Sunday, March 4, 2012

Top 13: Best Remakes In Horror History

compiled by The Black Glove staff

If you've read any of my editorials and film reviews over the years, then it won't come as a surprise to know how much I despise remakes.

I don't like re-launches either.

And I particularly revile re-imaginings, which is essentially a madeup Hollywood word that really means "we're going to take your favorite movies, put them in a blender, hit 'puree' and then throw it on the screen for mallrats.

But after tackling this Top 13 list, I have to admit that I might not be entirely correct in my loathing for ALL remakes. What I actually found was that there were more remakes that got it right, and in some cases, got it even more right than the original. In fact, I found more than 13 remakes that should be on this list. Which was a hell of a surprise for this curmudgeoness Horrorhead. I actually found myself struggling to keep the list down to 13. There were some remakes that it killed me not to have on the list.

Some of the films that didn't make the list were FUNNY GAMES (2007), OMEGA MAN (1971) and I AM LEGEND (2007), KING KONG (1976 and 2005), LET ME IN (2010), John Carpenter's underrated VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995), CAT PEOPLE (1942 and 1982), LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and a handful of others. And some of those remakes have even been remade, albeit most of them were less than entertaining for anything with more than two brain cells to rub together. But I did find I wasn't being completely elitist in that there were still plenty more remakes that sucked. I won't list them all here...mostly because there's no need to do so, and also because it will just piss me off all over again. Why can't the big studios just leave the classics alone? Why can't they do something original? Why, oh why, do they have to rip the creative heart out of everything good and true in our beloved horror world?

Yeah, I'm looking at you Rob Zombie!

But let's talk about the ones these brainless, no-talents actually got right.

Before we do that, let me explain some of the criteria for how we came up with the list.

1. You're going to notice right away that there aren't any classic monsters on the list, like Dracula and Frankenstein. That's because, had I included the classic monsters, the list would have been filled up just on the various outstanding remakes of NOSFERATU (1922) alone. Which if you know your horror film history, you'll know there have been more excellent remakes of Stoker's most famous bloodsucker on the big screen than even two lists could hold, from Hammer to Francis Ford Coppola. Same goes for the Frankenstein films. And there are even plenty of really decent remakes/relaunches of that bandage wrapped old one from the desert, The Mummy. So because of that, look for classic monster specific Top 13 remakes/relaunches in the future.

2. Also, we wanted to be sure the list was a balanced one, so we had to make sure not to put too many remakes from the 30s and 40s of silent films from the beginning of horror film history. So before you send in angry emails or leave outraged comments to advise we are morons and we don't our horror films because I didn't pick your fave film from, say, the 70s, It may be that we weren't able to include it because of that all important balance I mentioned.

3. And, lastly, I wanted to be sure the entire staff felt like they had some input on the choices. Personally, there were a couple of newer releases that I didn't feel deserved to make the list over some of my favorite films, but this is a staff list and not my personal Top 13.

I hope you all enjoy the list and do feel free to send in suggestions for your own top horror remakes. We always love to hear from our fellow Horrorheads.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The selections below are in alphabetical order, not in any order of importance to the genre)

13. The Blob (1958)

and The Blob (1988)

Even though Steve McQueen and company have to be the oldest teenagers in horror film history, the original film is still great sci-fi horror fun. In the original film the Blob is an alien invader that's hitchhiked its way across the universe on an asteroid that crashes to Earth in the woods outside a small typical 50s town, complete with drag racing teens and Mr. Friendly the Sheriff. Before you can shake a duck tail, the voracious amorphous gelatin monster is eating everything in sight, growing larger by the meal, until it's big enough to swallow an entire theater of frightened 50s folks.

In the remake, we have a government experiment that's gone wrong to blame for the still ravenous creature as it rolls along the quintessential horror film small town America. It's still teens who have to deal with this Blob. One of the great differences in this version is the 80s anti-establishment credo and fear of our government. But the special effects take front and center. As with most 80s horror films, it has to be incredible. And this was before CGI was ubiquitous. Plus, this version has Shawnee Smith. That's a win situation for any male horror movie fan.

