When you watch horror movies all day and night, you pick up a lot of similar threads between them. Characters make the same decisions over and over, the plots tend to go in the same directions. These are just what we widely consider to be the classic tropes of the genre. But every now and then, something just seems really familiar in a really specific way.
At first, you might think that it’s just a coincidence. But as the movie keeps going, you’re hit with the undeniable fact that you’ve seen all of this before—and usually in a really specific way.
If this has happened to you, don’t worry. You weren’t imagining it. It’s a strange phenomenon in horror, but one I’m always interested in shedding a light on. Here are horror movies that awkwardly remade other movies.
Curse of the Puppet Master is a Remake of Ssssssss
While it’s not that widely known, Sssssss is a campy ‘70’s movie about a guy who owns a roadside reptile attraction trying to turn a human being into a snake. Curse of the Puppet Master is about a guy who owns a roadside doll and oddity museum trying to turn a human being into a living puppet. They sound a little similar, but nothing that couldn’t just be coincidence. Except that Curse of the Puppet Master—the sixth in the long-running Puppet Master series—is almost shot for shot the same movie. Every scene in one matches up to a scene in the other. Both start off with hiding a failed experiment only to be discovered later by the heroine, both include a bully getting killed for his treatment of the heroine, both include a monologue about why the black mamba/Blade is the perfect predator while using some of the exact same dialogue and both end on the successfully transformed snake/puppet getting revenge on the mad scientist while we hold a shot of the heroine screaming and fade to black. This is not coincidence.
I know this one is probably going to sound the strangest, but it was actually the first one I noticed. I was in the theater seeing Tusk for the first time when I began to see its similarities with Dracula. Both start off with a young man looking to forward his career who travels into a wild and unfamiliar land (Transylvania/Canada) to meet with an old man who he has only corresponded with through letters. The old man imprisons him and begins to transform him into something monstrous. And even though Harker never became a vampire it was definitely a possibility during his imprisonment. At the same time, you have the vampire hunting gang in Dracula led by an eccentric old man who has had many strange things in his day, tracking any information they can to find where the vampire sleeps and where he is going. This group matches up pretty well with the motley crew of makeshift detectives in Tusk.
John Carpenter has always freely admitted that his second feature after Dark Star and in many ways his first real movie, Assault on Precinct 13, was actually a loose remake of one of his favorite Westerns. All of Carpenter’s films were influenced by Howard Hawkes to some degree, but that influence is most prominent in Assault on Precinct 13. It updates the plot to present-day Los Angeles while keeping many of the same character types and tropes intact. It’s an effective, low budget thriller, yet still manages to feel like a Western through and through, which is just a testament to Carpenter’s talent that he could make that influence so clear even through a drastic change of setting. While many people may not consider Assault on Precinct 13 to be a horror movie, the claustrophobic setting also has heavy echoes of Night of the Living Dead as does the film’s use of light and shadow. More than that, it’s still remembered for its horrific scene involving a young girl being shot point-blank as the killers drive off and the father is left to discover the abandoned body.
Sadly, yes, there’s another film in the Puppet Master series that’s a shameless ripoff. Fans waited years for Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys and when they finally got it, well, it wasn’t what we were expecting. Because it’s basically Halloween III updated for that other big holiday: Christmas. Besides two groups of toys fighting each other—which takes all of two minutes—it’s all very much the same. Here, you have a business tycoon who owns a toy company and is planning to kill all of the children in the world when the toys come alive as they tune into her big giveaway on Christmas morning. You also have an older man running around trying to stop it with the help of a much younger woman. At least in Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys, this character is the older man’s daughter instead of someone who just might as well be his daughter, but don’t be fooled into thinking that makes Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys the better of the two because that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Wes Craven’s shocking debut, The Last House on the Left, is a loose remake of Ingmar Bergman’s Virgin Spring, which Craven had always admitted. It was a film that deeply impacted him as a viewer and he wanted to use that core premise to comment on the current climate of 1970’s America. Last House proved to be a brutal and effective movie that got Craven noticed and allowed for the lengthy and impressive career to follow. It may not have originated as his own concept, but it was a concept that he made his own. This is what any good filmmaker should do and is a part of why he showed such strong promise as a master of the genre, even then.