Everyone knows that today's horror remakes are the gutter trash of cinema. No one expects much from them, and the only hope is that a bunch of teenage boys who have never heard of the originals will go see them. But it doesn't have to be this way. Remakes in general can be high quality, or at least interesting. Consider Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983), David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986), Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear (1991) and The Departed (2006), Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds (2005) and a host of others. The main problem behind the horror remake phenomenon is that studios are hiring totally uninteresting directors to be in charge of them. The guy who directed the new The Crazies is the guy who made Sahara (2005). Was anyone really clamoring to see another film from him? There's another problem that no one seems to be addressing: the guys who made the originals aren't working at all! They're making paychecks by selling off the rights to their ideas, but why not give them some actual work to do? Why not hire these old masters to remake each other's old films? Here are seven people we should be thinking about.

1. John Carpenter
Films Released in the Last 10 Years: Ghosts of Mars
Films Remade by Others: Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog
Carpenter is a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, and as he has often described himself, he's like an old-time studio director who was born into the wrong era. He makes genre films exclusively and has never once felt the need to "go legit" and make something serious for awards consideration. At best, his films are sturdy and effortlessly entertaining. He has a specific visual style, and is one of the living masters of the widescreen frame. He even has one remake on his resume already, The Thing (1982), which is comparable to the original and a classic in its own right. It's truly a shame that ten years have gone by without a new Carpenter feature film.
2. Wes Craven
Films Released in the Last 10 Years: Scream 3, Red Eye, Cursed
Films Remade by Others: The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street
As bad as most horror remakes are, they tend to get more love and attention than Craven's Cursed did. Hardly anyone bothered to look beyond its trite werewolf story to notice what a well-made film it is, and what delight Craven takes in digging into his bag of tricks. And he's also still capable of something as highly skilled as Red Eye.

3. Monte Hellman
Films Released in the Last 10 Years: none
Films Remade by Others: none
Hellman started out with a couple of super-cheap horror films (Beast from Haunted Cave) for the Roger Corman factory, and wound up directing one of the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise, so he's not exactly a horror master. But he's probably the greatest unemployed director alive today, and I know he could do something fascinating with a horror remake. Plus it would be the first time he ever had a decent budget.

4. Joe Dante
Films Released in the Last 10 Years: Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Films Remade by Others: none
Few people alive love horror movies as much as Joe Dante, although he has made his career mostly as a satirist. Films like Gremlins 1-2, The 'burbs and even The Howling are all sly comedies about human behavior and movies, and sometimes the odd relationship between the two. Imagine if he could take a crack at a horror remake. It would be ever so slightly and delightfully twisted around to point a finger back at itself. It would be the goriest film criticism ever committed to celluloid.

5. Tobe Hooper
Films Released in the Last 10 Years: Toolbox Murders
Films Remade by Others: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Hooper has perhaps the spottiest career of any horror master, and fans have to look extra hard at films like The Mangler to see any of the greatness that went into The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He also has a remake on his resume, Invaders from Mars, that I doubt anyone would prefer to the original. And in the past two decades, his films have been turning up on more video shelves than in theaters. Even so, I maintain that, given the relatively sizable budget of a new horror remake and a certain amount of freedom and time, Hooper could make magic happen again. Also, his only film in the last ten years, yep, it's a remake.

6. Larry Cohen
Films Released in the Last 10 Years: none
Films Remade by Others: It's Alive
I love Larry Cohen for being a one-man movie factory, pumping out dozens of screenplays, TV shows and TV movies over the past 50 years. He never seems to stop writing, even if the quantity often outweighs the quality. As a director, he has made a mere 20 movies, the last one released in 1996 (not counting an episode for "Masters of Horror"). But many of these films are cult classics and more are being re-discovered all the time. He has a sense of economy and a kind fearlessness that's rare today; nothing is impossible in a Cohen film, whether it's an attack from an evil baby, an evil winged serpent or some evil ice cream.

7. John Landis
Films Released in the Last 10 Years: Slasher, Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project
Films Remade by Others: none
Someday someone is going to do a re-assessment of Landis and discover some kind of hidden art in his films, but it's not going to be me, because I could not make it to the end of Beverly Hills Cop III (1994). Landis comes from the same school of horror fandom as Joe Dante, and his career is a bit spottier than Dante's, but he does have a definite visual style and feel that can be seen in all his films, even the bad ones. He has only attempted two feature horror films, An American Werewolf in London and Innocent Blood. The first is an acknowledged classic and the second is at least an acknowledged classic in France. Like Dante, he always directs with a bit of humor, though in his case it's a bit less pointed and a bit more selfishly fun.
categories Cinematical