12. The Crazies (1973)

and The Crazies (2010)

George Romero's original film is a mean-spirited kick in the teeth that holds nothing back in telling the story of a small Pennsylvania town that's become the unfortunate dumping ground of an accidental toxin spill. In short order the innocent populace is shucking off the social rules that keep us warm and safe and turn into mindless bloodthirsty killers. The U.S. government tries to hide its complicity in the accident and declares martial law, sending in the National Guard to maintain order. But soon the town is overrun with the infected and the trigger happy Guardsmen who aren't infected decide everyone is fair game and begin shooting everybody--infected or not. A small band of survivors attempt to escape the slavering, wild-eyed killers, who were once their friends and family, and the equally bloodthirsty National Guardsmen. It's a graphic portrayal of what happens when the rules are tossed out the window and it's kill or be killed. Like Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) and "Dawn of the Dead" (1978), "The Crazies" feels almost like a documentary. And like many of his best films, there is no happy ending. By the way, if you're keeping track, so far there's been four remakes of Romero's best films, three of them are on this 'best of' list.

The remake starring the great Timothy Olyphant is every bit as great as the original, and in some ways it's even better, believe it or not. It's definitely gorier and just as intense like great horror films should be, damn it. Because of the extended resurgence in all things zombie, especially in cinema, this version has many of the same tropes as a good zombie flick, in that the infected (again, caused by out naughty and irresponsible government) tend to hunt in packs--much like the superior pseudo-zombie movie "28 Days Later" (2002) directed by Danny Boyle. And, again, don't look for a happy ending with this one as it stays true to the spirit of the original.

11. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

and Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Another George Romero film that is one of the greatest horror films of all time. After his original genre defining "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)--his third film which also appears on this list--it took ten years for him to return to the zombie apocalypse sub-genre. But when he finally did so, Romero let the blood and guts flow with the kind of gore and intensity that raised the bar high for any zombie film to follow, (including his own "Day of the Dead" (1985) (which took almost another ten years to bring to the silver screen). However, with Romero it's not just the gore and intensity that makes this a great film; it his knowing use of subtext to create a complex narrative that speaks bluntly about the dangers of American consumerism. There's also a great Goblin soundtrack, as well as Dario Argento's hand in the production.

Most Horrorheads were dead set against any attempt to remake a movie that was an important and cherished memory to most anyone who saw it. But director Zack Snyder was savvy in taking Romero's classic in hand. He took only the bare bones siege story aspects of the flick and used the parts that would speak to a broader audience. And, of course, he made one more change. A huge one. He gave the undead speed. No more shambling and staggering blue-faced zombies. These zombies could run and they hunted like packs of flesh hungry wolves. He gave it a bit of a rock n' roll vibe on the soundtrack and gave the one thing that all zombies fans want and need: gore galore. I didn't want to like this movie, mostly out of my extreme crazy love for the original. But it's really tough not to love this version. There are some great characters, played by some topnotch actors and actresses, who brought the film a credibility and realism that made fans almost want the zombie apocalypse to descend upon their fellowman and rip humanity a new one.

10. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

First off, I confess that actor John Barrymore is one of my favorite genre actors of all time. I place him up there with the great Lon Chaney. And one of the reasons I think he's the best is this superior version of Robert Louis Stevenson's timeless tale of the duality of man, our capacity for both good and evil, in equal measure. There are three other versions of this movie that were made before this 1920 version, but I'm calling this the original because it is much more loyal to Stevenson's story and it was the first time it was made into a feature length film (the 1908 version was 16 minutes long, the 1912 version, 12 minutes, and the 1913 version was only 26 minutes long; there was even another version in the same year of this superior version that was 40 minutes). Barrymore's ability to twist his features, in fact his entire body in some scenes, into a grotesque monster's face and frame, with a minimum of makeup effects, is absolutely astounding.

In the next version to be made with the same name in 1931 starred yet another actor who was made to play the part: Fredric March. Again, we have an actor who had the ability to twist his features into the horrible Hyde with a minimum of makeup effects to help. Although to be fair to director Rouben Mamoulian, March had some help from Mamoulian's camera trickery in that he used a red filter lens to shoot the transformation scenes that gave the effect of March's face turning from pale to dark, producing menacing shadows that made him look all the more sinister. There wouldn't be another version that would give this one a run for its money for another ten years, starring Spencer Tracy.

9. The Fly (1958)

and The Fly (1986)

The original "The Fly" could have been played for black humor. After all, we're talking about a man who screws with powers beyond his control (in this case a machine to teleport solid mass across distances) and pays the price when a common housefly finds its way inside the teleportation chamber, causing he and the insect to exchange body parts and genetic material. The good doctor winds up with the giant head of a fly and the little fly winds up with...well, you can probably guess, but if not, I don't dare give away the awesome creepy ending. This version basically gives us the same message that horror fans had seen in a hundred other sci-fi/horror movies before it: Don't use science to play God. Interestingly enough, this is one of two films on the list which stars Vincent Price.

