The 25 best horror movie remakes to make you scream this Halloween

Gem Seddon
·21-min read
 The best horror movie remakes
The best horror movie remakes

Ah, the remake. When a director wants to give an update to an older story, offer their own take on a classic tale, or simply believes they can do it better. Few genres are as prone to the remake as horror, with filmmakers trying their hand at the same story on multiple occasions. Results vary.

However, only the best horror movie remakes make this list. We've spent more time terrified behind the sofa than we'd like to admit to help recommend some prime Halloween viewing to you. There are some bonafide classics and some more under-the-radar releases you may not have even known were remakes. In fact, some of these are so terrifying, you'll have forgotten the original even exists. So, strap in, as we get scared witless by the best horror movie remakes of all time.

25. House of Wax (2005)

Laugh all you like. This mid-noughties remake has aged nicely, or should that be, horribly. Not a straight-up remake of the Vincent Price 1953 flick – it borrows more from 1979 cult PG slasher Tourist Trap – don’t let semantics or Paris Hilton’s presence prevent you from diving into this surprisingly gory flick. Populated by a cast of impossibly beautiful twentysomethings, the blood soon starts to flow when a group of stranded friends stumble across a ramshackle tourist attraction filled with wax figures. But they’re not artificial – they’re real people! This is way nastier than you’d expect, with one sequence featuring Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki likely to make your lunch violently reappear. Well, it’s to be expected, this movie does involve teenagers encased in wax while they’re still alive. 

24. Sorority Row (2009)

The original House on Sorority Row isn’t considered one of the best horror movies of all time. It’s not counted among the best slashers, either. To be honest, it’s kinda awful. That’s what makes Sorority Row’s very existence so interesting. Why did anyone think to remake a terrible college slasher? In that regard – and to paraphrase Yazz – the only way is up, baby. Landing at the end of the '00s when horror remakes dropped into multiplexes every other week, it’s a fun, over-the-top romp that’s seldom interested in logistics or being believable and more concerned with a death count and hammy one-liners. Its starry cast of former up-and-comers are given free rein to camp it up, yet none match the shotgun-totin’ madness of Carrie Fisher. Yes. Carrie Fisher. Destined to be a cult classic. 

23. My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

Twisting the 1981 film’s storyline as a way to avoid replicating the original beat-for-beat in itself makes My Bloody Valentine 3D stand apart from other remakes. It tacks on the last act of the original to its opening, then springboards forward into its own sadistic tale. The backstory goes like this: a mining accident leaves a group of men caved in, yet luckily one of the miners survives. After beating the rest to death so he can have their oxygen, of course! Ten years later, the small-town of Harmony fears the surviving miner Harry Warden has returned. Tense and claustrophobic, and entirely happy to surrender to its own silliness (Kerr Smith plays a Sheriff called Axel), this holiday-themed remake from Patrick Lussier packs in a decent amount of scares and some inventive death scenes. Just don’t watch it in 3D.

22. The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014)

If Ryan Murphy’s name is attached to a movie you might expect it to include singing, camp, Jessica Lange, or all three. The American Horror Story creator holds back on all fronts for The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake, taking a producer credit alongside Blumhouse maestro Jason Blum, and handing the directorial reins over to his AHS alum Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. The resultant slasher is a nasty, gory homage to the original, cleverly operating on two levels: it’s a remake and a sequel that’s SO meta, as Gale Weathers might say. The movie opens on Halloween 2013 at a Texarkana drive-in movie theater that’s showing… the 1976 original. This new killer is obsessed with the first film and seeks to recreate its death count. If you thought intertextual horror ended with Scream 4 then you might want to check this out.

21. The Blob (1988) 

Chuck Russell’s remake of The Blob wouldn’t be the rampant sci-fi triumph it is were it not for the effects work accomplished by Rob Bottin six years prior on The Thing. The Blob’s practical-effects-heavy approach gives it its winning edge. Granted, The Blob is an altogether different beast. An undulating mass of alien goop that pillages towns, gobbling up citizens left and right, it induces less of an identity crisis panic like the creature from The Thing, instead adopting a cookie monster approach to annihilation: NOM NOM NOM. It eats people and the more it consumes, the bigger it gets. A tidy allegory for 1980s decadence? Certainly. It also happens to allow for revolting sequences of the pink, oozing mass’s consumption of an entire California town. Sadly, this sci-fi horror mash floundered at the box office, despite its funny, unconventional script, co-written by Russell and Frank Darabont, both of whom wrote Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. 

