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Original Vs. Remake: Poltergeist

05.22.2015by: Mike Catalano
Although our last House on Haunted Hill Original Vs. Remake ended in a tie, the readers were not upset as I thought they might be. A great deal actually agreed that both films may be different in terms of tone, but still represent our horror genre very well! In fact, I think both versions would make for an outstanding double feature.

For today's O vs. R, I am doing something for the very first time, which is comparing an original to a remake on the day the remake actually releases in theaters! That's right! Thanks to my man, Eric W., I was privy to a preview screening of the new (questionably necessary?) POLTERGEIST, which as stated, opens today! The original 1982 Classic is a film very close to my heart and is responsible for first implanting my fear of clowns. When I first heard they were remaking the film, I was like "Aaargh!". When I saw the first trailer, I was like "Maargh! Same movie! But the clown looks kinda creepy." Now that it's all said and done, it's time to see who moved the headstones... but forgot to move the bodies!

Story
After moving into their new home, the Freeling family begins experiencing strange happenings. Their youngest daughter, Carol Anne, appears to be communicating with some type of presence through their television set. It is determined their home is haunted and when Carol Anne ends up missing, the Freelings must go to frightful lengths in order to get her back.
Not a whole lot is altered from the original. The family's house is haunted, the youngest daughter is taken captive, and the family must go through Hell in order to bring her back. For some reason, the names are changed which doesn't represent much of a creative risk.
Special Effects
For a film made so long ago, the effects on hand are truly fantastic! And a large part of it is all gloriously practical. From something simple such as the stacking of chairs to the more elaborate "guy peeling face off", everything looks great! Factor in the attacking tree, the ghostly abduction of Carol Ann, and the grand casket/skeleton onslaught finale, and I'd say it's all pretty damn brilliant!
There are definitely some very cool effects happening here. Technology and electricity play a big part in the haunting, which makes for some pretty cool instances involving cell phones, computers, the TV, and lighting. We also get a pretty neat look into the netherworld that the little girl is taken to, even though the CGI on the skeletal-like ghosts definitely lacks a bit.
Acting
The actors involved are half the reason this film succeeds so well. Everyone is perfect! JoBeth Williams gives a flat-out Oscar worthy performance and is supported perfectly by Mr. Craig T. Nelson. The child actors are excellent, especially sweet Heather O'Rourke. And Zelda Rubinstein ties everything together with her iconic portrayal of paranormal expert, Tangina.
The remake absolutely hits a homerun in the acting department. Sam Rockwell, as usual, absolutely rocks (pun intended) bringing his signature brand of humor. I'd watch this dude in anything. Rosemarie DeWitt is also perfecly cast as the worried wife and mother. Special mention must be made to young Kyle Catlett and Kennedi Clements who are both fantastic as the brother and little sister. And yeah, Jared Harris, totally brings the fun!
Intensity
This has to be one of the scariest PG-rated movies ever. The reason the scares work so well is because of the expertly crafted, slow build style as well as the less is more approach (at first). Who knew an old tree could be so frightening. Not to mention that damn clown! Then, the tension goes through the roof as that poltergeist literally rips through the home, spreading heaping doses of horrific fright to any viewer.
Although the remake does have a sense of horror fun, it is not by any stretch of the imagination, very scary. Probably doesn't help that every attempt at a jump scare was shown in the trailers. The clown is kinda creepy, but doesn't resonate like the original's evil laugher. You can tell whenever a scare is coming and when it happens, it shouldn't freak out anyone over the age of 11.
Hot Chicks
JoBeth Williams and her little white undies will always be a very fond memory from my childhood. She always did have the ultimate hot 80's body in my opinion. Even as a mother in Poltergeist, she still brought the sexy. Those tight, revealing jean shorts may have first brought about the term MILF.
Rosemarie DeWitt was definitely a nice choice to play the mom in the remake. She certainly has a hot, mature MILF-ish-ness about her. Always thought so and certainly wouldn't mind her tucking me in at night. Saxon Sharbino is also quite cute as the oldest daughter, but she is only 15, so let's just take it easy.
Directing
Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg are absolutely masters of our genre. The men know how to scare and he know how to do it damn well! Their patience with setting up the home of the Freelings as the spirits gradually take over is expertly maneuvered. The build up of tension is amazing. Not to mention the use of everyday objects like toys, a tree, and a closet under the guise of shadows. I never realized how beautiful the film is to just look at.
Did you guys see the animated film Monster House? It was pretty damn awesome for a kid's flick. Gil Kenan directed it. That has to be why he was hired for the Poltergeist remake. The dude is a gifted director who clearly takes his job seriously and delivered a well-made update that respects its source material. He's got an eye for interesting angles and knows how to make horror fun. This film is essentially Monster House 2.
Poltergeist (1982)
Well, I'm pretty sure no one thought the 1982 classic was going to be bested, myself included. However, what really surprised me was that the remake wasn't bad at all! It's like Gil Kenan and company knew they were never going to make a film that was better than the original, so instead opted to honor Hooper's classic and make the new version a slightly different, streamlined interpretation. Although it isn't scary, there is an inherent sense of fun within the remake's walls and the performances are all top notch! So, head on out to the theaters this weekend and give it a shot! Then you will be properly armed to blast those opinion bullets down below! And if you have any flicks you'd like to see in this column, give me a shout at mikecatalano@joblo.com.

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