Again, in attempting to remake such a classic like this fans were pretty wary. And with good reason. The original had carefully walked the line between scary and cheesy. A remake would most likely fall over the cheesy line and ruin it. But director David Cronenberg had a much more nightmarish vision of what might happen if a man and fly were to trade some DNA during the good old teleportion experiment. Starring lanky character actor, Jeff Goldblum, and the beautiful Geena Davis, as two lovers who find a fly in their soup, this version is actually a much improved one in that it is more realistic in its depiction of man vs. fly. Goldblum's tranformation is subtle at first--a few strange hairs he's never noticed before, some teeth falling out of his mouth. But then things turn ugly as he begins having an odd craving to vomit acid on his food to break it down before 'eating' and his skin has a funny way of coming apart to make room for new interesting insect parts. No one knows what happened to the fly, but then again, Cronenberg does such a great job of creating one of the grossest films of the 80s that no one cared. The film, however, isn't just a gross out; it's also a not-so-subtle subtext about the terrifying A.I.D.S. epidemic.

8. The Grudge (2002) (aka Ju-On: The Grudge)

and The Grudge (2004)

Both films are directed by the same great Asian director, Takashi Shimizu, who has worked on dozens horror films in his country before being given the green light by genre superstar director, Sam Raimi, to take the reins on his first American feature horror film. In the original he sets up the story of two evil spirits which reside in the haunted house, Kayako, a woman brutally murdered by her husband and her son Toshio. They're not the happy Casper kind of ghosts. In fact, they're created and powered by their unearthly rage. The innocent people who cross their path must face ultimate terror as the furious spirits who call the place home wreck havoc on their lives and murder them, one by one. As is usual with the Ju-On series, the original version and unknowing family that moves into the house notice small things at first, strange noises, shadow figures that should not be there, doors that open and close by themselves. But I think every horror fans who has seen the original will probably agree that it's the creepy sound effects that work best--specifically the terrifying sounds the deadly ghosts make as they come onto the scene each time.

The American remake sticks close to the original and tells its story in the same non-linear narrative fashion and gives us several interesting subplots. But since this was meant for a Gaijin audience, we see plenty of white folks, among them Sarah Michelle Gellar. What makes this just as good as the original is the director and producers knew what made the original so frightening--sound effects, minimum special effects, allowing the viewer's imagination to take over during many of the key scenes, and it's use of no sound, allowing the scenes to breathe, so that the audience is given no audible clues as to when something is about to jump out of the screen at them. Also, we see the same superior cinematography as in the original. But there's one key aspect to the remake that I think raised the remake to a different level, and that's in how the Japanese and the Americans each react to the notion of not only spirits, but angry, deadly spirits that refuse to rest in peace. The different cultures do not share the same basic spiritual beliefs, nor societal acceptance that such things can and do exist. Brilliantly played.

7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

The original 1956 version is ostensibly a simple alien invasion movie, but on several different levels it's a film which plays on our common fears and paranoia of the unknown, our discomfort with the sometimes dangerously mindless moral majority, and our need to keep order amidst chaos, an illusion at best. The novel written by Jack Finney works on those same levels, something which director Don Siegel understood (He's the same man who brought us the first of the "Dirty Harry" movies). Some of the scenes , understood. Some scenes which work best had to do with seeing order being neglected. Not in any bombastic, atomic explosion, rayguns from space sort of way. But in a more insidious manner: the alien possessed just stop taking care of things like repairs to the house, mowing the lawn, washing the car, cleaning clothes or even brushing teeth. It's the small things such as those which help us create the illusion of control. There are also the scenes in which someone you've been rooting for to survive, to escape the alien invasion, have been turned. You can tell because they no longer show empathy, compassion; in fact, they show no emotion. It truly is one of the top ten alien invasion movies of all time.

