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From its rise in the 1970s to its heyday in the 1980s to its metatextual reinvention in the 1990s, the slasher movie is a horror subgenre that, like many of its villains, just won't die. Like a lot of horror premises, the setup of a killer — often masked, often toting a signature weapon -- preying on a group of unsuspecting victims is malleable enough that it's launched hundreds of different stories, and the killers themselves are often so memorable that they inspire plenty of sequels.
But of course, sequels alone aren't the end of the story. After years of slasher dominance, the subgenre got into the reboot game with plenty of new looks at old icons, and eventually all those reboots and sequels merged into the "requel," films that attempted to combine fresh faces with old continuity to create something new enough to draw new fans and classic enough to please the original ones.
At this point in slasher history, as a new Texas Chainsaw Massacre film drops and a new Scream movie inspires yet another sequel, we've got plenty of reboots and requels to choose from. But which films are the best new twists on classic franchises? As we prepare for Halloween, let's take a look at the best of the slasher reboots, requels, and rebootquels, from Michael Myers to Leatherface.
1. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
After a trilogy of sequels that killed off Laurie Strode and made her young daughter the protagonist of the series, Jamie Lee Curtis agreed to return to Halloween to mark two decades of Michael Myers mayhem, and the results were memorable. Ignoring all the previous sequels except Halloween II (which established that Laurie and Michael are actually brother and sister), H20 picked up with Laurie living under an assumed name and running a ritzy California private school. That school ultimately served as the site of what was, at the time, billed as the final showdown between Laurie and her would-be killer. While the Michael redesign hasn't aged well, and some of the film's choices look a bit more predictable now than they did in '98. H20 still works because of the sheer ferocity of Curtis and the bright spots of her supporting cast, which included Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, Adam Arkin, and Curtis' own mother, Janet Leigh.
2. Sorority Row (2009)
The 2000s were a hotbed of horror reboots, and among the slasher films we got in that era, this surprisingly slick retooling of The House on Sorority Row still stands out as a solid entry. Like the original film, Sorority Row follows a group of sorority sisters who are hunted by a mysterious killer months after a prank went horribly wrong and killed one of their friends. Featuring some inventive and surprising death scenes and the great Carrie Fisher as a house mother who's not to be messed with, it's a film well worth your time if you're a slasher superfan. Be warned, though: You'll get flashbacks to some of your more questionable 2000s fashion choices.
3. Friday the 13th (2009)
One of the more inevitable reboots on this list, Friday the 13th took Jason back to his summer camp roots after the sci-fi hijinks of Jason X and the Freddy vs. Jason crossover, and the results are a lot more fun than you might expect. Directed by Marcus Nispel, who sharpened his skills with a competent 2003 reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film functions as a direct sequel to the original 1980 film, and follows Jason's vengeful exploits through the shuttered Crystal Lake campgrounds. Both referential and reverential when it comes to the films that came before, Friday the 13th works as both an update on years of Jason stories and an update on the slasher templates the franchise helped establish, with some great kills along the way.
4. Maniac (2012)
Franck Khalfoun's Maniac is not a fun film, or an easy film. Like the 1980s slasher that inspired it, it's a nasty piece of work, made even nastier by the near-constant first-person camera technique that places the viewer behind the eyes of the title character. It's a gruesome storytelling maneuver, one that forces you to watch many of the film's most vicious moments with an unblinking eye. Then there's the stroke of genius that is casting Elijah Wood, the beloved star of The Lord of the Rings, as a serial killer who collects the scalps of the women he stalks. Wood's performance, and his total commitment to being as unsettling as possible, makes Maniac one of the most effective horror remakes of the 21st century.
5. Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
The 2022 entry is not the first "Old Man Leatherface" story in the Texas Chainsaw franchise. That honor follows to this often overlooked sequel, which follows a young woman (Alexandra Daddario) who learns about some unexpected ancestry, and runs into a Leatherface in hiding along the way. With a welcome change in location from the rundown slaughterhouse of the earlier films, a cast that's game for all the horror fun, and a thematic focus that's surprisingly potent, Texas Chainsaw 3D still deserves a lot more attention than it got upon its original release.
6. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
The original 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown took a docudrama approach to a heavily fictionalized version of a real serial killer who stalked the city Texarkana in the 1940s. The 2014 version written by Riverdale's Robert Aguirre-Sacasa, takes a very meta approach to create a requel with a "print the legend" mentality, emphasizing the power of the original film and the sway it holds over the community decades later. Full of nods to the 1976 film, the 2014 update also has plenty of Aguirre-Sacasa's earnest teen drama heart, and some very memorable visuals along the way.
7. Halloween (2018)
Two decades after she returned for her first requel with Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis went back to the Halloween well again in 2018 for yet another film that ignored previous sequels. This time, everything but the original film was wiped clean, giving us a Michael Myers who went to prison for 40 years and a Laurie Strode who'd spent the same 40 years preparing for his inevitable return. The result was a potent mix of old and new, anchored by Curtis' tour de force performance.
8. Black Christmas (2019)
The original Black Christmas is a proto-slasher classic that launched many of the genre's hallmarks while delivering a surprisingly feminist take on the final girl by the standards of 1974. Its 2019 update took the full-on reboot approach to things, but reclaimed that feminist angle and ran with it. Like the original, it's the story of a group of female college students who are stalked by a mysterious killer. Much of the rest of it, though, is pure invention on the part of writers Sophia Takal (who also directed) and April Wolfe, and the film is better for it. If you buy into what's it offering, Black Christmas is a modern slasher blast.
9. Wrong Turn (2021)
Nearly 20 years after the gnarly original film about a group of friends who run afoul of some backwoods killers, Wrong Turn writer Alan B. McElroy penned a near-total reinvention of the franchise he launched in 2003, and what he came up with works very well. Featuring a bright young cast and plenty of memorable folk horror imagery, Wrong Turn 2021 takes the original premise of a group of friends who head the wrong way in the midst of Appalachia, but deepens and darkens the mythology of the killers themselves. The result is a thrill ride that'll keep surprising you right up to the final scene.
10. Candyman (2021)
Nia DaCosta's update of and tribute to the original 1992 Candyman has a lot of things going for it. There's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's central performance as a Chicago artist who gets too deep into an urban legend for his own good. There's great supporting work from Colman Domingo and original Candyman co-star Vanessa Estelle Williams. There's DaCosta knack for layering visual imagery. And then of course there's the central conceit of the film's updated mythology, which posits that Candyman is not one figure, but a legacy of dark legends informed by pain and hatred going back centuries. It's a potent mix of elements that gave us one of the best horror films of 2021.
11. Slumber Party Massacre (2021)
Director Danishka Esterhazy and writer Suzanne Keilly launched their version of Slumber Party Massacre with a slight reimagining of the events of the original film, Amy Holden Jones' now-legendary slasher cult classic. Then, they picked up the satirical elements of said original and flat-our sprinted with them, giving us one of the most entertaining horror films of 2021 in the process. If you still haven't seen it, it feels unfair to give away the twist of Slumber Party Massacre 2021 here. Once that twist hits, though, you'll find it's both a funny and thoughtful look at how slasher movies work, and what they have to say in the 2020s.
12. Scream (2022)
A requel that not only knows it's a requel, but talks about it at length, the fifth installment in the Scream franchise preserves the meta-horror spirit of every installment that came before, while also proving itself a reverential look at the franchise's legacy characters and what they mean 25 years later. Like Scream 4, it's a blending of those legacy characters with a new cast of Woodsboro youngsters, examining the impact of the original Woodsboro murders years later. Unlike Scream 4, though, it's both a more tightly focused study of fandom and a more potent examination of legacy, something helped along by the film's determination to pay tribute to the franchise's original director, Wes Craven.
13. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)
It's only been out for a few days as of this writing, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre has already generated vastly different reactions across horror fandom. Speaking as a Texas Chainsaw devotee, I wouldn't have it any other way, but for my money the film absolutely works. The new installment, another requel that ignores all previous sequels and spotlights an aging Leatherface who's just emerged from hiding, is an intriguing blend of reverence and schlock, a film that wants to be taken seriously while also giving us some of the most cartoonishly wild kills in the history of the franchise. It feels contradictory, but in a franchise that has never had anything like a consistent point-of-view, the contradictions work in a jarring, midnight movie sort of way. This feels like one of those films that's destined to keep getting new appraisals in the coming decades, much like many of the other Texas Chainsaw installments.