Generally, remakes tend to have a negative connotation to them that immediately invokes revulsion. The idea of attempting to remake something original or beloved is almost like some sort of forbidden fruit when it comes to cinema, and more often than not, it’s for good reason (I’m looking at you Disney). However, there are always those remakes that not only pay homage to the originals, but recontextualize or reinvent what they stood for and update it for the new generation. So many horror remakes in the 2000s fall under this category, and I think they should be recognized as such instead of being hastily criticized.
One horror remake that I’ll always champion is Rob Zombie’s Halloween. It’s a film that respects the original but chooses to alter its subtext in order to better fit what Zombie so perfectly captures: reprehensible filth. Instead of focusing on the fear of the unknown like the original, it makes Michael a character instead of merely a menacing force, further expounding on the idea of a harsh environment corrupting someone from the beginning stages of their life and chalking their eventual future to fate, which is disturbing to say the least. Though Halloween offers more psychological insight than a lot of Zombie’s other films, he shrouds it in his signature trashiness that you come to expect from him. Despite the possibility that it’ll get me in trouble, I’ll say that Zombie’s mean-spiritedness works wonders with this story, far better than the ambiguity Carpenter toys with in the original. I think it’s flat out a better movie and that’s a hill I’ll die on.
Now to dig myself into this hole even deeper I’ll say that Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th (2009) is nothing short of a fantastic remake that truly respects the mythos of the franchise, yet chooses to indulge in every trope and double down on all of the schlockiness while still maintaining a semi-serious tone. The kills are amazing, and Derek Mears’ Jason is seriously unparalleled when it comes to his threatening demeanor. His first appearance in the opening sequence is still phenomenal. Sure, the later sequels ham it up, but this movie finds a perfect balance right down the middle, which makes some of the later kills pretty frightening. There’s a stiltedness in most of the first few entries of the franchise that never lets the films reach the full potential that they could have, but that’s nowhere to be found here. This is just an unrestrained blood-soaked slasher that feels like it was created in the mind of a pothead, and honestly it’s probably my favorite of the franchise.
Lastly, another horror remake that I’d like to champion is one I saw recently, Glen Morgan’s Black Christmas (2006). As I said in my review it’s not so much a straightforward remake but an amalgamation of countless major influences in the slasher genre (even some giallo). Once again, this remake expands on the central story of the original, which results in some truly weird Burtonesque sequences which end in some grisly gore that would satisfy any horror fan. It doesn’t necessarily change much of the mythos like Halloween, it just attempts to place that same story in a modern setting, with that very early 2000s level cheese, and the result is fucking fantastic. It’s scarier and so much more fun, and cinematographer Robert McLachlan does some incredible work that deserves far more praise. The saddest part is that this is the one that was critically savaged and was treated much worse than the other films I’ve mentioned, but it’s probably my favorite out of the three. Ignore last year’s Black Christmas and please watch this one.
All three of these are remakes of beloved films that are exalted beyond belief, and although I understand wanting your favorite movies to be left alone, it’s this kind of thinking that interrupts new and interesting ideas that could occur, and even if it sounds ironic defending a remake like this, many remakes do tend to take the original material in new directions. None of the aforementioned films hurt the originals in any way—they’re just interesting spins for a new generation. I’m not proclaiming that all remakes are fantastic, I just don’t think they should be treated as blasphemy, because then you miss out on a possible future classic.