Aaron Eckhart stars as a doctor able to enter the subconscious minds of possessed patients in this week’s Incarnate, a new take on the old exorcism story. And in this week’s 24 Frames gallery, we give our take on the best and worst exorcism horror movies by Tomatometer. Before we start, some règle de jeu: there are no comedies or non-horrors listed, and only movies with at least 20 reviews qualify. Got it? Good. God help us.
There have been so many horror remakes that there’s no way we could cover them all at once. We did, however, decide to collect a sampling list, making room for some of the best, worst, and most puzzlingly misguided examples from the genre. Let’s get started, shall we?
Like many of the movies on this week’s list, the latter-day Amityville Horror was produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes — and like more than a few of them, it suffered in comparison to the original. Which is a shame, because Amityville‘s central story — about a young family moving into a horrifically haunted house — is both devilishly simple and allegedly fact-based, which has helped the franchise retain its aura even through a series of sometimes-silly sequels and spinoffs. Unfortunately, despite a talented cast that included Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, and a young(er) Chloe Grace Moretz, this Horror was mainly scary for the studio execs who had to account for its $64 million domestic gross, which sentenced the franchise to years of direct-to-DVD purgatory.
Inspired by the way David Cronenberg used modern special effects and less-campy storytelling to amp up the horror in The Fly, Hollywood spent a portion of the late 1980s rushing to the vaults and searching for other long-dormant properties that might benefit from the remake treatment. Hence 1988’s The Blob, in which an alien goo plops down in a small town and starts gorging on its unsuspecting residents. It was just as fantastically cheesy a premise as it had been in 1958, when Steve McQueen starred in the original — but thanks to a solid screenplay from future Shawshank Redemption director/adapter Frank Darabont, as well as a (slightly) more believable Blob, it managed to just about reach the rather low bar set by its predecessor, which is about all one can hope for when making a film about hungry interstellar plasma.
The original Cat People, produced on the cheap by Val Lewton in 1942, emphasized suggestion over explicit horror; four decades later, director Paul Schrader used the movie’s central idea — about people whose sexual desires trigger a sometimes-deadly feline transformation — as the basis for a steamy softcore flick that made up for its lack of genuine scares with an abundance of Natassja Kinski and a cool soundtrack featuring David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder. While it may not be the most terrifying movie on this list, it’s probably one of the hardest to turn away from if you happen across it on the cable dial during a bout of late-night viewing.
“WHY ARE THE GOOD PEOPLE DYING?” screamed the poster for George A. Romero’s paranoid The Crazies about the side effects of a military accident that resulted in a small American town being poisoned with a biological weapon that turns people into violent lunatics. Sadly, the tagline for Romero’s 1973 effort might as well have been “WHY WON’T MOST THEATERS SHOW THE CRAZIES?,” because the picture died with a whimper at the box office — but a good idea always turns up again in the horror genre, and in 2010, director Breck Eisner repurposed Romero’s original to create a sleek, gleefully nasty update that managed a surprisingly robust 71 percent on the Tomatometer. Alas, while Eisner’s Crazies at least made it to wide release, they didn’t fare a whole lot better at the box office, managing to slash together ony $54 million worldwide. The result of a military-industrial conspiracy, perhaps?
Did George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead really need a remake? Perhaps not. But if we were going to get one, it might as well have been one that blended the the visual wizardry of director Zack Snyder with a screenplay from future Guardians of the Galaxy mastermind James Gunn, and that’s just what we got with this 2004 “re-envisioning” of the zombie classic. Using the original’s basic framework as an effective delivery mechanism for a fresh round of gruesome gore and heart-pumping action, the new Dawn proved surprisingly bright for most critics, including Aisle Seat’s Mike McGranaghan, who wrote, “Dawn of the Dead is ultra-violent, excessively bloody, and extremely gory — all in a good way. I left the theater feeling pumped full of adrenaline.”
It might seem a little odd to base a horror remake on a TV movie from the 1970s, but the original Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark — starring Kim Darby as a housewife whose new home comes with some nasty little tenants lurking in the basement — is a cult classic for aficionados of the genre, so a theatrical version was probably inevitable. Given that the 2011 edition was co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, fans had reason to be hopeful that the remade Dark would be even scarier than the first; alas, after being trapped in studio limbo for months due to Miramax’s shuttering, director Troy Nixey’s update on the story — which focused on an eight-year-old (Bailee Madison) and her father’s girlfriend (Katie Holmes) — was greeted with lukewarm indifference by audiences and critics alike. Perhaps some things are just more frightening on the boob tube.
