Horror movies already have a bad reputation for being shlocky, low-effort or predictable. However, those concerns are doubled when it comes to horror movie remakes, and for good reason.
Over the years, the same properties have been brought back again and again, often with few changes to the formula other than new character names or a different setting.
With that said, there are also plenty of horror movie remakes that surpass the original in terms of scares, effects or story – which is why in this article we’re going for a balance, and looking at the very best and very worst horror remakes ever made.
Awful: Halloween (2007)
By the time 2007 rolled around, there had been nine instalments of the Halloween franchise, and the studio was seeing diminishing returns on every one of them.
Michael Myers’ backstory had been made more and more confusing as the years went on, with continuity becoming so tangled and confusing that even horror movie experts struggled to wrestle with it.
When you look at it that way, it makes sense that Rob Zombie was brought in to give the franchise a soft reboot in 2007, and why he was given total freedom to do whatever he wanted to the classic story.
However, it soon became obvious that what he wanted to do was just make a Rob Zombie movie – with more sexual themes, way trashier dialogue, and a simple backstory of a violent kid from a broken home for Michael.
Fans had many issues with this film, but two were most apparent: by seeing Michael as a child, it was impossible to find him scary or sympathetic, and the new Laurie Strode was neither powerful nor an admirable figure.
It wouldn’t be the first time a franchise tried to humanise its main villain – just think about the entire Star Wars prequel trilogy – and it wouldn’t be the first to have failed. Just think about… well, you get the idea.
Not awful: Dawn of the Dead (2004)
1978’s Dawn of the Dead is the iconic zombie movie to end all iconic zombie movies, with George A Romero’s idea of swarms of the undead becoming a powerful nightmare for a whole generation of kids.
Dawn seemed a natural choice for adaptation, and director Zack Snyder was quickly brought on to update the film, turning it from a horror classic into a high-octane action flick.
The story beats of the 2004 Dawn of the Dead are kept mostly the same, with a group of ragtag survivors mostly thriving in their new situation, who are thrown into peril all over again by their desire to escape the mall they’ve built a home in.
Where the new version succeeds is by increasing the scale and horror of the action, and by upping the zombie effects until they’re truly skin-crawling.
The ending of Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is also just as ambiguous as the original, but with an even more desolate tilt that makes the whole thing sad, as well as terrifying, to watch.
Awful: The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
H. G. Wells is one of the most iconic science-fiction novelists of all time, and his 1896 text The Island of Dr. Moreau is one of his most iconic.
The story of a mad scientist creating human-animal hybrids was first translated into film in the silent era – twice – and later adapted into a talkie, in the form of 1932’s The Island of Lost Souls.
The early adaptations are fine, and even when The Island of Dr Moreau was adapted again in 1977 with Burt Lancaster in the starring role, the story remained spookily surreal without being too goofy or cringey.
The same can’t, however, be said of the 1996 version of the story, which stars Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. Those two actors both had to deal with serious personal issues on set, from being served divorce papers (Kilmer) to disappearing to their own private island and being fed lines through an earpiece (Brando).
Between that, the awful weather and a skyrocketing budget, the result is a silly, over the top and completely incoherent movie that isn’t scary or even in so-good-its-bad territory.
Not awful: The Blob (1988)
The original The Blob was released in 1958, and is one of those classic horror titles that everybody has heard of, but which few today have actually seen.
By contrast, the 1988 remake of The Blob is far less austere and is instead silly, scary and fun in all the right ways, making it a fun teen movie that also feels classic and cinematic.
The 1988 film follows the plot of the original pretty closely, switching between the teens trying to stop the gelatinous deadly blob, and trying to avoid the wrath of the military-ordered clean-up crew.
The defeat of the blob is even brought about in the same way, using cold and snow in an albeit far more explosive fashion.
Where this remake excels is with its twist ending, which shows a crazed old man still clutching a small piece of blob. Oh, and the blob effects themselves are far more gruesome in the 80s version, which is a plus in our eyes.
Awful: Prom Night (2008)
Prom Night was first released in 1980, created as a star vehicle for horror icon and prolific final girl Jamie Lee Curtis, who played Laurie Strode in the first Halloween movie.
It became famous for its twist ending, pulsing disco soundtrack, and reinvention of the “masked killer hunting schoolgirls” trope.
The film was loosely remade in 2008, and given a less compelling plot: Rather than a group of young children accidentally letting their classmates die and being stalked by the girl’s vengeful brother, the villain is instead an evil teacher.
The teacher Mr Fenton falls in love with the protagonist Donna, and brutally murders her family. He then escapes from prison just to menace her on her prom night, killing anyone who gets in the way.
Fans, while finding this new plot reductive and predictable, also lamented the lack of a true iconic final girl. People were less sad about the absence of disco music, but still unimpressed with the new, much blander, score.
Not awful: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a 1956 title, shot in black and white and in an instantly recognisable film noir style. It follows an alien invasion in which duplicates of humans are grown from extra-terrestrial pods, with all the same memories but no emotions.
The movie was hugely influential on cinema and culture – it’s where the term “pod people” originates from – and, as such, was a prime candidate for a remake, though prospective directors were rightly nervous about doing the original justice.
