Greenlee Gazette Modern Horror Remakes Guide
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Friday the 13th (2009) - This reboot had no real legend to live up to. The Friday the 13th series is an interesting mixture of nostalgia and "so bad, it's good" in the pantheon of horror, and literally couldn't be wrecked. Also, Jason Voorhees' character and back-story were already muddled, and continuity between editions was so loose, re-starting the story is no big deal. You might call it more of a ret-con than a reboot. Anyway, this is by far the highest quality, best produced edition of the series. You've never seen such clarity and crispness in a Friday film, which were usually muddy and dark. Acting is better than the original series, and the effects are fun. This is really a remake of Part 2 of the original, which was one of the better original sequels, and it's not bad. They fleshed out Voorhees' background, adding in a couple of odd elements, neither improving or detracting much from what we know. It has a few surprises, and a couple of jolts. But scary? Not so much. More fun than later Friday sequels (except for maybe Freddy vs. Jason). Amazingly, this film still doesn't explain why Jason's mother thought he was dead, how he survived, or why he was there to witness his mother's death! Any future sequel would play like an extension of the first series, rendering the reboot kind of moot. ***
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A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) - This one had me the most worried, going in. The original Nightmare is an undisputed classic. Sure it was low-budget, had some problematic acting, and is hopelessly mired in the 80s. But it was so original, mixing the dream world with reality, rateable nightmares and a terrifying villain in Freddy Krueger. Later sequels kind of neutered Freddy though, so a reboot, Wes Craven's New Nightmare was made several years ago. New was not a success, even though it was critically praised, so this remake came to be, recasting and rebooting the entire franchise. It's a mixed success. There's a new guy playing Freddy, and while he did a fine job, Robert Englund is a tough act to follow.
This isn't like the other horror franchises, with masked killers. Englund is Freddy. That's the toughest aspect to get around. I was surprised that they didn't focus on Nancy's house much at all, which was an iconic aspect of most of the original series. Also, Freddy is made more creepy and disgusting than scary. He was always a "child killer" but the implications of that were obscured before. Here, he's very definitely a pedophile and killer, which makes you more queasy than terrified. All in all, a decent remake, but the original is still better. **
The Hills Have Eyes - You couldn't really damage the original in this Wes Craven flick. Hills falls into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Wrong Turn sub-genre of films, with ordinary people finding themselves in desolate places ruled by murderous, cannibalistic mutants/hillbillies/inbreds. It's nasty, it's bloody, and you will want to cover your eyes in parts. If you like it messy and nasty, this belongs on your rental list. The sequel falls right in line, playing like an extension of the first. Not Shakespeare, but what horror is? *** (Sequel **1/2)
April Fool's Day (2008) - The original is a personal favorite, though not very well known. By the same people as the Friday the 13th series, April Fool's Day was a novel twist, with better acting, humor and an interesting premise of a "murder mystery weekend" going horribly wrong (or did it?). The "remake" is really in name only. There's some decent gore, and even the acting isn't too bad. But it's a terrible movie. No stars.
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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) - Unlike the other remakes in this list, I've never seen the original Tobe Hooper film. I've caught a handful of the sequels though, and this one is better than any of those. Some decisions by main characters are completely unbelievable, but that's a critique of most horror films, so it goes with the territory. This one plays like a better-produced installment of the never-ending original franchise. **
There are others, of course. George Romero's Dead series of zombie films has the unique distinction of having different folks produce remakes of each of the original three movies, and even sequels to them. There's Prom Night, Psycho, Children of the Corn. . .but a good rule of thumb is this: get the original. It's almost always better.