No one sets out to make a bad movie on purpose. This applies to movies you may not like, and it applies wholesale to even the most disappointing remakes or reboots of your favorite horror films. “Disappointing” should be the word to keep in mind with this look at the worst horror movie remakes to come out. Most of the films we’re going to highlight here have good components or ideas going for them. Some of them have noteworthy performances. Others have an approach to reimagining beloved material that is at least admirable, if not successful.
Almost none of the ten worst horror movie remakes discussed here could be considered thoroughly terrible.
Unfortunately, “almost” is another word to keep in mind. Some movies are just bad, with very little to recommend. As we look through some of the worst misfires in the subgenre of horror film remakes, take a moment to appreciate just how many ways a movie can potentially collapse under its own ambition.
10. Pulse (2006)
Director: Jim Sonzero
Other than an absolutely delightful cameo by Brad Dourif, there isn’t very much to recommend with this dreary American remake of the 2001 Japanese horror film. A young woman (Kristen Bell, who in hindsight is very out of place) tries to understand her boyfriend’s bizarre, unexpected suicide. Turns out the spirit world is using our technology, basically anything with a screen, to reach out and destroy any living thing they meet. All in the name of finding the humanity within themselves that’s long gone.
The premise isn’t too bad, and Pulse gamely tries to recreate what worked for the 2001 original. It just doesn’t give us interesting or empathetic characters and doesn’t seem to have any of the grim energy that made its predecessor so memorable and frightening. The promise of a better-than-average remake quickly gives way to tedium. The movie runs a mere 86 minutes, but you’re going to feel as though this joyless affair is dragging you along for much longer than that.
Pulse 2006 may have been something had Wes Craven stayed on as sole screenwriter and director. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and we’re left with an empty copycat.
9. Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006)
Director: Jeff Broadstreet
Sifting through the remakes, spinoffs, and sequels associated with George A. Romero’s groundbreaking classic Night of the Living Dead will give you a screeching ice cream headache.
It’s a little confusing, with at least four direct remakes specifically associated with Romero’s original zombie creation. Some of those remakes are actually pretty good, particularly the 1990 version directed by Tom Savini. Good remakes are always in the realm of possibility. That just doesn’t apply with Night of the Living Dead 3D.
The 3D element is atrocious. The remake aspect brings absolutely nothing new or even interesting to the table. This film begins as a mess that tries your patience, and it really does not get a whole lot better as we go through the familiar beats of this story.
Night of the Living Dead 3D tries to put a new spin or two on the plot, but none of it really seems to have purpose or meaning. “Soulless” might be a bit unkind, especially when you have a cast (including Sid Haig) visibly doing their best with a lacking budget and a mediocre script, but it’s hard to think of another descriptor that fits.
8. Black Christmas (2019)
Director: Sophia Takal
Black Christmas 2019 director and co-screenwriter (with April Wolfe) Sophia Takal weren’t wrong to want to make their Black Christmas remake “fiercely feminist.” The 1974 Bob Clark-directed original was pretty feminist to begin with, particularly in its stance on abortion, but it was promising to see another remake of this film (the 2006 Glen Morgan-helmed remake is pretty good) being helmed by two women who wanted to tell this familiar story in the most decidedly modern fashion possible.
It just doesn’t come together. The film has some intriguing ideas in its story of a sorority being targeted by a mysterious and violent presence, but these ideas often get crushed under ridiculous plot twists and convoluted efforts to cover as many themes and messages as possible. Watching the sorority fight back against their assailant(s) should be satisfying, but Black Christmas’ refusal to attack its subject matter on a serious level leaves us with a largely shallow experience.
Calling Black Christmas 2019 a remake at all seems silly. The film misfires on so much potential, and then ignores virtually everything about the original that people liked. What was the point of calling this Black Christmas exactly?
7. Day of the Dead (2008)
Director: Steve Miner
You might be inclined to think this remake of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead is in itself a sequel to Zack Snyder’s enormously successful 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake. While both Snyder’s Dawn and this 2008 reimaging of Day feature Ving Rhames, we’re ultimately talking about a movie that stands as its own remake and own unique entity. It’s one of several of Romero’s 1985 follow-up to his Dawn of the Dead.
Yeah, it’s a bit confusing.
You don’t really need to see anything to watch this 2008 direct-to-video effort directed by genre great Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Parts 2 and 3, Halloween H20, Lake Placid). In fact, if you want any shot at all to enjoy this thunderingly dull film, you should probably avoid watching anything even remotely more entertaining beforehand.
On its own terms, and had this gone by a different title, Day of the Dead 2008 might just be a flat zombie movie with some good performances, poor special effects, and botched editing and pacing choices. Instead, this is a remake of Romero’s bleakest and most compelling zombie movie, and it doesn’t have anything even vaguely new to add to what the master already put down. One of the worst horror movie remakes you’ll find.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Director: Samuel Bayer
If completely whizzing potential down your leg counted for everything, the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street would easily rest at number one.
The fundamental failure of this movie to use its favorable components to create a striking new realization of the 1984 slasher classic was so profound upon release, not even the film’s financial success was enough to get a sequel off the ground. Audiences despised this film so thoroughly that no one has touched Freddy Krueger in well over a decade. That would be impressive if it wasn’t so damn depressing.
A Nightmare on Elm Street follows mostly in the footsteps of the first entry in the franchise, with a different Nancy (Rooney Mara, whose performance is more forgettable than outright awful) watching her friends die in their sleep under mysterious circumstances. While A Nightmare on Elm Street features Jackie Earl Haley as a worthy and singular Freddy Krueger, taking over from horror icon Robert Englund, he’s also stuck with the worst makeup imaginable.