A remake was eventually made in 1978, and succeeded partly on the back of its incredible cast, which includes Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy.
Dialling back the detective story approach in favour of a more overt terror, 1978’s Body Snatchers takes the same beats and makes a movie with more tension, more action and, crucially, more horror.
The film is also famous for its tragic and blood-curdling ending, in which the final heroine thinks she has been reunited with the only other survivor, only for him to look at her and shriek, giving away his new pod person nature.
Awful: Pyscho (1998)
The Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, as well as one of the first slasher movies ever.
The 1960 film established many of the terrifying tropes we know today, and features performances still watched in classes on acting, directing and writing in university.
It seems like the worst possible candidate for a remake, and when a new version was released in 1998, it didn’t take long for fans to agree it was a bad idea.
Both too lazy and too adventurous, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho is a shot-for-shot remake for most of the movie, even copying Hitchcock’s camera movements and editing right down to exacting detail.
To make matters worse, Van Sant’s film also added surreal dream sequences and some truly baffling casting choices – Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, anyone?
Not awful: The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing has become such an iconic movie in its own right that many don’t even realise it’s a remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World.
Perhaps the most famous element of the 1982 movie is the chilling practical effects, which bring the twisted and distorted forms of the body-stealing alien to life.
Aside from the horrifying puppets, the Carpenter film gained a cult following thanks to its relentless, almost nihilistic tone, and tense scenes such as one in which the blood of the whole crew is tested for an alien presence.
The whodunnit element of trying to figure out who is infected at any given time also makes the 1982 movie feel more fast-paced than it is, and adds an ambiguity to the ending that’s super haunting.
Ironically, the remake bombed at the box office on initial release, before going on to be regarded as a science fiction classic today.
Awful: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Tobe Hooper’s 1974 movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is considered to be one of the highest calibre horror movies out there.
The story of a family of cannibals is as gritty and disgusting as you might expect, but Chain Saw is also beautifully shot and scored, making it a cinema classic as well as a genre one.
By contrast, the 2003 remake is the ninth instalment of the franchise overall and reboots the story without adding or changing anything meaningful.
The only significant difference is a subplot involving a baby, left behind in the house of horrors by a previous victim.
Aside from that, the only real difference is a higher amount of gore and darker colour palette, something fans actually responded positively to but which do little to make the film more than almost instantly forgettable.
Not awful: Child’s Play (2019)
Child’s Play might be the most controversial remake ever made, made not to resurrect a franchise, but to create a separate continuity to the original story.
Not only that, but the 2019 remake was made without the blessing of Don Mancini, who created the character of Chucky and had worked on every instalment of the Child’s Play franchise from 1998 onward.
Despite the movie being divisive for precisely that reason, there’s no denying that the 2019 Child’s Play does something entirely new with the concept of a killer doll.
Instead of a kid’s toy possessed by a voodoo serial killer, this Chucky is instead a faulty AI gone rogue, and much harder to defeat as a result.
The remake succeeds on its heightened gore and unique concept, even if there is less humour. The human characters are also far more likeable and complex than in the original, even if no teen actor can match the adorableness of an eight-year-old Andy Barclay.
Awful: Carrie (2013)
As far as female horror icons go, Carrie definitely wears the crown (or, at least, the prom queen tiara).
The original 1976 Steven King adaptation is raw, terrifying and super uncomfortable – and was one of the first horror movies to explore women’s issues in such a visceral and unfiltered way.
By contrast, the 2013 remake starring Chloe Grace Moretz is super slick, highly stylised and too pretty to be truly scary.
Definitely full of shocking and beautiful visuals, the 2013 Carrie lacks the brutal and messy edge that makes the original so beloved.
Not only that, but Moretz is miscast in the role of Carrie, largely because of her apparent inability to play a convincing outsider.
Not awful: Friday the 13th (2009)
There’s no doubt about it, 1980’s Friday the 13th is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time.
The story of a masked killer stalking sinful camp counsellers spawned a franchise that has since expanded outside of its original premise, leading to instalments taking place everywhere from Manhattan to space.
The 2009 remake sticks to the original premise pretty closely, minus the fact that Jason is the killer rather than the incomparable Mrs Voorhees.
However, what elevates the remake is the intensified violence, with Jason turned into a survivalist kidnapper with more elaborate traps and a penchant for hiding victims underground.
The movie also features a unique sibling relationship, which makes the cast more memorable than in most Friday the 13th instalments.
Awful: My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
The 1981 story of a crazed killer miner in a small Canadian town is not a horror movie that everybody is aware of, but the original My Bloody Valentine definitely has a contingent of super fans.
Unfortunately, many of these fans felt somewhat let down by the 2009 remake, despite the fact that it wasn’t actually a total failure at the box office.
What keeps the 2009 My Bloody Valentine from surpassing the somewhat low budget but charming original is the excess of gratuitously gory 3D shots, which take what could be a truly frightening kill and turn it into something comedic.
There’s also the issue of the nudity seeming excessive and out of place, with one scene following a naked victim running through a junkyard for several minutes while nothing else happens.