So when director Philip Kaufman took the reins for a remake, there was some speculation as to how he would carry the same subtexts within the framework of a 70s disco dancing, drug addled and hedonistic society. Because in that modern setting, no one gave a crap about order or appearances to the same degree as the 50s audience which had seen the original. Those sorts of fears were no longer relevant. Instead Kaufman tackled the new American penchant for 'new age' spirituality, one which was more times than not rooted in drug use and contemporary society's views on sex with no consequences, "free-love", and the rapidly changing dynamics of women's liberation and the illusion of male machismo as a source of power. Because no one human has any power in this version. Everyone is a potential target for the transformation into an emotionless, blank faced alien/human creature. And can anyone forget that thoroughly bleak ending with Donald Sutherland, the one person you've been rooting for the entire film? No way.

6. London After Midnight (1927)

and Mark of the Vampire (1935)

Both the silent original and the "talkie" remake were directed by horror legend Tod Browning, the same man who gave us classics such as "Freaks" (1932) and "Dracula" (1931), just to name a couple of the dozen or so more classic horror films he directed as well. London After Midnight is a legend not only because of Browning, but because it remains a 'lost film' even today. The last known copy was destroyed in a fire in an MGM film vault in 1967. So until someone happens to find a copy hidden away in a basement or garage somewhere, all we have is this utilitarian, but still entertaining, "slide show" version of this legendary Lon Chaney film. Chaney has a dual role in this one. He appears in the first part of the movie as a Scotland Yard Inspector who arrives at the creepy old Balfour Manor to investigate a murder of the Balfour. When the case goes cold for lack of evidence or a suspect Chaney must admit defeat. Years later, a transformed Chaney appears as a grotesque looking gentleman with shark teeth, dressed in a long black trench coat and dusty top hat. Ostensibly, he is supposed to be a vampire who claims his victims on the foggy streets of London, and may be the Balfours' murderer. Soon, the narrative reveals itself to be a mystery more than a horror film.

In the remake, starring Bela Lugosi as Count Mora, Browning tweaked the story slightly to allow for a new cast of genre favorites, such as Lionel Barrymore, Lionel Atwill, Carol Borland, Jean Hersholt and Donald Meek. But he kept the basic "Scooby-Doo" ending that frustrates some and thrills others. The film really becomes more a mystery movie than a true horror tale, as we discover that the murder in the beginning of the movie wasn't committed by the undead Count and his wan ethereal daughter, Luna, played by Carroll Borland, but by a jealous city elder who wanted to marry the dead man's daughter. Turns out Lugosi and crew are actors playing a part to trap the murderer...sounds like someone has been reading their Hamlet, eh? Still, despite the "Scooby Doo" ending, it's a Tod Browning production and that means the movie is filled with lots of shadow and light, excellent cheesy stage style dialogue and a true Grand Guignol sensibility.

5. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

and House of Wax (1953)

Personally I'm a huge fan of both versions of this film, although in conversation with other horror fans, I seem to be in the minority when it comes to this original version. This one stars Lionel Atwill as a fire scarred crazy man (again) who murders beautiful women for his wax displays; while Fay wray screams her pretty little head off (again); and Glenda Farrell is a tough streetwise young woman working for a big city newspaper (again). Filmed in an eerie looking two color Technicolor process, it sometimes feels like a surreal nightmare. The director of this version, Michael Curtiz, spent his life making incredible films and pissing off just about anyone he ever worked with. It's odd to see that this version consistently turns up on cheap DVD boxset , thrown in with dozens of movies that are its inferior. I think this movie deserves to be re-discovered.

The remake came twenty years later and starred a new rising horror star, Vincent Price. In fact, this was his first big budget horror film debut. This also had a young man named Charles Buchinsky, who later changed his name to Charles Bronson. Directed in a new 3-D process by André de Toth, who had only one eye, this was a huge hit for Warner Brothers Studios and paved the way for more Price horror films in the near future. It's fairly loyal to the original film's narrative, but has added characters and gets ride of the annoying Farrell newswoman character, and gives us the gorgeous Phyllis Kirk to scream her pretty little head off instead. In truth, both versions could be considered examples of proto-slashers in that the killer is murdering beautiful fulfill some insane whim--only both incarnations of the insane wax figure artists use hot wax instead of sharp knives.

4. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

and Night of the Living Dead (1990)

What can I say about this movie that hasn't already been said, ad-infinitum? It is without a doubt one of the most important horror films ever made. Director/writer/producer George Romero managed on a budget of less than 60K, and the kindness of friends and families--and a local butcher with lots of raw beef and pork scraps--to create a new sub-genre, the cinema of the undead/zombie/flesh-eaters. This, of course, isn't his only appearance on this list (see "Dawn of the Dead" at #11). This is the alpha and omega of zombie cinema.