How in the world do you put together a remake of one of the most beloved horror-comedy cult classics of the last 40 years? If you’re director Fede Alvarez, you film a new version of Evil Dead with production input from creator Sam Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell, a much bigger budget, and a far more serious take on the story of young campers who unwittingly unleash a demon plague while goofing around with the Book of the Dead. The amped-up gore in Alvarez’s Evil Dead certainly wasn’t for everyone, but it arguably made more sense, given the film’s narrative outline — and the resultant uptick in attention to the franchise helped lead to the subsequent TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead.
The original version of The Fly, released in 1958, was a Vincent Price classic that didn’t really need to be remade, but that didn’t stop producer Stuart Cornfield (working with an uncredited Mel Brooks) from getting the ball rolling on a new version. After several years in development, plenty of studio struggle, and some turnover at the screenwriter and director positions, Cornfield had his movie: David Cronenberg’s gorier, more suspenseful take on The Fly, which went back to George Langelaan’s 1957 short story and emerged with one of the more delightfully suspenseful horror/sci-fi movies of the 1980s. Unfortunately, Cronenberg’s Fly — starring Jeff Goldblum as the ill-fated scientist whose experiments leave his DNA accidentally intertwined with the titular pest, and Geena Davis as the woman who loves him — was too successful to prevent a sequel: 1989’s rather uninspired The Fly II. Rumors of another remake (and a quasi-sequel penned by Cronenberg) have popped up over the years, but it’s all been for naught. So far, anyway.
Featuring a “star” hidden behind a hockey mask and a brilliantly low-budget conceit that needed nothing more than anonymous young actors capable of screaming in various states of undress, the Friday the 13th series was one of the most reliably profitable horror franchises of the 1980s — and ripe for the reboot treatment in the 21st century. Platinum Dunes did the honors in 2009, reimagining the murderous Jason Voorhees as more of a lethal maniac and less of a lumbering dolt, with cooler special effects and plenty of T&A; once again, the formula worked, producing plenty of pure profit for the studio and signaling that perhaps a new slew of sequels was on the horizon. Alas, Jason slumbered for the next several years, although he’s currently set to terrorize a fresh batch of Crystal Lake campers on May 13, 2016.
If director Craig Gillespie had polled horror fans in 2011 and asked them if he really needed to remake 1985’s Fright Night, the answer probably would have been a resounding “no”; after all, the original was not only a surprise hit, it had matured into a solid favorite among scary movie lovers, and little seemed to be gained by updating the story of a horror-loving teen (William Ragsdale) who makes the awful discovery that his new neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is secretly a vampire. While it may not have been strictly necessary, the new Fright Night — starring Anton Yelchin as young Charley Brewster and Colin Farrell as the undead addition to the neighborhood — proved surprisingly potent, with Farrell’s charismatic performance matching Gillespie’s confident lens. While box office returns were fairly weak, the remake brought the Fright Night franchise back to life, with a direct-to-video sequel arriving in 2013.
By the 2000s, producer Moustapha Akkad’s once-proud Halloween franchise had fallen on hard times, with deathless serial killer Michael Myers resurfacing in a series of low-budget sequels that bore little resemblance to John Carpenter’s classic 1978 original. All that was left was to start over from the beginning — and that’s what director Rob Zombie did with 2007’s Halloween, which retold Myers’ gruesome origin story and returned him to poor, unfortunate Haddonfield, Illinois for a gorier version of his first grown-up killing spree. While Zombie had previously flirted with critical respectability with 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, his Halloween mustered a mere 25 percent on the Tomatometer — not as high as 1982’s much-maligned Halloween III: Season of the Witch, but still better than the sixth installment in the series, 1995’s The Curse of Michael Myers, and good enough to greenlight a sequel (dubbed H2) in 2009. A planned 3D follow-up eventually fell off the schedule, but the next sequel, reportedly titled Halloween Returns, is currently in development.