20. Thirteen Ghosts (2000)

Roger Ebert famously planted Thirteen Ghosts on his most-hated for the year list in 2000. Little did he know that his fervent dislike of the flick would stoke curiosity. Because, c’mon, could a horror from Dark Castle Entertainment, who two years prior dropped another supernatural abode stuffed to the rafters with ghouls in The House on Haunted Hill, really be that bad? At time of release, the consensus was, yes, this story of a house haunted by 13 very specific, and evil, ghosts, is awful. In the years since, Thirteen Ghosts has managed to do what many late ‘90s/early ‘00s horrors could not: maintain a cult following.  From its bombastic aspirations to slick action, to its over-the-top CGI and facepalm-inducing dialogue, to its lavish production design, it’s easy to see why it’s so adored today. 

19. Piranha 3-D (2010)

The 1978 original, helmed by Joe Dante and produced by Roger Corman, is a slice of camp excellence centred around a popular vacation spot overrun by flesh-eating piranhas. How can a remake improve on such a silly, gleeful premise? Ramping up the budget and installing High Tension director Alejandra Aja at the helm, for starters. While it’s hardly a brutal assault on the soul like Aja’s High Tension (aka Switchblade Romance), putting its characters through a myriad of harrowing encounters, Piranha 3-D ain’t shy of blood-letting either. Faces are ripped off, crotches are mauled. It’s gross. And, the best part of all is the cast, all of whom look like they’re having a blast, never taking themselves or the movie too seriously.

18. Friday the 13th (2009)

Friday the 13th breaks free of the remake shackles by doing double duty as both a reboot of the franchise’s first four films and a sequel. The result is a familiar-feeling modern slasher with echoes to its past. Jason is still the hockey-mask-wearing killer wielding a machete and he’s still slicing up teens. But it’s not the exact storyline we’ve seen trotted out in countless sequels. Nope, horror scribes Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, who cut their chompers on genre mashup Freddy vs. Jason, introduce new story beats along with fresh elements to Jason’s mythology. Haven’t we all wondered how he gets around so fast? Easy. He’s got TUNNELS all over Camp Crystal. And damn, they’re not exactly the most hospitable place to be, littered with carcasses and skulls, making the final sequence all the more shudder-inducing. 

17. Silent House (2012)

Elizabeth Olsen, aka Marvel’s Scarlet Witch, stars in a tense thriller saddled with lacklustre reviews when it debuted in theaters, which has since gone on to earn a solid reputation. A remake of the 2010 Uruguayan movie La Casa Muda, the film largely follows the same story: Sarah (Olsen) returns to her family’s summer home to help her father and uncle fix it up after squatters leave it a shambles. Shortly thereafter, she begins to hear sounds coming from within the walls. Separated from her family and trapped inside the house by an unknown attacker, she must figure a way out of the boarded up home. Purportedly filmed in one shot, the directors actually lensed it in 12-15 minute takes, then sewed them together in post-production, but the effect remains the same: a devastating and claustrophobic dive into a haunted house unlike any you’ve likely experienced.

16.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) 

You can’t really better the greatness of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre, one of the most savage horror classics, can you? Luckily, Marcus Nispel knew that when he accepted the gig from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production outfit to direct the reboot. Much like his later remake of Friday the 13th, the director's 2003 redo shuns the idea of a beat-by-beat rehash, instead going for the general premise. A bunch of gorgeous, ripped teens pick up a strange hitchhiker in rural Texas, who promptly blows her head off with a gun, leading the youngsters to the front door of one Thomas Hewitt – aka Leatherface. The similarities, including the fact that Scott Kosar’s script is also influenced by the crimes of serial killer Ed Gein, end there. It’s still bloody and brutal, packing in some horrific moments – like one poor kid trying to raise himself up from a butcher’s hook only to THUNK back down on it repeatedly -–that’ll make you brace. 