Although the remake was co-written and co-produced by Romero, and directed by the legendary special effects master, Tom Savini, there were still plenty of fans up in arms about the classic zombie of all time being handled by anyone other than Romero himself. The outcry was loud and lengthy...until the movie finally hit the silver screen. Afterwards, most everyone had to admit that not only did Savini do a great job on the modern color version, with its extreme gore effects, but in some ways he actually improved on it. One of the most important of those improvements was that dead in his version actually rotted, as dead things obviously do. Savini's zombies were literally falling apart in some scenes. The special effects guru took great pleasure in giving us the gore in all its full color viscera and shiny white protruding bones. You could almost smell the rotting flesh. Another important update in this version was in making the heroine, Barbara (played by Patricia Tallman), a strong woman, who didn't just sit around meekly, waiting the zombies to eat her--unlike Judith O'Dea's portrayal in the original as a weakling who goes crazy from the first attack against her and her brother in the cemetery.

3. Ringu (1998)

and The Ring (2002)

The original version which was made in Japan, for a Japanese audience, managed to find and push that culture's buttons. So much so that "Ringu" quickly became one of the most talked about movies in Asian horror for a year or more, and it helped spawn a voracious American appetite for all things Asian horror for many years afterwards--in some ways we're still going through the cycle. Word of mouth became so prevalent that U.S. horror fans began requesting that their local Blockbuster Video stores order copies--even though at the time no English dubbed copies were available. So why was this movie such a hit? Because it did exactly what a horror film is supposed to do: it scared the holy hell out of everyone who saw it. The story is simple enough: anyone who watches the movie is automatically cursed and will die on the seventh day following the viewing. And once cursed there's seemingly nothing that can reverse the death sentence. The tape makes the rounds within a group of barely connected people and soon the bodies start turning up, dead with no explanation. It's such a brilliantly terrifying idea and one which had never been used before (at least not in film; in horror fiction Ramsey Campbell's "Ancient Images" uses the same idea, although his version is about a lost film starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff). When we the audience are finally allowed to see this cursed movie through the POV of the heroine, it is disturbing, for there's no logic to the dozen or so images that play out on the screen. And that's where much of the credit for the shivers and terrified screams has to go--to the use of what's called "cinema of the unsettling". It's a school of filmmaking that focuses on disturbing and unsettling imagery over gore effects/special effects. Most times the images are not connected in any way, they have no visible linear narrative, so nothing makes sense with these disconcerting images. This technique was used to great effect throughout the film.

The remake was much the same, keeping the "cinema of the unsettling" intact, and using the dreary, bleak atmosphere of the storm riddled coastal towns outside of Seattle, WA to help create an oppressive sense of death all around us.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

This is another original film that fans love and hold dear to their twisted evil hearts. I know I do. Director Tobe Hooper made the best use of his in-the-middle-of-nowhere locations, including a real cemetery, to tell the story of five young people traveling across Texas to go to a funeral. When they stop for a strange looking hitchhiker (because it's so hot in the summertime in the middle of a Texas nowhere, population you and the vultures), he seems a little off, but they put it off to inbreeding and his obvious slow wits. But the stranger is soon talking about his Grandpa who used be a the hammerman in a local meat factory and soon he becomes agitated and wants to show everyone his sharp knife. Which he does and then proceeds to slice himself to watch the blood. The young people manage to stop the vehicle and throw the crazy man out. Unknown to them, he marks the van with his bloody hand. Now why do you suppose he did that? HA! No spoilers from me, if you haven't seen it, but let's just say these Texas loonies have decided they like the good old days of kiling for a living. But they do own that tasty Bar-B-Q restaurant and the only gas station for a hundred miles. Needless to say, Hooper knew exactly how to create an atmosphere of isolation, even in a location seems to spread out for hundreds of miles in all direction, with not a soul in sight. Strangely enough, this film was condemned by critics for its gore. But there isn't any gore. It's all clever editing and atmosphere and mood which give the impression of blood gushing and limbs being sawed off with a chainsaw, Leatherface's favorite toy. The movie never lets up; from the first moment the screen gives us an image, it is a rotting skull perched atop a stick in a dry, ancient cemetery. And it just keeps on piling on the disturbing images, the terrifying sound effects and the insanity inherent in a story of inbred, insane Texas cannibals. This is the one film from Hooper that will keep his name in the record books a hundred years from now.

