Horror Remakes by the Numbers: The Tomatometer Says Stick to Vampire Thrillers and Avoid 1980s Slashers

Our data dive reveals a surprising recipe for success for anyone looking to reboot, reimagine, reinterpret, or otherwise remake a horror classic.

by | June 20, 2019 | Comments

Child's Play, 2019 (Eric Milner / Orion Pictures / Everett Collection)
(Photo by Eric Milner / Orion Pictures / Everett Collection)

According to the “Horror Remake Tomatometer Predictor”™ (not a thing, and definitely not trademarked), the upcoming Child’s Play remake has a 43.2% chance of having a Fresh Tomatometer score. Why? The 1988 original, about a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray continuing his deadly rampage after his soul is voodoo’d into a doll (made sense in the 1980s), sits at 67% on the Tomatometer. The Fresh score of the original means the 2019 remake has a better chance of achieving critical glory than a remake with Rotten source material, which only has an 11% chance of being Fresh.

Yes, we’re getting nerdy.

How do we know this? We did a deep dive into the Tomatometer and pulled the data on 91 horror remakes, reboots, and adaptations, so we could drop some fun Tomatometer stats on you. We’re hoping the Child’s Play remake can break the curse of the Rotten remakes, and do what the A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes couldn’t do — be Fresh.

Quick note: We included horror remakes, reboots, and second adaptations of novels (think Pet Sematary from earlier this year). To avoid using the confusing and super-hyphenated “remake/reboot/adaptations,” for every section, we’re using “remake” as a blanket term for all the movies.

1. The Average Tomatometer Score for Horror Remakes is 44.4%

Cabin Fever, 2016 (IFC Midnight/ Everett Collection)
(Photo by IFC Midnight/ Everett Collection)

The Rotten 44.4% Tomatometer average is a long way away from the 79.2% Tomatometer average of the originals in our sample, and we’re not quite sure why that’s the case. However, after watching One Missed Call (0%, 2008), Cabin Fever (0%, 2016), and Flatliners (4%,  2017), we have a pretty good idea why the average for remakes is so Rotten.

2. Fresh Horror Remakes Come from Originals with an 87.6% Tomatometer Average

The Fly, 1986 (20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection)
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection)

You are probably thinking, “So good remakes come from good originals? Duh, I could’ve told you that,” and that is reasonable. However, now you can add, “Rotten Tomatoes’ data backs it up.” The 33 Fresh remakes in our list came from originals with an 87.6% Tomatometer average. Also, remakes of horror movies with an 87%-plus Tomatometer score have a 55% Tomatometer average, which is higher than the 44.4% overall average for remakes. In other words, producers looking for some form of critical praise should consider remaking super Fresh horror classics.

3. Rotten Horror Remakes Come from Originals with a 74% Tomatometer Average

Psycho, 1960 (Paramount Pictures)
(Photo by Paramount Pictures)

The 58 Rotten remakes we analyzed came mostly from Fresh, but not super Fresh, originals. Classics like Halloween (95%, 1978), House of Wax (95%, 1933), and Psycho (97%, 1960) did some heavy Tomatometer lifting, but, overall, only 20 of the 58 (or 33.8%) original horror movies in the set had Tomatometer scores over 90%. The strength of these classics kept the Tomatometer average Fresh, but they had to combat the 15 Rotten originals such as Prom Night (45%, 1980), When a Stranger Calls (31%, 1979), and The Amityville Horror (29%, 1979) for Tomatometer respectability.

4. Only Two Fresh Remakes Came from the 17 Rotten Originals

Willard, 2003 (New Line/ Everett Collection)
(Photo by New Line/ Everett Collection)

If the source material is Rotten, odds are the remake will be Rotten as well. By all accounts, it seems obvious that Rotten movies would breed Rotten remakes. However, you’d think the writers, producers, and directors went into the remakes thinking they could easily improve upon the critically panned original. Only The Town That Dreaded Sundown (70%, 2014) and Willard (64%, 2003) were able to overcome their Rotten roots, but, even then, they weren’t able to achieve boss-level 90%-plus Tomatometer scores.

5. Only Five Horror Remakes Have 90%-Plus Tomatometer Scores

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (United Artists/ Everett Collection)
(Photo by United Artists/ Everett Collection)

There are some 33 originals in our set with 90%-plus Tomatometer scores, but just five remakes that scored 90% and above. There is some good news though: the five super Fresh remakes are awesome (hyperbole intended). The Mummy (100%, 1959), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (94%, 1978), Nosferatu The Vampyre (95%,  1979), Evil Dead 2 (98%,1987), and The Fly (92%, 1988) are stone-cold classics that perfectly adapt, remake, or reboot-quel (Evil Dead 2) previous classics.