That makeup is difficult to ignore, and the movie only gets worse from there.
5. Carnival of Souls (1998)
Directors: Adam Grossman and Ian Kessner
Did you know the surreal Herk Harvey classic Carnival of Souls (Harvey’s only feature film as a director) got a remake in 1998? You’re going to wish you hadn’t soon enough.
While the modern remake train arguably started with 2002’s The Ring, and 2004’s releases of The Grudge and Dawn of the Dead, there were plenty of efforts to redo a classic for a new audience before that. The 1998 Carnival of Souls rehash is one such example, and it’s quite possibly one of the worst horror films period, beyond simply being one of the worst horror movie remakes ever.
Carnival of Souls 1998 in fact holds very little resemblance to the 1962 original. Other than lifting the ending of that earlier movie, this bottomlessly terrible remake focuses on a young woman (Bobbie Phillips, who manages to make her character at least sympathetic) who is tormented by the man (an exceptionally miscast Larry Miller) who raped and killed her mother, as well as hallucinations of the carnival where he worked as a clown.
Nothing really matters in Carnival of Souls. Nothing seems to have a point. You’ll be annoyed with yourself for even watching this.
4. The Fog (2005)
Director: Rupert Wainwright
John Carpenter’s 1980 film The Fog is an exceptional piece of entertainment. As atmospheric as it is filled with likable and memorable characters, it’s a perfect example of the director firing on all cylinders to craft an intensely fun film.
The 2005 remake, directed by Rupert Wainwright, seemingly decides to skip all of the things that made the original fun.
It borrows heavily from its source material, adds nothing new of note, and becomes fixated on shallow characters and a mean, uninteresting script. The element of vengeance that permeates the very fog that menaces a small California coastal town in the original is obscured by terrible plot twists, unlikable townspeople, and a tone that opts to replace fun with grim-faced boredom.
Very little in the 2005 version of The Fog is worth recommending, beyond flashes of visual intensity and a cast doing their best to elevate shoddy material. The original Fog on paper isn’t that thrilling either. It was the efforts of Carpenter, Debra Hill, the cast, and other wholly unique participants and ways of reinvigorating old ideas. The remake has nothing of its own to say.
3. Poltergeist (2015)
Director: Gil Kenan
Again, if you’re going to remake something that drew its appeal from finding new ways to spin old tropes, you need to have something special of your own. Many horror remakes, including the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, find ways to do this. The 2015 Poltergeist has everything it needs to be at least entertaining. Particularly in the form of good special effects, a talented director, and a pretty strong cast that includes Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt.
Regrettably, like many of the worst horror movie remakes highlighted here, it doesn’t find anything new to offer. There are a handful of twists to this familiar story of a family menaced by paranormal forces in their new home, but every last one of them feels forced. This movie suffers from not being able to decide if it wants to chart its own newish course, or if it wants to just retread the original. This indecision makes for an exhaustingly depressing, pointless experience.
Everyone involved in Poltergeist has done better than this. Director Gil Kenan in particular did a better haunted house yarn in 2006 with the animated Monster House. Watch that instead.
2. The Omen (2006)
Director: John Moore
The Omen is one of the most ambitious horror movie remakes to date. It received a large budget, attracted a viable cast of well-known actors, and received plenty of hype from 20th Century Fox, releasing on June 6th, 2006 (06/06/06) in what was, if nothing else, a cute idea.
Once the movie begins, however, that promise of a bold and brilliant modern approach is quickly squandered in this story of a diplomat (Liev Schreiber) and his wife (Julia Stiles) adopting a baby who may or may not be the Antichrist. Obviously, the child named Damien is the Antichrist. Even if you haven’t seen the 1976 original, you already have a sense of what’s going on here. That isn’t a hurdle for the movie necessarily, but there is a presumptiveness that comes across in everything The Omen shows us.
Once again, The Omen is a remake where the new touches seem feeble and trivial, and the efforts to redo the iconic moments strikes you as underwhelming at best. The 2006 Omen never really gets going and director John Moore doesn’t seem to have any idea of what he wanted to do here.
1. The Wicker Man (2006)
Director: Neil LaBute
Okay, we’re almost there, everyone. The bees are ready. The wicker man is standing by and the torches are burning brightly.
Here’s some vital bullet points about the critically obliterated, catastrophically misguided 2006 remake of The Wicker Man:
1. Is it a good movie? No. Not in the slightest. Start with Nicolas Cage opting to go to 11 right from the beginning, surrounded by a confused female cast playing a bizarre variation of the original film’s pagan cult living in isolation on a small island. You can also include the movie having zero chemistry between Cage and anyone, let alone the poor woman (Kate Beahan) who plays his estranged wife, coupled with nothing that could remotely be considered scary. What the movie attempts to create on its own is a hellscape of bad decision-making. What the movies borrows from Robin Hardy’s chilling depiction of madness in the original Wicker Man could very reasonably be considered a cinematic abomination.
2. Is it a fun movie? Yes. As bad movies go, The Wicker Man is one of the most entertaining ever made. Not in the so-bad-it’s-good range. Simply bad. But there’s nonetheless something uniquely appealing about this particular car crash of a film.
3. Nicolas Cage swears this movie was always meant to be a comedy. He’s probably lying, but that’s still the best way to approach The Wicker Man, if you approach this hideousness at all.
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