15. Evil Dead (2013)

Okay, yes, the original is a classic, we all know that. But if you forget the wonder that is Ash (from Housewares) and watch this on its own merits, you’ll appreciate how genuinely terrifying it is. Director Fede Alvarez foregoes a straight-up remake, losing the camp splattergore of Sam Raimi’s original, carving out a brutal, savage work all of its own. A group of friends hole up at a remote cabin to help their friend detox from heroin addiction, but drug use is the least of their concerns once they find the Book of the Dead. It doesn’t deviate too far from the original in terms of the bare bones plot, though it takes itself far more seriously and comes out the better for it. There’s little to find funny about possessed youngsters jabbing at themselves with nailguns. You will never feel the same about the kitchen again.

14. Willard (2003)

The original Willard is okay. The remake is another matter entirely. It’s hardly a bombastic balls-to-the-wall horror reboot, like a Platinum Dunes teen hack n’slash, but this subject requires an altogether delicate, creepier touch. Crispin Glover was born to play the role of Willard, an oddball loner whose affinity with the vermin overtaking his father’s old decaying abode spirals out of control. And by that, we mean: when a rat is killed, Willard leads the rest of the horde in a revenge murder spree of sorts, wherein he sets the scuttling nibblers on anyone who’s ever wronged him. Pretty much everything you could want from a black comedy horror about murderous rats, Willard revolves around Glover’s performance. 

13. The Ring (2002)

Arguably the best of the J-horror lot, Ring remains terrifying and it’s hard to see how an American remake could better its simple premise executed so perfectly. Enter: Gore Verbinski. Yes, that same director who would, the very next year, go on to direct the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The haunted VHS tape motif slides into American suburban life so effortlessly, you could imagine Scream’s Casey Becker popping it into her VCR. Verbinski douses the screen in overcast Seattle blues to emphasise the dreariness and isolation of Naomi Watts’ reporter Rachel Keller, who is determined to discover the truth behind a videotape that kills anyone who watches it seven days later. Watts’ solid performance is what will keep you watching, alongside the haunting mix of bizarre, eccentric visuals (suicidal horses, anyone?) with the horrific, will-keep-you-awake-for-days effects work on Sadako’s victims. 

12. The Crazies (2010) 

Something strange is happening to the inhabitants of a small town in rural America, and you have just enough time to get to know the residents that you feel their loss as things steadily degrade into chaos. George Romero’s original dove into the spiky truth of white-picket livin’ and how everyday folks respond to apocalyptic circumstances. So in a sense, The Crazies is like a Stephen King novel brought to life by someone else. The 2010 remake is a take on zombie tropes that slyly avoids a lot of the typical cliches and pitfalls. Timothy Olyphant is on hand doing what he does best – languidly wearing a badge and cowboy boots – proving that, despite what you saw in Hitman, he really can be a leading man. 

11. Suspiria (2018)

Nobody sits down to watch Suspiria for its intricate plotting. In fact, if there exists a plot deep beneath the original's thick stylish layer of story, it’s probably a surprise to Dario Argento. Less concerned with cleverness, the first Suspiria is all about the unmistakable mark of its director: and in a sense, so is the remake. Reworking an Argento movie is a guaranteed recipe for backlash. And that’s perhaps why Luca Guadagnino threw out most of the film’s recognisable elements, replacing them with his own approach to the material – one of those being: the witches are real, you guys – while keeping the European dance school backdrop. Dakota Johnson snags the juicy lead dancer previously played by Jessica Harper, whose acceptance into the school finds her spending her time fluttering and cooing opposite one of many characters played by Tilda Swinton. Heavily stylized to the point where it’s hard to tell if the humour is a byproduct of seriousness or a deliberate contrast to the violent body horror, Suspiria is an experience to behold. 

