We all know the feeling of finding out a movie you love is being remade. There is always a sense the new creative team won’t capture the same feeling as the original. Nowhere is this truer than in the horror genre, where so many elements have to come together to create the perfect storm of terror.
Honoring the 30th anniversary of “Pet Sematary,” which just saw its remake released this month, we are counting down the best horror movies to ever receive the remake treatment. To be clear, we are not ranking the remakes. We are ranking the originals–in all their classic horror glory.
10“Friday the 13th” (1980)
dir: Sean S. Cunningham
Jason Voorhees and his machete don’t belong on this list based on quality alone. The film is a fairly standard teen slasher, after all. But there are so many enduring elements found in modern horror, it would be hard to leave this film off the list. His variance of slow move stalking and superhuman characteristics would become the model for a number of horror villains over the decades. The franchise has diluted the potency of this film with bland sequel after bland sequel, but there is no denying the influence of this quintessential slasher.
dir: Tobe Hooper
“Poltergeist” employed the creepy kid trope to great effect in this haunted house outing. Interestingly, Steven Spielberg, who wrote and produced the film, was able to get the MPAA to revise its original ‘R’ rating in favor of a ‘PG’ one, which meant the entire family could be frightened together.
8“The Evil Dead” (1981)
dir: Sam Raimi
What this original horror effort gets so right is the ability to pair the humorous with the frightening. The remake sheds the humor for a straight-faced approach that keeps it from quite living up to the grand ambitions of the original. Few movies have ever done more with less than this one, with its exceedingly low budget and its extremely high entertainment value.
7“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
dir: Tobe Hooper
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a brilliantly restrained work of horror. The film subsists on the suggestion of violence rather than the blood and gore so prominent in most horror movies. Leatherface, the mangled homicidal maniac, is given vague motivations which serve to deepen the mystery. The result is an unforgettable experience. Subsequent remakes have taken a different, more bloody, approach and the final product is never quite the same.
dir: Tommy Lee Wallace
While the 2017 adaptation will have a much more significant legacy with its $700 million intakes at the global box office, the original is equally horrifying. Released as a television miniseries, it was the first adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Clowns are always a good bet to be creepy, but Tim Curry’s Pennywise is an especially diabolical creation. For an entire generation, this will forever be what they think of when they imagine a scary clown.
dir: Brian De Palma
“Carrie” is one of the many classic horror movies based on a book by Stephen King. Brian De Palma’s 1976 iteration still stands as one of the more bloody, shocking and disturbing horror efforts. The film kicked off decades of teen screams that owe their inspiration to this original prom massacre. The 2013 remake was comparatively uninspired and will largely be forgotten with the passage of time.
dir: Hideo Nakata
Before the Western adaptation, “The Ring,” there was the Japanese original. It featured the same general story of a haunted video that would kill its viewers seven days after they watched. The original film is one that works for audiences of all ages and plays just as well as the American version. The film takes advantage of a slow-moving plot to build a sense of dread that all of the remakes and sequels have since tried to replicate.
3“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
dir: Wes Craven
Wes Craven is considered a horror master. His most notable works include “The Last House on the Left,” “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Swamp Thing,” but “A Nightmare on Elm Street” stands far above the rest. Now, Freddy Krueger is thought of as one of the most iconic horror villains of all time. It took many of the tropes established in “Halloween” and flipped them on their head with a singularly sinister horror creation.
dir: John Carpenter
Speaking of “Halloween,” this is the quintessential slasher horror film. For many, Michael Myers and his measured pursuit of his victims remains the gold standard in all of horror. Everything from the score to the costumes has taken on an iconic status at this point. It inspired “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Friday the 13th” and countless others. That legacy is the reason the franchise is still able to release new movies as recently as last year to great critical and commercial success.
dir: Alfred Hitchcock
“Psycho” is a masterpiece. It is generally viewed as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s very best. The film’s impact really cannot be overstated. It has stood the test of time and inspired horror tropes that live on to this day. Why then, did Gus Van Sant think there was a need to do a shot-for-shot remake in 1998? That is anyone’s guess. But what is not an open question is “Psycho” represents the very best of the genre.