The remake also includes a twist that changes the plot of the whole movie, but it is telegraphed so hard throughout the film that it surprised nobody, and made even fewer people happy.
Not awful: Fright Night (2011)
Most people will defend the original Fright Night to the ends of the Earth.
The 1985 movie, directed by Tom Holland (no, not that one), is a campy vampire flick with a (kind of) family-friendly tone, one that soon became an ideal sleepover movie for many.
The 2011 remake takes an entirely different approach from Holland’s movie, making it controversial with older fans even as it was beloved by newer ones.
What the 2011 Fright Night lacks in over the top humour and charmingly old-school effects, it gains in a quippy fast pace, a stellar cast, and a blend of fun and truly scary moments.
It’s also fabulously slick and a little bit flirty in places, making it stand up as a slumber party film for a new generation.
Awful: Pet Sematary (2019)
Pet Sematary is a Stephen King classic that has inspired multiple adaptations, but not all of them are of equal value.
The original 1989 movie is regarded as kitschy and goofy in all the right ways, with over the top performances and unrealistic animals peppered through with some seriously terrifying effects.
While both the animals and acting are more believable in the 2019 adaptation, the story is still meandering and dull, and there isn’t the fun zombie comedy that lends the original levity.
Not only that, but the jump scares are far more generic, and the plot somehow feels even more convoluted.
With that said, the pictures of the cat in a bow tie at the movie premiere are super cute, which might be enough to make the whole movie worth it.
Not awful: The Crazies (2011)
Any remake of a George A Romero movie has a lot to live up to, just by merit of being a rehash of a property from one of the most famous people in horror.
1973’s The Crazies might not be one of Romero’s most popular movies, but that doesn’t mean the remake wasn’t plagued with doubt from fans, especially given its bold new direction.
Rather than focus on the conflict between a group of survivors and the scientists and military who unleashed the biological weapon in the first place, the 2011 remake focuses on the horror of the disease itself.
The 2011 Crazies is much darker, with more believable performances and full-tilt action, and is a bold response to the Iraq War rather than the Vietnam War.
The 2011 adaptation has even surpassed the original in many people’s cultural awareness, with younger and more casual horror fans loving it despite not knowing what it was inspired by.
Awful: Black Christmas (2018)
The original 1974 Black Christmas is a mainstay of the horror genre, a shocker so successful it popularised many of the horror hallmarks and cliches that we know today.
With a faceless monster stalking inside the house and an ensemble cast that is slowly picked off, Black Christmas is responsible for much of what we now recognise as key traits of the slasher genre.
By contrast, the 2018 adaptation is a bland retelling, which isn’t in any way as trailblazing as the original.
It also features interchangeable characters, performances that could appear in literally any modern horror movie, and a killer that is far less memorable.
Worst of all, rather than grounding the movie in a different kind of reality, the attempts at modernisation in 2011’s Black Christmas just come off as clumsy and inauthentic.
Not awful: Suspiria (2018)
Suspiria, arguably Italian giallo maestro Dario Argento’s best-known work, is probably the most famous underground horror movie there is.
Set in a ballet school with a horrible secret, the original 1977 production is atmospheric, bewildering and uncomfortable in all the best ways.
The tone is so uneasy partly because all the actors spoke in their own languages on set and were dubbed over into English in post-production, making the film feel disorientating in every scene.
As a result, Suspiria 2018 was a hugely anticipated release, but it proved to be one that took the abstract horror of the original and only ramped it up further.
Adding a recognisable cast and a more coherent throughline, the film also brings even more extreme and iconic visuals, as well as adding more dancing, which plays nicely against the more explicit horror.
Awful: The Wicker Man (2006)
Very few remakes manage to be more infamous than the original they stem from, but 2006’s Wicker Man might today be the version of the story most people think of first.
However, being more recognisable is not the same as being good, and most of the things that Nic Cage’s Wicker Man has become notorious for are not considered complimentary.
Whereas the original British production is restrained, beautiful, eerie and classical, the Wicker Man remake is overblown, ridiculous, tacky and baffling.
There are some choice lines of dialogue (“Killing me won’t bring back your goddamn honey!”), there is Nic Cage hiding in a bear costume, and there is an iconic bee torture scene so terribly done that it has been memed into the history books.
Ironically, the horrible remake has surpassed the original in every single metric except for quality, and has in the digital age become potentially more famous than the original.
Not awful: Evil Dead (2013)
Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy takes a super creepy premise and turns it into a borderline horror-comedy, with endlessly quotable lines and a completely unique action hero tone.
The protagonist Ash leaves the first movie and descends into a franchise that somehow combines zombies and time travel in a delightfully absurd and gory mix, which is something the remake could never capture.
Instead, the 2013 Evil Dead movie swings for the fences in completely the opposite direction.
2013’s Evil Dead creates a cast of far more believable characters, and throws them into a straight-up supernatural horror movie that is turned all the way up to 11.
It includes insanely gratuitous violence, truly creepy deadites, and more blood than maybe any other movie of the era.
This Evil Dead is terrifying, definitely not funny, and about 100% more nightmarish than the original.