10. Fright Night (2011)

Tom Holland’s 1985 original is a near-perfect slice of suburban vampire schlock, asking the question: what would you do if a vampire lived next-door? Arriving in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, Fright Night has homosexual repression in the subtext, buried into the marrow of the movie’s themes. Fast forward 16 years and those aspects, along with its head vamp, have changed. Where that flick installed Chris Sarandon as the terrifying-sounding Jerry Dandridge,Craig Gillespie’s 2011 remake ups the ante by casting Colin Farrell as the dark, brooding fang-banger, who’d likely seduce your nan if given the chance. Farrell’s sexiness aside, the real stars here are Anton Yelchin as teenage detective Charley, desperate to take out the creep next door, and David Tennant as celebrity vampire hunter Peter Vincent. Quietly garnering a loyal fanbase in the years since its release, this take on Fright Night is a bona fide cult classic.

9. Let Me In (2010)

Way before he jumped aboard the Planet of the Apes franchise train, Matt Reeves excelled with his remake of Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In. Although, you could say they’re both merely different approaches to the same novel. Let Me In matches the tone, pace, and visual style of the original without lacking its own ideas. How can you replicate an aesthetic and still be your own thing? The Hollywood redo masterfully carves its own identity. From the slow burn of its characters, to its beautifully-crafted shots and understated performances it telegraphs the current era of stylish, arthouse horror. What’s most unusual about this tale of adolescent idolatry, steeped in a misty vampire yarn, is that it wasn’t a bigger hit at the box office. 

8. We Are What We Are (2010)

Watching Jim Mickle's third feature, a skilfully presented remake of the 2010 Mexican movie, it's hard to believe this up-and-coming horror auteur is only four movies into his career. Gore and cheap scares aren't his forte. If you've seen the superior vampire horror-drama Stake Land, you'll already know Mickle' crafts strong, deep characters and lets their personal journeys guide the descent into horror. And, if a story is gripping enough then it shouldn't matter that its central group of characters eat people. There's much more at stake here than flesh-eating theatrics. The tale of two young girls desperate to break free from a lifestyle of cannibalism forced upon them by their father is a heart-wrenching. Still, papa's not going to be happy about it.

7. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) 

What’s not to love about Werner Herzog’s take on the original vamp? It’s a remake of a remake. Herzog’s affection for F.M. Murnau’s 1922 movie is apparent from how closely it resembles that version while establishing its own reputation as one of the best horror movies ever made. Herzog was unable to secure the rights to shoot in the same locations as Murnau – which he fully intended to do – and instead did the next best thing: cast Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula. Sinister as hell, Kinski, like Max Schreck who tackled the part in the original, isn’t supposed to be a charmer like modern day vamps. Instead, his bloodlust is horrifying, selfish and brutal, countering his inherent loneliness that Herzog draws out with some of the most stylish visual choices of his career. 

6. Maniac (2012)

The original '80s Maniac is the stuff of nightmares. A psychotic killer – played by Joe Spinelli – stalks the women of New York City, slicing their scalps free to adorn the mannequins of his apartment. It’s a vile, misogynist piece of ‘80s grimecore with flashes of early Scorsese amidst the horror. The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3-D director Alexandra Aja co-wrote the script and produced the remake, and while he stepped away from the director’s chair here, his bloody handprints are all over this savage work. The remake is made all the more disgusting thanks to a handful of unique choices made by Aja and director Franck Khalfoun. For starters, the film is shot entirely from the killer’s perspective, forcing you to almost be complicit in the crimes as he commits them. He, being the second reason this remake is so effective. Elijah Wood, having flirted with psychopathy in Sin City, fully commits to the horror genre, giving one of his best-ever performances in a role that hardly has him onscreen. 

5. It (2017)

Stephen King adaptations tend to be hit and miss. But remakes? That’s a different realm. Fair enough, it could easily be argued that 2017’s It isn’t technically a remake of the 1991 TV mini-series, but another stab at the source novel. Let’s not kid ourselves: Tim Curry’s iconic take on Pennywise is the basis for comparison when it comes to clownish nightmare fuel. For this modern remake, director Andy Muschietti improves on the original in every way by splitting the narrative into two parts (although, It Chapter Two didn’t really live up to this first film). Where the series hopped back and forth in time, following The Losers Club as tweens to adults and back again, this one sticks solely with its terrific younger cast whose command of the material is top-notch. That focus on the kids and their encounters with the shape-shifting ancient evil known as Pennywise, is a masterstroke. It’s their part of the story, when they’re hanging out back-chatting one another, goofing off and bonding, that makes it all the more terrifying when they meet Bill Skarsgard’s haunting Pennywise. 

4. Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978)

Where the 1993 remake retained the best part of the title – simply Bodysnatchers – and the 2009 remake kept the nondescript part – The Invasion – the 1978 version keeps it all together under one mantle, proudly taunting a hideous takeover. Yes, this tale of  corporeal thieving has been remade A LOT. Philip Kaufman’s seventies film is a marked improvement on what came before, uprooting the story from a small-town and relocating it to San Francisco. That upgrade makes sense when the antagonists, extraterrestrials intent on sabotaging the human race, need as many bodies as possible to take over. Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, and Jeff Goldblum all deliver excellent performances, bringing believability to strange happenings at the SF Health Department. What firmly places this remake in the horror category, more so than any other version, is in the takeover of a human body. None of this happens behind closed doors, instead the audience is invited in to see this pink goop envelop the recently-deceased, only to let them emerge, blemish-free, as emotionless simulacra of their former selves. Now if that ain’t horrific…

3. Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Zombies shuffle. That’s their thing. George Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead happily reflects the absent-minded consumerism of the era by making its antagonists amble along like shoppers. That’s the point. James Gunn and Zack Snyder, who wrote and directed the remake, are less concerned with subtle social commentary. These flesh-eaters don’t meander – they charge. Partly why Snyder’s debut is so much fun is that he makes the material his own. It’s a crush of action-horror with some truly revolting set pieces (i.e. a zombie baby being born). The story also echoes the same beats: a random group of people find themselves trapped in a mall during a zombie outbreak. It’s stylishly shot, which counters the lo-fi, naturalistic production of Romero’s original, and the music cues are downright superb. The script is funny as hell, bringing out excellent turns from its entire cast. 

2. The Fly (1986)

The grossest love story of all time could only come from body horror maestro David Cronenberg. Adopting the same story as the '50s original, the late ‘80s iteration, while absent of the superb Vincent Price, does one better by casting Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, the classic egocentric mad scientist desperate to innovate in his grimy apartment. In a jealousy-fuelled moment of late-night drunkenness, he fires up his teleportation device like a normal person fires up a pizza before passing out on the couch. The horrible aftermath of that one night – a parallel to the late ‘80s AIDS epidemic – follows his slow, agonising mutation into a housefly. Cronenberg’s confident grasp on the story sidesteps the fun, frivolous sci-fi feel of the 1958 version, instead going for slick, shocking horror that earned its effects team an Academy Award. The chemistry between real-life couple Goldblum and Geena Davis truly hammers home the heartbreaking reality of Brundlefly’s fate.

1. The Thing (1982)

The Thing opened the same week as Blade Runner, and while both E.T. and Poltergeist were filling multiplexes, too. With that in mind, the now-classic sci-fi horror never stood a chance. Audiences didn’t turn out to see it, and critics deemed it dirge, failing to celebrate Carpenter’s moody, sombre tone seeping into the gory theatrics of Rob Bottin’s Oscar-winning practical effects work. 

Today, it’s another story. Highly-regarded as one of the best horror movies ever made, The Thing is a caustic, chilly rumination on what makes us human. The Antarctic backdrop serving as a perfect mirror to the isolation felt by the scientists at its heart, who discover shortly after taking in two loose dogs, that one of the canines is an extraterrestrial creature with designs on them. The film includes a string of iconic set-pieces that have, arguably, never been bettered onscreen. From the chest-opening sequence, to the blood-test scene (so iconic, it was blatantly ripped off in The Faculty), to its highly-debated ending: The Thing is not only a great horror remake, it’s simply one of the greatest horror movies, full stop. Its poster, as well as incorporating a killer graphic, includes the best tagline ever, guaranteed to give you the willies, and make you reach for the remote: man is the warmest place to hide. 

Need more Halloween recommendations? Then be sure to check out our pieces on the best haunted house moviesbest horror sequelsbest witch movies, and best vampire movies.