The new year is always a time for reinvention, so it seems only natural that we would devote this month of January to remakes and reimaginings of all our favorite horror movies. Today, we’re taking a look at the ten movies that most took advantage of the opportunity to remake their source material by changing everything about the original. Whether those changes come in the form of plot, characters, or just overall vibe, these remakes unquestionably differentiate themselves from the movies that they are based on, for better or worse.
Big time spoiler warning for any of the movies listed below as some of the differences we’ll be talking about involve major plot points!
10. Suspiria (2018) / Suspiria (1977)
Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi’s supernatural classic is so beloved, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before a remake would come along. Lucky for us, we live in the same timeline as total madman, Luca Guadagnino and ten years after acquiring the rights to the movie, his reimagining of Suspiria graced our screens. Both versions of the film follow a young ballet student at an elite dance academy in Germany plagued by mysterious murders, but with the remake coming in at almost double the original’s run time, it makes sense that there are a lot of differences to find between the two. While the original Suspiria (1977) is known for its use of bright colors and heavily stylized imagery, Guadagnino’s remake involves a completely different, muted color scheme that lets you know at first glance that this is not the same movie. Beyond visual differences, the original stays true to giallo tradition by including outlandish bright red blood and gore, where Suspiria (2018) relies on painfully realistic, bone crunching body horror. And of course, these different approaches to the same story lead us to conclusions that could be considered polar opposites of each other, but I’ll leave you to discover that on your own.
9. Pet Sematary (2019) / Pet Sematary (1989)
In 1989 Mary Lambert adapted Stephen King’s self proclaimed most disturbing story, and in doing so, stuck very closely to the source material. Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) and his family move to a new home situated in front of a graveyard for pets, only to discover that this cemetery is capable of bringing dead things back to life. The original Pet Sematary (1989) continues to follow the tragic lead of King’s book when the Creed‘s two year old son, Gage (Miko Hughes), is struck and killed by a truck, to be brought back to life by Louis. The 2019 remake spares Gage (Hugo & Lucas Lavoie) from this fate, only to kill his older sister Ellie (Jeté Laurence) in the same fashion, changing the narrative entirely. The two movies also have completely different endings as Pet Sematary (1989) ends with Gage killing his mother Rachel (Denise Crosby), Louis killing Gage, Louis bringing Rachel back to life, and Rachel ultimately killing Louis. Sounds complicated, but hold on a second because the ending of 2019’s Pet Sematary involves Ellie, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), and Louis (Jason Clarke) becoming a whole family of zombies with the implication that they kill Gage themselves to make him one of the undead. Yeesh. Regardless of your opinion of the Pet Sematary remake, they certainly made it their own.
8. The Green Inferno (2013) / Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
To describe Ruggero Deodato’s infamous Cannibal Holocaust in the simplest terms possible, it tells the story of a rescue team sent into the Amazon rainforest to save a group of documentary filmmakers from the grips of a cannibal tribe. Perhaps known most for its controversy, Cannibal Holocaust includes graphic depictions of sexual violence, real life footage of animal torture and death, and other grimy unpleasantries that makes it feel like you’re watching a genuine snuff film. On the other hand, Eli Roth’s homage to Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno, has a much more polished and glossy appearance, letting you relax in the certainty that it’s only a movie. The movie’s plot and characters also vary a lot from Cannibal Holocaust seeing as our main characters are a group of do-gooder social activists, rather than filmmakers intentionally antagonizing native tribes to make good content. While it’s difficult to say The Green Inferno is a comfortable watch, it is without a doubt an entirely different experience from sitting down to watch Cannibal Holocaust.
7. Jacob’s Ladder (2019) / Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
The original Jacob’s Ladder is a movie so harrowing that repeat viewings feel daunting, let alone embarking on a full blown remake. Jacob’s Ladder (1990) tells the story of Jacob (Tim Robbins), a Vietnam War vet, as he returns home and grapples with the death of his son and his PTSD through a series of nightmarish hallucinations. In Jacob’s Ladder (2019) Jacob (Michael Ealy) is still a veteran, this time around of the Afghanistan War, and still a father, although his young son is still alive in this version. Given that the death of his son is such an integral part to Jacob‘s character, it certainly gives a lot of room for the filmmakers to establish their own ideas. Also in Jacob’s Ladder (2019), Jacob has a brother who is a soldier, and it is his struggles with PTSD that much of the movie focuses on rather than Jacob‘s. It is an interesting choice to deflect the focus off of the main character that absolutely alters the course of the movie from the original, and while both end in a shocking twist, those twists and these movies exist worlds apart from each other.