6. Remakes of Classic 1970s and 1980s Slasher Movies Have a Frighteningly Rotten 26.1% Average

Black Christmas, 2006 (MGM/ Everett Collection)
(Photo by MGM/ Everett Collection)

The 26.1% Tomatometer average proves it’s hard to remake the slasher classics. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (37%, 2003), Halloween (25%, 2005), Black Christmas (15%, 2006), Prom Night (8%, 2008), My Bloody Valentine 3D (60%, 2009), Friday the 13th (25%, 2009), Sorority Row (24%, 2009), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (15%, 2010) remakes mostly made decent money, but they also mostly failed to come anywhere near Fresh. The best of the bunch are the My Bloody Valentine 3D (a rare Fresh in the set) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes, which push their R-ratings to the limit, and feature extreme amounts of blood, nudity, and impressive foot chases that result in more blood.

Make sure to check out the trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. Bill Neil cut together a trailer for the ages.

7. Vampire Remakes (or Adaptations) Have a Fresh 79.8% Tomatometer Average

Fright Night, 2011 (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/ Everett Collection)
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/ Everett Collection)

Remakes of vampire films have been wildly successful, whether it be Francis Ford Coppola’s Oscar-winning and BEAUTIFUL (all caps are merited) adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (72%, 1992), or the fun Fright Night (72%, 2011) remake, which features the very likable Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Colin Farrell. Throw in Dracula (89%, 1958), Dracula (64%, 1979), Nosferatu the Vampyre (95%, 1979) and Let Me In (88%, 2010), and you have a killer’s row of excellent vampire films.

8. Remakes of Japanese Horror Films Have a 33.6% Tomatometer Average

The Ring, 2002 (DreamWorks/ Everett Collection)
(Photo by DreamWorks/ Everett Collection)

In 2002, the 71% Tomatometer-rated The Ring was a smash hit with critics and audiences who loved watching Naomi Watts battling an evil VHS tape (remember them!?). After the success of The Ring, the Hollywood Remake Machine went into full production and released The Grudge (39%, 2004), Dark Water (46%, 2005), and Pulse (10%, 2006) in quick succession. In 2008, the Japanese remake craze came to a halt with One Missed Call, a movie so bad it received the not-at-all-coveted 0% Tomatometer score.

If you were wondering, the four Japanese originals that have Tomatometer scores come to an average of 73.3%.

9. Theatrically Released Remakes of George Romero’s Movies Have a 71.3% Tomatometer Average; Straight-to-DVD Remakes Have a Rotten 7% Average

Dawn of the Dead, 2004 (Universal/ Everett Collection)
(Photo by Universal/ Everett Collection)

If you are going to remake a classic George Romero movie, please make sure it’s released into theaters. The theatrically released remakes of Night of the Living Dead (68%, 1990), Dawn of the Dead (75%, 2004), and The Crazies (71%, 2010) validate their existence by offering fresh takes on Romero’s material. Whether it be writer James Gunn’s fun script for Dawn of the Dead, or Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell’s excellent performances in The Crazies, there is more than enough to enjoy. However, the straight-to-DVD “remakes” Night of the Living Dead 3D (No Tomatometer score, 2006), Day of the Dead (14%, 2008), and Day of the Dead: Bloodline (0%, 2018) are super Rotten and unnecessary.

Quick thought: Romero’s Martin (1977) and Knightriders (1981) are ready to be remade.

10. The Remakes of John Carpenter and Wes Craven’s Films Have a Rotten 32.6% Average

The Last House on the Left (Rogue Pictures/ Everett Collection)
(Photo by Rogue Pictures/ Everett Collection)

Filmmakers haven’t had much critical luck when remaking the classic films of John Carpenter and Wes Craven. The six Rotten remakes include The Fog (4%, 2005), Assault on Precinct 13 (59%, 2005), Halloween (25%, 2005), The Hills Have Eyes (51%, 2006), The Last House on the Left (42%, 2009), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (15%, 2010). We will say that the Alejandre Aja-directed The Hills Have Eyes remake is a nasty piece of work, and is one of the few remakes to capture the grittiness of the 1970s and early 1980s horror films. We liked it, even if the critics didn’t. (Fun fact: Aja also directed the Fresh Piranha 3D remake.)

Which Horror remakes do you love? Let us know in the comments!

Note: All Tomatometer data is accurate as of June 19, 2019

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