So here we are with yet another remake of yet another classic horror movie from the 80s. I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if this one’s any good. Well, that depends on who you are. If you’re a Gen-Xer, like me, no, it’s not better than the original, but worth a look nevertheless. If you’re a Millennial. Let’s say if you’re a Millennial who isn’t aware this is a remake of a 1982 movie, and around the age I saw the first one, that being 13, yeah, you might enjoy it. When I’m reviewing one of these 80s remakes I try to put myself into the mindset of when I first saw the original, just to see if I can view the flick from an age when movies generally make the most impact on your life and see if kids nowadays would find it entertaining. Ideally, it would be interesting to have a 13-year-old watch both movies and then ask him or her which one he or she thought was better. If you have someone that age in your life and you’re reading this right now try this “experiment” and get back to me.
I’m not generally opposed to remakes, but I do cringe when one is announced, especially when it comes to a decade I actually lived in as a kid, and because remakes of 80s horror flicks, actually any flick from the 80s, aren’t anything to write home about. You can dump them all in a box and ask yourself does any one of these stand out from the others? Obviously some a going to be liked over others for any number of reasons, but if you can view them from the “big picture vantage point” they all come off mediocre to just plain bad. That being said I liked the direct-to-video Fright Night remake, Fright Night II: New Blood (2013) and the Total Recall (2012) one, but that doesn’t mean I consider them better than the originals. It just means the directors got lucky and managed to crank out something that managed to appeal to me on some basic level. Can I watch them again? Oddly, yes, but they don’t eclipse or even equal the impact of the originals for me and I would love for one of them to do that someday. I don’t think they ever will, though, because Hollywood likes to remake classics that don’t need to be remade and are only getting remade because they think they can rake in buttloads of money based on their name recognition. It would be nice for once for them to grab a little flick that good actually use an improvement, and there are some popular cult titles from the 80s I have in my collection I wouldn’t mind seeing a remade, like The Boogens (1981), The Incubus (1982), Troll (1986), The Power (1984), The Kindred (1987), Cameron’s Closet (1988) just to name a few.
Enough of my two cents about remakes. All right now I have to move back into Gen-X mode . . . if you’re familiar with the original Poltergeist most of the memorable set pieces have been carried over, except for the pool scene at the end where Jo Beth Williams falls in and all those corpses surface and then when the caskets start uprooting themselves later. Changes made, well, some were expected and another was not. I’m talking about the name of the family. We all know the name the Freelings and Carol Ann are connected to Poltergeist, not for this remake though. The family has been renamed the Bowens, but they do have the same amount of kids in the same age brackets as the Freelings did. Carol Anne (the late Heather O’Rourke) is now Madison (Kennedi Clements), “Maddie” for short; their youngest son, Robbie (Oliver Robins) from the original, is now Griffin and a tad more mature, and the Freelings’ oldest daughter, Dana (the late Dominique Dunne), is now Kendra (Saxon Sharbino).
Husband and wife, Eric and Amy, or played by Same Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt respectively. I’m a fan of Rockwell, so seeing him is in this was great and he makes a good sympathetic stressed out father. Steven Freeling (Craig T. Nelson) from the ’82 flick was a real estate agent and his wife, Diane (JoBeth Williams), was a stay at home mom. In the remake, Eric has been laid off, and Amy wants to write a book. The general plot of the house being built on a cemetery where the headstones were relocated but not the bodies is the same. The focus of the first flick was pretty much on the whole family when the supernatural events happen, but here the focus is a little bit more on Griffin. He has the more substantial character arc. He’s a nervous kid, mostly from accidentally being lost at a mall by Mom three years earlier and when he freezes when Maddie is being kidnapped by the other side, he feels he has to step up and redeem himself by saving her on the other side. This act was done by mom in the original.
Still the same is the search for help from the parapsychology department at the local University and later on by a psychic, whom the head of the department recommends. Different is the psychic, and the relationship to the department head. In the ’82 flick it was eccentric Tangina Barrons (the late Zelda Rubinstein), in this version it’s eccentric Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), who’s got his own paranormal reality show, and who was once married to the parapsychologist who’s helping the Bowens. A very sensible alteration. I had no problem with this since those kinds of shows are all the rage now and I tend to watch some of them. He’s not a fake, by the way, he’s got talent.
The most notable change, and the sole reason why this remake managed to not get on my bad side, totally, and what gets it into my collection right alongside the original, is this time we see what’s in that other realm Maddie got kidnapped to. In Spielberg/Hooper’s version we never saw what lurked just out of sight. All we saw was that huge, demon head that comes out and scares the shit out of Craig T. Nelson. This time with the clever use of a camera mounted drone sent into the other dimension we get to see a strange alternate world of their home but with walls made of desperate and sometimes malevolent spirits. Sure it’s mostly a CGI creation but it was weird and creepy enough to impress me.
The catch phrase from the original, “They’re here,” is used but not as effectively as when Heather O’Rourke said it. It was almost a throwaway line this time, said matter-of-factly, like the underwhelming delivery of “Welcome to Fright Night,” in the remake of Fright Night. The television is still used as a device of communication like it was in the original. The shadowed hands were a nice touch this time though. But with cell phones in existence now Kendra’s iPhone becomes a creepily used device by the other side as well. I’m surprised their computer didn’t figure into the haunting too, but come to think of it I don’t remember seeing anyone having a laptop.
Initially the usage of the clown on the poster perplexed me, but then I thought, oh, right, clowns in horror flicks are a thing now, and, yeah, it makes sense why the studio would make it the linking image for this version this time around.
Like the first one none of the characters die even though they make you think this time one of them did. It’s not that kind of a movie. The ’82 movie was basically a roller coaster ride, a walk through a funhouse; no harm no foul, no blood, and no gore. Frights are what mattered and this one is in that same vein.
Back on September 29th 20th Century Fox released Poltergeist (2015) on separate DVD, Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/Digital Copy and Blu-ray/Digital Copy editions. This review was done on the blu in the Blu-ray/Digital Copy edition.
Note: There’s an unrated extended cut of the film in existence (7-minutes longer), but it’s only available on the blu-ray editions.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 high definition widescreen—7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital, 5.1 French (Canada) Dolby Digital, 5.1 French DTS, 5.1 Spanish DTS, 5.1 German DTS, 5.1 Italian DTS, 5.1 Portuguese Dolby Digital, 5.1 Hindi Dolby Digital—English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin (Simplified), Norwegian, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Turkish
- Alternate Ending (1:46)
- Gallery (1:03)
- Theatrical Trailers
The alternate ending, in my opinion, is the one they should have used, and it’s more in keeping with the original film. In the original there’s an epilogue of the family now living in a motel, we see the door to their room open and Craig T. Nelson kicks out the TV. This other ending has the Bowen family, perhaps hours later, still fleeing in their car when Kendra’s iphone starts acting weird, the kind of weird it got before she got “waylaid” in the garage. She exclaims, “holy shit” Her dad takes it, glances at it and then tosses it out the window. Little Maddie mimics, “holy shit!”
If you’re looking for this generation’s Poltergeist this remake isn’t it. In fact they already made it before hand, twice, in the form Insidious (2010) and The Conjuring (2013). I cannot attest to the scariness of the former, though I’ve heard it’s got some solid frights, but I have seen the latter and that one terrified the fuck out of me. And both are getting or have gotten sequels made, like the original Poltergeist had.