If Gus Van Sant’s Psycho serves as an argument against remakes, then the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers offers an equally persuasive rebuttal. While the 1956 original is one of the most highly regarded sci-fi/horror movies of its era, director Philip Kaufman’s update matched it with a thrillingly gritty, ensemble-driven look at what might happen if alien spores landed on Earth and started sprouting eerily emotionless replicas of our friends and loved ones. Sharpening up the special effects without overly relying on them, the new-look Body Snatchers featured solid performances from a stellar cast that included Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum — and although it definitely made its share of money at the box office in 1978, if anything it’s even more highly regarded today. Here’s hoping Kaufman’s Snatchers continues to stand as the most recent version of the movie for many more years to come.
If you’re looking for fright value, bad guys don’t come much more elegantly brutal than a bloodthirsty lunatic with a pickaxe, which might be why the low-budget 1981 Canadian slasher flick My Bloody Valentine — about a miner who survives a collapse by dining on his fellow crew members, goes crazy before being rescued, and wages murderous revenge — proved even more potent when its 3D remake surfaced in 2009. And although it may not have generated blockbuster numbers at the box office, it fared surprisingly well with critics; it can’t be long before we’re treated to yet another Bloody Valentine.
Given how much money the Nightmare on Elm Street movies made for New Line during the 1980s and early 1990s, remakes and/or reboots were probably always a matter of course; problem was, the series was just as memorable for Robert Englund’s outstanding performance in the role of series killer Freddy Krueger as it was for its scores of inventive on-screen murders. Faced with the unsolvable problem of replacing Englund, the folks at Platinum Dunes hired Jackie Earle Haley to take over the part for their 2010 reboot — and although Haley is certainly a talented actor, and more than capable of exuding a sinister aura, he isn’t as physically imposing as Englund. Add that to a story that hit many of the same beats as the original, and the end result was a movie that, while certainly profitable, failed to land with as much impact as it had the first (eight) time(s) around.
Werner Herzog’s filmography offers more than a few case studies in audaciousness, not the least of which is 1979’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht. Occasionally referred to by its less cool English title, Nosferatu the Vampyre, this remake of F.W. Murnau’s classic 1922 silent film finds Klaus Kinski stepping into the bloodsucking role so memorably inhabited by Max Schreck, with all parties involved acquitting themselves admirably. No less a cinematic authority than Roger Ebert agreed, writing that “To say of someone that they were born to play a vampire is a strange compliment, but if you will compare the two versions of Nosferatu you might agree with me that only Kinski could have equaled or rivaled Max Schreck’s performance.”
Of all the remakes on our list, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho embraces the concept more eagerly than most, delivering a somewhat bafflingly precise update on the 1960 Hitchcock classic with a shot-for-shot replication that, while assembled and acted by talented creative types, exhibited no real creativity of its own. But while Van Sant’s Psycho wound up bottoming out at a rather miserable 37 percent on the Tomatometer, he dodged a few bullets in at least one sense — unlike a lot of remakes of classic films, his attempt to re-Hitchcock Hitchcock inspired more critical bafflement than anger or derision. Ultimately, the 1998 Psycho serves as a perfectly persuasive (albeit most likely unintentional) argument against remakes in general.
A man, a plan, a chainsaw. Oh, and a facemask made out of human skin. It may not sound like much, but from the moment 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre terrified its first audiences, it’s served as the basis for one of the horror genre’s more surprisingly durable franchises — in spite of the mostly miserable track record suffered by its spate of periodic prequels, sequels, and spinoffs. The horror remake enthusiasts at Platinum Dunes tried to take things back to the beginning (again) with their 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and although most critics claimed time had dulled Leatherface’s blade, audiences still turned out to the tune of more than $100 million in box office grosses. Yet another prequel followed in 2006, followed by a 3D sequel to the original in 2013, and the origin story Leatherface is currently scheduled for 2016. Confused? Don’t think too hard; in the end, it all goes back to those first simple ingredients.
There are worse (and far, far better) horror remakes than Neil LaBute’s update on The Wicker Man, but we absolutely had to include it here, because no other film provides its particular brand of sheer, cackling lunacy. While it’s misguided on just about every level, the 2006 Wicker is chiefly noteworthy thanks to Nicolas Cage’s presence as police detective Edward Malus, whose journey to a secluded island in search of his abducted daughter ends very badly for all concerned — including any audience members not prepared for the unforgettable sight of Cage punching a woman in the face while wearing a bear suit, or the equally memorable sound of Cage screaming “Oh God! Not the bees!” Avoid it if you’re looking for truly scary viewing, but it still needs to be seen in order to be believed.
En español: Read this article in Spanish at Tomatazos.com.
It’s been reported that Eli Roth plans to do a gender-switch on "Hostel 2." Where the first flick dealt with three doomed dudes, the sequel will focus on three freaked-out females. And it looks like those ladies have been chosen…
According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo and Bijou Phillips are in varying stages of negotiations to star in "Hostel 2," which Eli Roth is directing for Screen Gems. The first "Hostel," which was released this year and grossed about $50 million domestically, followed three men who end up in a Slovakian hostel which serves as a front for an organization specializing in torture. This time, the story follows three women who, while studying abroad for the summer, learn the grim truth behind the Slovakian hostel and its international counterparts. German would play a wealthy girl trying to figure out her next step in life, Phillips would be her best friend and Matarazzo will be a tag-along."
Earlier reports indicate that Jay Hernandez will be returning for the sequel, if only for a couple of scenes.
Racing into theaters across North America, the computer animated film Cars aims to take over pole position this weekend targeting family audiences. Those looking for a good scare can instead choose The Omen which already launched on Tuesday with some frightening results. The frame’s final new wide release is the Robert Altman comedy A Prairie Home Companion giving the weekend a wide assortment of titles for all audiences.
After a near-break-up of their own, Disney and Pixar are back together again in a committed relationship and have put their full parental support behind Cars which zooms into the marketplace on Friday with some red hot buzz. Directed by Pixar guru John Lasseter (Toy Story, Toy Story 2), the G-rated film tells the story of a cocky race car who gets lost in a small town on the way to the big championship and meets a colorful group of vehicles who teach him some morals. Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and Larry the Cable Guy all lend their voices.
Recent Pixar films have been spaced out evenly using the Harry Potter year-and-a-half policy. In November 2001, Monsters, Inc. opened to $62.6M and was followed by Finding Nemo with $70.3M in May 2003 and The Incredibles with $70.5M in November 2004. The timing is just enough to make each film a new event of its own that generates excitement among fans of all ages. Disney’s marketing and cross-promotional efforts have been loud as usual and awareness is sky high. But Cars does have a longer running time than most toons clocking in at nearly two hours. Maybe all eight of the credited writers demanded that their bits make the final cut.
Disney has had only two number one hits so far this year, ruling the Dr. King and Presidents’ Day holiday weekends with Glory Road and Eight Below, respectively. This weekend, the third trophy should be in the bag as anticipation among boys and girls alike is high. Business from teens and adults should be solid as well since the Pixar brand name attracts millions of loyal followers of all types. Plus, NASCAR fans are sure to provide an additional push at the turnstiles. The only major competition will come from Over the Hedge which is now fading into its fourth weekend. It’s an open highway for Cars which races into over 3,800 theaters this weekend. A three-day tally of about $72M could result.
Three decades after the original terrorized movie fans, The Omen has been reborn with today’s stars and special effects in the Fox release which opened on Tuesday, 6/6/06. With horror fans now used to a steady string of remakes of fright classics, the novelty has worn thin. So, to make this one stand out, the studio plugged the R-rated film into the unorthodox Tuesday slot to take advantage of the Satan-style date which in turn became the focal point of the marketing campaign. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, and The Amityville Horror were all recent remakes that shot straight to number one. With The Omen, something new was needed to catch the attention of fans. Fox took a risk, tried something new, and won. The pic grossed a stellar $12.6M on Tuesday in its first day of release while playing in 2,660 locations.
The new Omen is hoping to attract the teens and young adults that typically power all of today’s horror hits, as well as older fans of the genre who are curious to see this new cover version. Critics have been mixed in their reviews complaining that it is too similar to the original and that there was no need to revisit this story. But money does rule Hollywood and horror films are very profitable so making newer versions of stories that worked in the past is just what studios are lining up to do. The marketing push has been commendable. Had Omen opened on a Friday, it would have been the umpteenth fright flick of the year. Instead, the date spooked people and caught the attention of the media that spread the hype.
Because this is a horror audience we are looking at, rapid erosion should follow the mid-week opening diluting down the weekend gross. Omen will burn through much of its audience in its first three days before the Friday-to-Sunday period arrives and it might even scare up more than half of its eventual domestic total in the first week. No other scary films are doing any serious biz so competition should not be much of a factor. Plus Omen is benefiting from Fox playing its trailer in front of the X-Men sequel which was seen by millions of sci-fi and horror fans over the past two weeks. For the three-day weekend period, The Omen might gross roughly $17M and over the six-day Tuesday-to-Sunday span, it could scare up around $36M.
