyes of the titular maniac, Frank Zito. On the other hand, why not just make a new film inspired by the Bill Lustig movie? Why try when Joe Spinell and Tom Savini united to craft utter perfection? Oh, I get it. Alexandre Aja — the reimagining king — wrote this.

Mother’s Day (1980) remade as Mother’s Day (2010)

Call it a reimagining. Call it a loose remake. Call it a movie I haven’t watched yet because I love the original so much. Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman — who created the Saw movies and Repo! The Genetic Opera — this film stars Rebecca De Mornay as Natalie “Mother” Koffin, who has three children that she manipulates and coerces to help her get what she wants. There’s no Queenie waiting in the woods and this is more of a home invasion film.

See No Evil (1971, also known as Blind Terror) remade as See No Evil (2006)

The original may be a take on Wait Until Dark with Mia Farrow as the blind lead, but the remake — the first major film produced by WWE Films — is a straight-up slasher. It was directed by Gregory Dark, who was one half of the infamous adult video moviemaking team The Dark Brothers. Instead of frail Mia, its star is WWE wrestler Kane, who has gone on to become the mayor of Knox County, Tennessee. It was written by Dan Madigan, the man who pitched this idea to WWE owner Vince McMahon: Jon Heidenreich would be the perfect person to play a cryogenically frozen Nazi stormtrooper named Baron Von Bava. He’d be unfrozen by Paul Heyman, a manager who in real life is Jewish and whose mother survived the Holocaust. McMahon was so stunned by the idea that he walked out of his board room and didn’t return. Madigan left WWE later that year.

Long Weekend (1978) remade as Nature’s Grave (2008)

Oh Australia — the only place that could make two movies where nature itself becomes the slasher and wipes out an unhappy couple. Bonus points for the sequel getting Robert Taylor and Roger Ward in the movie, as they were both in Turkey Shoot (Taylor was Ramrod in the remake, Ward was Ritter in the original).

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) remade as Silent Night (2012)

At least the sequel had a decent cast — Malcolm McDowell (who not only took over Donald Pleasence’s role in the Halloween remakes but seemingly inherited his inability to say no to any role), Jaime King, Donal Logue, Ellen Wing (Knives Chau!), Courtney Palm (Sushi Girl) and Lisa Marie. It’s actually received pretty decent reviews but the original is so stuck in my memory, I’m not too excited to try a brand new take.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) remade as Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming (2013)

Adrienne King — Alice Hardy from the first two Friday the 13th movies — plays a mysterious voice in the remake of this strange movie. These same people also took another public domain movie — it’s called Night of the Living Dead, you may have heard of it — and shat all over it, releasing Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection. Starburst said of the film, ” remember that once you’ve watched the film itself you will never get back the seventy-eight minutes of your life you wasted on it.”

The House on Sorority Row (1983) remade as Sorority Row (2009)

This reimagining was shot about two miles from my house in Munhall, one block from the Carnegie Library of Homestead. The graduation scene was shot outside of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, where the cage scenes in Silence of the Lambs was also filmed. Instead of the girls being responsible for the death of their house mother, in this one they’re being stalked due to the death of one of their fellow sisters.

Toolbox Murders (1978) remade as The Toolbox Murders (2004)

This may be the only slasher remake that has a more well-regarded director helming the second film that the first. The sequel adds a supernatural element, as well as a killer named Coffin Baby. Again, this whole thing is weird, because the 1978 movie went all out to rip off Hooper’s Chainsaw. Here’s a little slasher trivia at least: Eugene, the character in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon who mentors the killer, is responsible for the murders in the first film and Black Christmas.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) remade as The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

If there’s one movie on this list that can compete with its inspiration — if not improve it in some measures — this would be it. Perhaps it’s because I can’t get enough of the Phantom Killer. Or perhaps it’s just because the second one is a meta-fueled exercise in brutality. Either way, it’s my pick for the best remake on this list.

The Wizard of Gore (1970) remade as The Wizard of Gore (2007)

This Herschell Gordon Lewis gutbuster was remade with Suicide Girls, Crispin Glover and Jeffrey Combs and I still haven’t seen it. Such is my allegiance to the American Godfather of Gore.

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1963) remade as 2001 Maniacs (2005)

No. Just no. Even someone with taste as bad as mine — my collection of Claudio Fragrasso films is in the double digits — won’t watch this movie. Eli Roth was involved, as well as Robert Englund and Lin Shaye. None of these things make me want to watch a single moment of this, nor its sequel 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (even if Bill Bill Moseley and Ogre from Skinny Puppy are in it).

Psycho (1960) refilmed shot by shot as Psycho (1998)

Psycho may not be a true slasher, but it gave inspiration to so many of the films within that genre. Gus Van Sant made waves when he decided to remake the film by aping every single shot that Hitchcock had already filmed. Then again, they added in some gore and dream sequences along the way. This movie won Worst Remake and Worst Director in that year’s Golden Raspberry Awards. That said, Quentin Tarantino — and my wife — have gone on record with their love for this movie.

There’s also Psychos, which is a mashup of Alfred Hitchcock and Gus Van Sant’s films — both in black and white — that was posted on director Steven Soderbergh’s Extension 765 website.

Anthropophagous (1980) remade as Anthropophagous 2000 (1999)

I haven’t seen the remake of this film, but reviewers said that director Andreas Schnaas lacked the directorial skill of Joe D’Amato. So…you kind of see where this is going, right? At least this movie amps up the blood and gore, I guess.

Terror Train (1980) was NOT remade as Train (2008)

While this Hostel-inspired, Thora Birch-starring film was originally a remake of the Jamie Lee Curtis slasher classic, it eventually changed into its own movie about an organ harvesting train. The only thing they have in common is that there’s a train in movie.

While not a slasher, House of Wax (1953) was remade into one — House of Wax (2005)

The creators of this remake took the Vincent Price-starring classic and created a vehicle for what everyone in the nascent world of social media wanted to see most: Paris Hilton horribly murdered. There are also tons of dead animals and a decent ending as the house melts down, but it’s pretty much a skippable affair.

Did we miss any? What’s your favorite slasher remake? Do nearly all of these remakes suck or is that just me being negative? No matter what, remakes aren’t going away, with the long rumored Alice, Sweet Alice remake still being talked about, as well as a recreated Wrong Turn, a reboot of Madman, a LeBron James-led Friday the 13th reboot, the HBO Maniac Cop series that was just announced, a Chris Rock-helmed Saw and Jordan Peele’s take on Candyman. Share your thoughts in the comments.

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