By C. Michael Forsyth
I find the unending stream of movie remakes depressing. It’s a kind of self-cannibalization that generally signals a culture is entering its death throes.
Typically, Hollywood remakes movies that were perfectly executed the first time, like “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and the remakes tend to be inferior. The most unnecessary was the shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho” with Vince Vaughan standing in for Anthony Perkins (who was far better suited for the role).
A remake of “Carrie” is due out this spring – despite the movie already having been remade in 2002. And although director Sam Raimi remade “The Evil Dead” with a better script and higher budget as “The Evil Dead 2,” a remake will be released in April.
The trend will continue as long as producers feel the public doesn’t care much about originality and that they can cash in on name recognition. But what if remakes were chosen for artistic reasons? Why not pick movies that perhaps had a good premise but didn’t turn out as well as they might have due to low-budgets, poor scripting or primitive special effects?
Here are 13 horror movies that SHOULD be remade:
“The Killer Shrews” (1959) — Yes, this movie is ranked among the silliest ever made, but the premise is pretty good. A scientist experimenting on shrews on a remote island causes the voracious creatures – which consume three times their body weight each day – to become huge. That plunges a band of humans stranded on the island into a desperate fight for survival. There’s plenty of conflict between the besieged protagonists and the way they finally escape their predicament is nifty. The movie’s main flaw is that due to budget constraints the shrews were portrayed by collies in masks! Good CGI could make these rodents of unusual size truly terrifying.
“Them” (1954) — In this flick, radiation spawns ants bigger than elephants in the New Mexico desert, courtesy of A-bomb testing. A strong performance by James Whitmore as a small town cop pitted against the enormous insects helps make this one of the best giant monster movies ever made. The special effects were impressive at the time, but imagine what could be done today.
“Gorgo” (1961) – A Nessie-type monster is captured off the coast of Ireland and put on display by circus owners in London. The surprise ending, as well as the relationship between Gorgo and a young Irish lad, are quite touching. However, as in “Godzilla,” a man in a lizard suit portrays the monster – the best that could be done at the time.
“Billy the Kid Versus Dracula” (1966) – One of the most laughable movie titles of all time. But the premise has potential. We’ve seen how well the cowboy and sci-fi genres blended in “Cowboys & Aliens.” Why NOT have this iconic outlaw, who still fascinates historians – go mano-a-mano against the king of the vampires? (A better title might be in order, though).
“Gargoyles” (1972) – In this made-for-TV movie, it turns out that those statues that adorn cathedrals depict creatures that really exist — mankind’s most ancient enemy. An anthropologist and his daughter must defeat the winged humanoids before their brood of eggs hatch and they plague the world again. Cornel Wilde as the aging but still virile professor makes a splendid hero. And a young, hunky Scott Glenn as a long-haired biker made my big sister’s heart flutter when the TV movie aired. Although the makeup that transformed Bernie Casey into a gargoyle was convincing, the flight sequences were not. Now 21st century special effects could create a terrifying squadron of the gargoyles.
“The Keep” (1983) – When I read the book by F. Paul Wilson long ago, I found the premise mind-blowing. During World War II a troop of Nazi soldiers takes refuge in a crumbling fortress – unaware that imprisoned in its bowels is an ancient being far more dangerous than they are. Despite a stellar cast including Ian McKellen and Gabriel Byrne, the movie was a critical flop. Hollywood ought to take another crack at the evil vs. eviler story.
“Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter” (1974) – The title character is a master swordsman and former soldier who travels the countryside slaying bloodsuckers with the aide of his sidekick, a hunchbacked professor. I love the premise that there are different species of vampires, each with its own powers and vulnerabilities. The vampire Captain Kronos encounters this time can’t be killed with wooden stakes. There is an element of mystery in addition to horror and action, since Kronos and the professor must figure out both who the vampire is and how to destroy him. My only complaint is that Horst Janson as Kronos is a bit wooden. A better actor could make for a rousing remake.
“Van Helsing” (2004) – Normally, I hate remakes of recent movies, as in the case of the 2008 remake of the 2003 “The Incredible Hulk.” And I enjoyed this supernatural adventure, especially the scene where vampire harpies buzz terrified villagers. But the Clint Eastwood-type hero played by Hugh Jackman bears virtually no resemblance to the cerebral Dutch professor Abraham Van Helsing as we know him from Dracula. The steampunk, gadget-using cowboy actually is more like the hero of “The Wild, Wild West.” In fact, if you changed the name of the protagonist, you could just as easily have titled the movie “James West.” Why not a version featuring a young medical student Dr. Van Helsing based on Bram Stoker’s character, encountering the supernatural for the first time?
“The Thing with Two Heads” (1972) – A dying racist millionaire arranges for his head to be surgically implanted on the body of a black man, in this misbegotten attempt to cross the blaxploitation and mad scientist genres. Oscar-winning screen legend Ray Milland humiliates himself spectacularly as the old bigot hitching a ride on Rosey Greer’s bulky body. But what if you remade this turkey as an all-out comedy? I’d love to see Kelsey Grammer as a snooty one-percenter forced to share shoulders with wisecracking Chris Rock.
“C.H.U.D.” (1984) — Beneath the streets of New York City lurk Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers — homeless people living in the sewers who’ve been mutated by toxic waste into hideous, flesh-eating creatures. Having exhausted the supply of sewer workers, they’re now surfacing through manholes to feed on ordinary New Yorkers. The movie suffers because more screen time is spent on authorities covering up the crisis than on the monsters themselves. And when the C.H.U.D. do show up the makeup is cheesy. But it’s a great idea, given all the urban legends involving the labyrinthine tunnels, and with good monsters, a remake could be really frightening.
“The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” (1962) — A scientist develops a means of keeping body parts alive. He finds a practical application for the breakthrough when his fiancée is decapitated in a car wreck. The lovesick scientist rushes her head to his laboratory, where he manages to keep it alive — and quite talkative — in a liquid-filled tray. Now all he needs is an attractive new body to attach to his sweetheart’s head. As the unhinged doc cruises bars for a suitable specimen, his fiancée goes a bit batty herself, communicating telepathically with a hideous experiment-gone-wrong locked in the laboratory cell. It’s all pretty crazy. So crazy it just might work, as a gory black comedy along the lines of “Re-animator.” (Imagine acid-tongued comedian Sarah Silverman as the nagging head).
“The Vulture” (1967) — I remember being scared out of my wits by this film about a half-man, half-vulture creature terrorizing people in a Cornish village. The townsfolk fear it is the vengeful incarnation of a sailor their ancestors buried alive with his pet vulture. However, I was 8 years old at the time. In retrospect, the special effects were awful and the “scientific” explanation revealed at the end is absurd. Still, vulture claws are among God’s scariest creations and, with a decent script and effects, you could scare the bejesus out of an audience.
“LIFEFORCE” (1985) — While scouting Haley’s Comet, astronauts find a spaceship that contains the bodies of three human-like aliens in suspended animation. They bring the specimens aboard their ship for scientific study, but the specimens turn out to be vampires that drain psychic energy rather than blood from their victims. They overcome the spacemen and escape to Earth, where they unleash a vampire plague in London. Unfortunately, the movie is slow-paced and unexciting. And Steve Railsback — straight off a riveting performance as Charles Manson in “Helter Skelter” — is surprisingly bland as the surviving astronaut racing to stop the epidemic. I’d like to see a version of the space-vampire flick that doesn’t suck.
Check out HOUR OF THE BEAST by clicking HERE.