In the weekend’s other unusual release pattern, Robert Altman’s latest film A Prairie Home Companion opens nationally on hundreds of screens instead of the typical arthouse platform release that the director’s films usually go out with. The legendary filmmaker’s latest ensemble cast brings together Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and teen queen Lindsay Lohan getting herself some indie cred. The PG-13 film about country music stars gathering for one final radio show performance has earned positive reviews and is being released by Picturehouse.
Altman films usually debut in New York and Los Angeles, build momentum through critical support, and slowly widen across the country. But Prairie is rocking its way into 725 theaters on opening day aiming to offer older adults a smart alternative to the super heroes and spies of summer. The film is sure to skew older than anything else out now which means it might also have legs if the target audience is pleased. Still, there is only so much of a built-in audience that the pic can tap into and the summer release means there will be no awards season to keep the buzz rolling along like with the helmer’s Gosford Park in early 2002. Prairie might struggle to find a broad audience this weekend given all the other high profile films targeting its audience. Adults may instead choose to take their kids to Cars, catch Jen and Vince in a shouting match, or get a weather forecast from Al Gore. An opening weekend gross of around $3M seems likely.
Universal’s The Break-Up spent just four days at the number one spot before being kicked to the curb by The Omen. Romantic comedies usually do not suffer large declines and the Aniston-Vaughn pairing has held up well during the week grossing $3.9M on Monday and $4M on Tuesday when it faced Damien. Also, the new crop of films this weekend should not steal away too much of its crowd of adult women. Still, Break-Up isn’t exactly generating a whole lot of love with audiences in the word-of-mouth department so a 45% drop could result. That would give the film about $22M for the frame and a solid $76M in ten days.
X-Men: The Last Stand has its cyclops eye on joining the $200M club this weekend. The Fox sequel suffered a stiff 67% freefall last weekend in its second frame, but should stabilize in its third fight. Wolverine and chums could see sales get sliced in half which would give the super hero pic around $17M for the weekend and a plump $203M in 17 days. That would shoot it past studio stablemate Ice Age: The Meltdown to reign as the top-grossing film of 2006.
Over the Hedge should take a bit of a beating this weekend as it no longer will be the only major digital toon in town. A 40% fall would give the Paramount release roughly $12M upping the cume to $132M. Sony could see a larger 45% drop for The Da Vinci Code and finish the frame with about $10M. That would put the total for the Tom Hanks starrer at $189M and counting.
LAST YEAR: Before Namibia, fans had to look to their local movie theater to find Brad and Angelina. The much-hyped action film Mr. & Mrs. Smith conquered the box office with a strong $50.3M in its debut frame. The Fox blockbuster enjoyed sturdy legs grossing $186.3M domestically and over $465M worldwide. A pair of former number ones followed with Madagascar taking second with $17.2M and Star Wars Episode III in third with $14.9M. Adam Sandler finished fourth with The Longest Yard which scored $13.9M. Opening in fifth place was the kid adventure The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl with $12.6M on its way to $39.2M for Miramax. Disappointing in their openings were the Paramount comedy remake The Honeymooners with $5.5M and the Lions Gate horror flick High Tension with $1.9M. Final grosses reached $12.8M and $3.7M, respectively.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
The remake of the classic horror film “The Amityville Horror” must have scared off the competition, because it’s the only new film to debut in wide release this weekend. As the week went by, it scared off critics, too. The original film, released in 1979 and starring James Brolin (“Westworld”) and Margot Kidder (“Superman”), was based on an alleged true story. It grossed $35M and was the highest grossing independent film at the time. Critics, on the other hand, weren’t as enthusiastic towards the film. The original has a Tomatometer of 27%. Critics weren’t questioning whether or not the supernatural events depicted in the film did truly happen, they just didn’t think it made a good film.
The remake, under the same title, substitutes the original stars with Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, but still can’t win the hearts of critics. It started the week off at a surprising 100%, but then took a nosedive as days went by. Although most of them think it’s an improvement over the original and does provide a decent number of shocks, critics say it still lacks suspense and character. As of this writing, the movie has settled at a moldy 29% on the Tomatometer.