So when another soulless corporate Hollywood studio decided to remake yet another genre defining classic, fans were very upset. I was one of them, mind you. I was five years old when I saw the original at our local drive-in and it's a cherished memory of horror and disquiet that has helped in shaping me as much as Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) and Fulci's "Zombie". I didn't hold out much hope, especially since the director was an unknown whose resume included nothing but vacuous music videos. And even worse, Michael-fucking-Bay was the producer. And even worse than worse, most of the cast were a bunch of FOX/UPN/WB pretty boys and pretty girls. Chances were this was going to suck, big time. But I was wrong. The movie actually managed to find ways to improve on the original, if for no other reason than there is gore galore in it. Also, the level of intensity in some of the scenes, especially those with character actor and ex-Marine drill instructor R. Lee Ermey, who manages to convey an insidious sort of creepy evil and barely controlled rage and violence. There are also some rather disgusting and disquieting scenes that actually left me feeling a little creeped out. I doubt Michael Bay will ever do that well again with his endless line of remakes. Let's see..."Friday the 13th", "A Nightmare on Elm Street","Amityville Horror", "The Hitcher"...everyone of them a huge failure, as far as I'm concerned, and all of them gutted classics that didn't stand a chance against Bay and his remake machine. At least he got this one pretty close to right. But surely as a greedy man will sell his mother's precious family heirlooms for a six-pack of beer and some smokes, this ass will make more.

1. The Thing From Another World (1951)

and The Thing (1982) (aka John Carpenter's The Thing)

The original film is based on the classic sci-fi/horror novella "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell, who knew how to make you squirm and sweat when reading his best works. This version has some Hollywood legends attached to it. Howard Hawks, the legendary director of probably fifty classic movies in every genre, was billed as producer; his longtime friend and collaborator, Christian Nyby, was billed as director. But the story goes that isn't the reality of it. It's been bandied about for years and years that Hawks actually took over the job when he became displeased with the daily rushes Nyby was turning in to him (there is a similar story regarding Steven Spielberg as producer and Tobe Hooper as director on the supernatural hit, 1982's "Poltergeist"). The world may never know the truth, but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that the original film is one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films in the history of Hollywood. Hawks/Nyby imbue the narrative with isolation and menace from almost the very beginning, as we see out intrepid hero and his friends flying their military transport plane to a government funded scientific research center out in the middle of the icy nowhere of Antarctica. They've been called in to help transport the scientists to a far away icy tundra where their instruments have picked up strange readings of a large metallic object trapped under the ice. They soon discover that it's a flying saucer and set about trying to find a way to melt the ice under which it's buried. So a half-assed plan, a few explosives and some barking dogs later, and they manage to blow up the space craft, leaving behind only one thing under the ice--a frozen humanoid, definitely not human. Needless to say, they manage to get the frozen humanoid thing back to their lab, and before long, the thing has escaped his icy prison and sets about killing everyone in the center. There are some arguments between the military personnel vs. the scientists (guess who hint: this is the 50s in America) and some philosophical discussions. But none of that matters, because by the end the killer alien has been electrocuted to death and America is safe from super-carrots, at least until the next super-carrot killer alien comes along to crashland on our planet again.

When Carpenter decided to do a remake of this classic movie, the only people who were unhappy were the people who had seen the original in the theater when they were kids (Hey! This sounds very familiar. HA!). But we Carpenter fans knew we could expect the unexpected with him at the helm. And, boy, did he knock this remake over the fence. It is a classic now in its own right. And how could it not be? Carpenter went back to the original source material, which was Campbell's terrifying novella, and gave us one of the most perfect horror films ever made. The sense of paranoia and isolation are constantly being hammered into us throughout the movie, as they group of twelve men, including one Kurt Russell as a weary and pissy helicopter pilot. One by one, the thing assimilates everyone, until the final showdown in the basement level of the research center. After Russell blows the monster and its homemade space craft (which it was going to use to escape to the mainland where it would be able to start assimilating the planet's entire population in less than a year) sky high, he staggers from the ruins to find that he isn't the only survivor. But chances are one of them is the monster now. He and Childs (played by a smooth talking Keith David) sit across from one another, sharing the last bottle of whiskey, smiling and waiting to freeze to death. That's a goddamned ending to a movie, by God!! I love this movie almost as much as I love Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" (1978), Fulci's "Zombie" (1979) and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974). It's a classic and I consider it to be the greatest remake ever made.

--Nickolas Cook