6. The Car: Road to Revenge (2019) / The Car (1977)
The Car stars James Brolin as a deputy in a small town trying to stop a killer car that is murdering residents and wreaking havoc. It is high camp excellence, featuring Real Housewives of Beverly Hills stars Kim and Kyle Richards, a self driving car plowing through a marching band of children, and mustaches of every caliber sprinkled throughout. No motive, no backstory, just an evil car. The Car: Road to Revenge, is an entirely different story. While technically labeled as a sequel, The Car: Road to Revenge seems much more like a remake given that the only similarity is that there is a car. This movie is a sci-fi techno nightmare about a corrupt district attorney whose spirit is imbued into his car after his death as he seeks revenge on the gang members who killed him. A far cry from the senselessly evil car we’ve come to know and love under the protective eye of a mustachioed James Brolin in The Car.
5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) / The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Another movie in which case a remake felt inevitable is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. One of the greatest horror films of all time, (and my personal favorite) I can imagine trying to remake such a classic would feel like one was setting themself up for failure. How could you possibly make a movie as beloved as the original? The answer for the filmmakers behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) was easy; make a completely different movie. In the remake, the villain’s name is still Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), there is still a family of cannibals, and there is still a group of teens on a road trip through Texas, but the similarities begin and end there. All the characters in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) are different, there is no equivalent to Sally‘s (Marilyn Burns) brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) from the original, the hitchhiker (Lauren German) shoots herself in the opening scene, and the lore of Leatherface‘s (Andrew Bryniarski) family goes much deeper than the original. All these changes, along with the notable amounts of blood and gun violence present in this remake, firmly cement it as a different movie from its source material.
4. The Invisible Man (2020) / The Invisible Man (1933)
The Universal monster movies are rife with remake potential, and it seems like they found their groove with 2020’s remake of The Invisible Man (1933). The original Invisible Man is a black and white monster movie, focusing primarily on the invisible man himself or the various cops and townspeople trying to stop him. In Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man (2020), the audience sees the story through Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) who is in an abusive relationship with Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), the invisible man. The biggest similarity the two movies have is the presence of a mad scientist who turns himself invisible and beyond that the plots are completely different. However, the most important difference in The Invisible Man (2020) from the original is the fact that nobody believes Cecilia when she says Adrian is invisible. There’s no mob of townsfolk trying to kill the beast, there’s just one scared woman desperate for someone to believe in her torment, and that detail absolutely changes the entire story.
3. Black Christmas (2019) / Black Christmas (1974)
A movie like Black Christmas (1974) would surely be a challenge to remake given that much of the audience of horror fans will be so familiar with the original. Perhaps as a result, the filmmakers behind the 2019 remake of Black Christmas took The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) approach and dialed it up to an eleven. Whereas the original Black Christmas is one of the first examples of a typical slasher movie Black Christmas (2019) is an off the walls story of supernatural possession by a deeply misogynistic spirit. While there are some similar plot beats, every character is different and our lead character has no evil boyfriend, a very important factor in the original. Black Christmas (2019) also abandons the trademark “the call is coming from inside the house” gag for more modernized scary DMs. Besides the fact that the movie happens at Christmas time, Black Christmas (2019) is clearly and boldly doing its own thing.
2. Martyrs (2015) / Martyrs (2008)
A movie that can often be found on lists of the most disturbing movies ever made, Martyrs (2008) tells the story of Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï), a young victim of horrific abuse who seeks revenge on her captors along with her friend Anna (Morjana Alaoui). After murdering the family who held her hostage, Lucie kills herself, and Anna is captured by a group of people setting out to create a “martyr” by bringing young women so close to death that they are able to see into the secrets of the afterlife. Anna gets martyred in a stomach churning display of psychological and body horror that is pretty unforgettable. However in the 2015 remake of Martys, Lucie (Troian Bellisario) does not kill herself and is given both of these plot lines, leaving Anna (Bailey Noble) without much to do. This adaptation also feels like Martyrs Jr. with significantly less trauma inducing imagery and much more “girl power” as Anna and Lucie defeat the group in the closing moments. It seems likely that they both die in the end, but having both of them alive through almost all of Martyrs (2015) completely shifts the dynamic and the impact of the story.
1. House of Wax (2005) / House of Wax (1953)
The early 2000s were prime time for horror movie remakes, leaving us with a lot of material. And yet, perhaps no remake deviated so much from its source material than the 2005 film House of Wax. The original House of Wax (1953) tells the story of a wax figure sculptor who murders people for the purpose of covering them in wax and displaying them in his museum. The movie is more of a “whodunnit” as the characters try to solve the mystery behind these murders and, fun fact, it was shown in 3-D! That’s one thing I wish they would’ve carried over to the remake because I’d kill to see House of Wax (2005) in 3-D. However, as NOFS writer Kim Morrison can tell you, the only thing this remake takes from the original is bodies getting covered in wax and put in a museum. Everything else about House of Wax (2005) is pure 2000s slasher. We’ve got sexy teenage debauchery! We’ve got Paris Hilton, Chad Michael Murray, Jared Padalecki, AND Elisha Cuthbert! This thing couldn’t be more 2005 if it tried, but more importantly it also couldn’t be more different from the original.