Remakes, remakes, remakes. What can possibly be said about remakes that hasn’t been said before? Many times people get up in arms about Hollywood remaking a film because they don’t want their childhood memories of the original tarnished by a slick, new re-imaging, but the fact is that there have been some kick ass remakes over the years. John Carpenter’s THE THING, Cronenberg’s THE FLY, and Chuck Russell’s THE BLOB are three remakes that immediately stand out as being better than the originals. Then there’s more recent ones that hit the ball out of the park: THE RING, EVIL DEAD, and FRIGHT NIGHT remakes were all really well done. Were they better than the original? No, but they all did really solid jobs of both paying homage to the original while at the same time going further than the originals did.
This brings us to the remake of POLTERGEIST. How dare they try and remake such a classic horror film!! How dare they mess with perfection!! How dare they … hold on … this actually wasn’t that bad. In fact, I found myself enjoying the hell out of the POLTERGEIST remake. Is it a perfect film? No. Is it better than the original? No. But the writer of this remake, David Lindsay-Abaire, nailed the perfect balance of paying homage to the original while at the same time exploring aspects of the story that weren’t explored in the original.
The film begins with the Bowen family moving into a new home in a new town. The father, Eric (Sam Rockwell), has been laid off and the family is downsizing its lifestyle until Eric can find a new job. They move into an area that has been hit hard with foreclosures and they get a great price on their new house. From the very beginning the viewer sees that the Bowen’s are a close family. Even when the oldest teen daughter, Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) is being a bitch, she’s not really that bitchy. I liked the closeness of the family and felt it was a nice touch. So many horror films create unnecessary, fake tension by having family members be at each other’s throats. It is nice to see a family who is close and who have a tight bond.
Almost immediately the weird shit starts happening. Even before they move one box into their new home, the youngest Bowen child, Madison (Kennedi Clements), is talking to something in the closet. Before you know it, furniture is flying around the room, trees and clowns are attacking the kids, a thick blood-like goo is flooding the kitchen, and Madison disappears into the closet only to surface inside the television set. What is a family to do?
Eric and his wife, Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt), realize they can’t go to the police with the story that their daughter was abducted through a solid closet wall only to reappear inside their Sony, so they reach out to the paranormal community. Amy recruits the help of some paranormal investigators from the nearby university and they set up shop inside the house. Dr. Powell (Jane Adams) and her two assistants Sophie (Susan Heyward) and Boyd (Nicholas Braun) set up sensors and heat detectors all over the house. They are skeptical at first but soon come to realize that the house isn’t just haunted by ghosts, but has a powerful poltergeist presence that won’t give up their daughter. Dr. Powell knows she is out of her depth and calls in an expert, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), a man who has strong ties to the paranormal world and who has a long history battling evil ghosts and poltergeists and who pays the bills by starring in a reality show about a man who cleanses houses. His catch phrase after clearing a house of its evil presence is, “This house is cleansed.” A cute homage to the line that Zelda Rubinstein made famous in the original film.
Those familiar with the original 1982 POLTERGEIST will no doubt feel like they’re in familiar territory. The remake follows that same blueprint as the original film, recreates some of the classic moments from the original, and also explores new territory not found in the original film. This is what makes this film work. We get re-imagings of the clown scene, the tree that comes alive scene, the pool full of corpses scene, and the “face-peeling” scene (seriously, how the hell did the original film get a PG rating with that face-peeling scene??). These were some of the moments that made the original POLTERGEIST so damn fun.
But writer David Lindsay-Abaire and director Gil Kenan then explore uncharted territory the original never delved into, and this is where the remake really shines. We get a more in-depth exploration of the spiritual world Madison was abducted into and even get to experience what that world looks like from the inside. There’s lots of creepy creatures inside that realm and I though it added a whole new, fun dimension to the overall film. I enjoyed exploring this “other” realm and seeing the horrors that Madison was experiencing. There’s also a really fun drill scene that will make you wince and the ending is a fun variation on the original film’s ending where the father rolls the TV out of the hotel room after they escape the house.
As far as some negative aspects of the remake, the set up felt a little long. We all know where everything is headed, but the set up felt a little long winded which made some of the actual ghost action feel rushed. Apparently the original cut of the film ran for a hundred and one minutes. The theatrical version cut eight minutes of footage that will supposedly be released as a director’s cut on the DVD and Blu-ray release. It’ll be interesting to see from where in the film the eight minutes was cut.
If you look above to the films I listed as being great remakes they all share one thing in common: They are all remakes and re-imaginings of their original films, and POLTERGEIST has the perfect balance of the old and the new which make it an awful lot of fun. Definitely check out the POLTERGEIST remake if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.
Director: Gil Kenan
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 0 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Poltergeist Shenanigans: 5 out of 5 corpses
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer