Horror remakes often get a bad rap. For fans, nothing draws ire as fast as a remake announcement of a highly regarded original. In other words, there’s immense pressure for any filmmaker attempting to approach a beloved property with their own vision.
But while there have been plenty of maligned horror remakes over the years, there’s also been a significant number of fantastic movies that reworked genre favorites. Some of which even managed to eclipse the original, like 1986’s The Fly or 1982’s The Thing. Whether bad or good, a new take on a film doesn’t erase the pre-existing movie and often offers the discovery of the original for modern audiences.
These five horror movies showcase what successful remakes do well; they honor the source material while developing their own identity to set themselves apart.
All of these, as always, are available to stream right now.
Blood Diner – Hulu
Might as well kick this week’s picks off with a movie that bends the rules of what defines a remake. Technically, Blood Diner was initially intended to act as a sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast before becoming a standalone film. That change resulted in a zany ’80s horror-comedy that remakes the splatter classic; at its core, the premise is essentially the same. Directed by Jackie Kong, Blood Diner follows two brothers tasked by their dead serial killer uncle to continue his attempts to resurrect the goddess Sheetar. They do this by using their diner to host ritualistic feasts and lure women from which they harvest body parts. A pair of detectives struggle to keep up with the carnage. The original played it straight, while Kong dials up the ’80s excess for maximum gonzo laughs.
The Crazies – Pluto TV, Prime Video, Tubi
This update to George A. Romero’s 1973 goes heavy on the suspense and dread. Set in small-town Iowa, residents start turning inexplicably violent. One crashes a baseball game with a shotgun, another sets his house on fire with his family locked inside, and former friends turn on each other with the intent to kill. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant), his deputy Russell (Joe Anderson), David’s wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell), and her assistant, Becca (Danielle Panabaker), band together to survive against the onslaught of crazed citizens and the military that’s arrived to snuff out the outbreak. It’s a harrowing race to escape for the foursome, dodging armed forces and infected alike. That it’s an outbreak movie means that it might hit a little too close to home these days. Still, it’s a solid, intense remake that too often gets overlooked.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Prime Video
This update of the 1956 sci-fi film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is regarded as one of the best remakes. For good reason. Strange pods land on Earth, grow, and invade San Francisco. They take over humans while they’re asleep, creating emotionless duplicates to take over the world. It’s a story that should feel quite familiar at this point, considering it’s been remade so many times, but it’s hard to shake the imagery from this version. The botched duplicate that spliced a man’s face over a dog’s body, the horrific scream of the mindless copycats to alert the alien hive, and the eerie reveal of the pod’s body takeover all contribute to an unnerving invasion flick. The cast is stacked here, too; Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Art Hindle, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum star.
Nosferatu the Vampyre – Prime Video, Tubi
Silent film Nosferatu famously bypassed a lack of permission to adapt Bram Stoker’s Dracula by changing specific vital details. Dracula became Count Orlock and was given a monstrous makeover. Considering it’s the best film to hail from Germany, it’s fitting that Werner Herzog wrote and directed a remake. Only this time, the copyright to Dracula had entered the public domain. While visually paying homage to F.W. Murnau’s film, Herzog reverted his characters to Stoker’s original. Klaus Kinski makes a compelling monster in Count Dracula, and Isabelle Adjani’s Lucy Harker is equally fantastic. A lush visual spectacle that hones in on Dracula’s loneliness and isolation, with a moving score, too. For those that like a heaping of moody pathos in their horror, this is a must.
We Are What We Are – Pluto TV, Prime Video, Shudder, Tubi, Vudu
From the director of Stake Land, Jim Mickle, and co-written with its star Nick Damici, this remake tackles the 2010 Mexican film. It follows the reclusive Parker family, a religious bunch that follows ancient customs, including ritual fasting and feasting. Their mother’s unexpected death forces Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner) to assume responsibilities no normal has to endure. A slow build of unsettling horrors, this remake gives a unique approach to cannibalism. It also stars Bill Sage, Wyatt Russell, Kelly McGillis, and Michael Parks. Parks’ performance as a man suspicious of the family after his daughter’s disappearance would be worth the watch alone, but the grisly climax more than pays off the meditative depiction of religious fervor.