Looking for a few chills during the Halloween season? If you want to enjoy a little modern horror cinema, look out! There are lots of really bad movie remakes out there. To balance the scales, there are at least 5 really good ones.
“The Amityville Horror” (2006)
Ryan Reynolds’ beard alone makes this famous horror re-do worth watching. He plays the doomed George Lutz, husband to Kathy (Melissa George) and father figure to 5 kids. All of them are in danger when George becomes affected by the new house they’ve just purchased.
The house’s history begins to get to George. It was once home to Ronald DeFeo, who slaughtered his entire family one Wednesday night for no particular reason that’s ever been rationally given. “The Amityville Horror” is based on a true story (in that serial killer Ronald DeFeo did in fact live in a house later purchased by George and Kathy Lutz).
But in the remake, it’s all about the fiction. The horror is amped, the story is slightly tweaked and the acting is pretty good. The 2006 version of the story actually provides a motive for the famed DeFeo killings, citing Native American ghosts as the cause. The Native American community has rejected this theory.
The original was made in 1979 shortly after the Lutz family left the famous house. Though the remake comes many years after a franchise that has spawned numerous sequels, remakes, documentaries and novels, some stuff still feels new and fresh. That alone means this remake got it right.
“Cape Fear” (1991)
Martin Scorsese passed on “Schindler’s List” and gave it to Steven Spielberg, who was scheduled to direct a horror remake called “Cape Fear.” Scorsese got the gig instead. Even two decades later, this remake is very tasty horror fare.
In this version of the story, Robert De Niro stars as the depraved Max Cady, a convicted rapist once defended by lawyer Saw Bowden (Nick Nolte). All Cady’s rage has focused on Bowden. When he gets out of jail, he begins a campaign of terror that will touch Bowden’s entire family. How good is this remake? De Niro and Juliette Lewis, who plays Bowden’s daughter, both got Oscar nods (though both ultimately lost).
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2010)
The reason the “Nightmare on Elm Street” remake works? Jackie Earle Haley. He takes on the iconic role of Freddy Krueger, who becomes much darker (and even more burned) this time around. Wes Craven’s original storyline is copied for the film because it still works. With new effects and a focus on the darker nature of Krueger, the story takes on a whole new feel.
The schmaltzy one-liners are cut, the blood and gore are amped up and the acting from Haley is spot-on. Even fans outside the long-lived Elm Street franchise will find plenty of stuff to shriek about in this film.
“Piranha 3D” (2010)
If you like classic horror movie gore that follows all the right rules, the “Piranha 3D” remake is one you can’t miss. Based on the 1978 flick, the remake recaptures all the satirical flavor of the original but it adds a lot more gore, even more laughs and it very strictly follows the classic horror movie code (an important point for purists).
The ensemble cast provides an Easter Egg hunt of famous supporting faces and the special effects department definitely doesn’t disappoint. Screaming kids in water that’s filled with deadly, flesh-eating creatures? Yes, please.
Look for the cameos in this one. Richard Dreyfuss opens the film in an unabashed spoof of his “Jaws” character and Christopher Lloyd provides a truly stand-out moment.
“When a Stranger Calls” (2006)
Some remakes stand out not because of how well they follow the original story, but how well they avoid it. Such is the case with the remake “When a Stranger Calls,” which takes the very best part of the 1979 film and actually manages to get it right.
The 1979 version of the film stars Carol Kane, perhaps an odd choice, and was built around an amazing short film. The short film is actually the very first part of the film, which revolves around a babysitter who gets a series of terrifying telephone calls while she watches over the sleeping kids.
But the original made the mistake of advancing the film beyond that night (in which the kids ended up dead) into the babysitter’s adult life. Years later, the killer returns to terrorize her by chasing her around her bedroom. The movie was given the green light after the unexpected success of John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” but didn’t come close to reaching the same level of success.
It’s because the story wasn’t done right the first time around. A strong attempt to correct this was made in the remake, which focuses on the terrifying night endured by babysitter Jill. The sleeping children are incidental to the movie, but perhaps that’s as it should be. The calls are creepier, the sets are amazing and there is even a pretty good stab made at actual character development. It’s everything you could want in a horror film, without the cast of screaming teenagers.