31 Days of Halloween 2015 – Day 1 – Poltergeist ’82 vs Poltergeist ’15

polter2This is the first post in my daily 31 Days of Halloween blogathon, and this post features a battle between two Poltergeists.  We’ve got everything in this year’s movie marathon, from crap to shining gold.  The two Poltergeist movies aren’t either one, but Poltergeist (2015) has a lot more crap than gold. Almost everything about it is copied from other movies. Everything original is thrown out for this one, which is probably my main complaint about it.  My other complaint is that it isn’t scary.  At all.  It actually looks well-made, but today’s society is used to endless jump-scares or riveting atmosphere, at the very least. This movie has neither of those. It’s a nostaglia trip and not much more than that.

Poltergeist (1982) feels more panic driven and I think the performances are better. Unlike the remake, the original Poltergeist has no endless string of horror set-pieces, instead relying on a build-up of tension. It still has stupid horror tropes, but they are paced much better than in the remake. Zelda Rubinstein as the paranormal psychic lady is a welcome surprise and her replacement in the remake is a disappointment.

polter3The setup for both movies is pretty much the same, with a few minor tweaks that are much bigger than at first glance. Craig T. Nelson plays the father in the original, who is a successful real estate developer, which is why he can afford to move his family to a large house in the suburbs. Sam Rockwell plays an unemployed father in the remake, who has maxed out all his credit cards to keep his family afloat. The character changes are subtle, but seem to be purposeful commentary on today’s family unit. It works, but it’s unnecessary and stereotypical.

polter4The paranormal investigators in the remake are straight out of popular media, such as on shows like “Ghost Hunters” on the SyFy channel. They call in a spirit investigator who has one of these shows, and all the kids are familiar with him. They’re in awe of him, like he’s some kind of celebrity. He’s just your normal British everyman, and every time he’s on screen, I can tell his character is there to get audience sympathy. Desperately. Somehow. His character motivation is weak at best.

The paranormal investigator in the original is played by Zelda Rubinstein, whose first major role was in the 1982 Poltergeist. Her character feels creepy and distinct, and her shoe-in to the story is not all she has going on.  She seems to have a better presence than Jared Harris, even though she probably had less experience.  I don’t know, it just feels like a better fit for the character—a wacko paranormal lady instead a stiff-ass Brit.  It works for me.

polter5It’s not that I really hate the remake all that much, because it’s not a bad movie, it’s just boring and choppy. The pace and the flow of the scenes are both very, very poorly done. There are a couple of horror scares that work, but most of them are strung together with no flow or build-up. It’s like these guys had a list of things they wanted in the movie before they actually had a story or a plot. Hey, let’s have a big tree grab someone! Hey, let’s have a scary clown like the original! They forgot that there’s been at least two scary doll movies released recently and this trope is as tired as any other.

For positives, the best part of the remake is the drill scene with actor, Nicholas Braun. It takes over 45 minutes to get there, but this scene felt like it finally had tension. There are many more of those kind of scenes in the original. Many of the horror setups have a slower build, like the stairs scene, which has a 4 minute build to something weird. The classic scene of the skeleton head coming out of the closet is also a shock and played well by Craig T. Nelson. Also, the ten minute long attack on the mother and the kids is not bad either. As it is, the remake has many repetitive things from the original, but most of them are cut short.  There’s no build-up.  They do add other things not in the original, but they’re all copied from newer horror movies like Ouija or Annabelle.

It’s funny how poorly the remake treats the family unit and humiliates the father’s character for the sake of some poorly conceived drama or angst. The original isn’t all that scary either, not anymore, but at least it has class and respect for families. Not every teenage girl is a bimbo with a cellphone. Not every father is an out-of-work drinker. How can there be more stereotypes in a 2015 movie than one from 1982? I don’t get it.  Aren’t we more progressive?  I guess not.

In all, both of these movies show the history of horror movies. Watching both of them all over again was a good time, but some of the negatives just irk me to no end.  Poltergeist seems like the perfect venue for exploring something family-related, but that could have easily been done with something original.



31. Poltergeist (1982) vs Poltergeist (2015) – This post
30. Blair Witch Project (1999)
29. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) 
28. The Wicker Man (1973) vs The Wicker Man Remake 
27. Tales from the Darkside, the Movie (1990) 
26. Saw (2004)
25. The Prophecy (1995) 
24. The Hills have Eyes (1977)
23. House of the Long Shadows (1983)
22. Creepshow (1982) 
21. Phantasm (1979) 
20. The Omen (1976) vs Damien: The Omen II
19. We Are Still Here (2015) 
18. The Guest (2010) 
17. Return of the Living Dead (1985) 
15. The House that Dripped Blood (1971) 
14. Army of Darkness (1992) 
13. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
12. Friday the 13th Part III
11. Theater of Blood (1973)
10. House of Wax (1953) vs House of Wax (2005)
9. Hellraiser Inferno (2000)
8. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) 
7. The Changeling (1980) 
6. The Eye (2002)
5. The Hitcher (1986) 
4. Paranormal Activity (2007)
3. 28 Days Later (2003)
2. Suspiria (1977)
1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – This review will be published October 31st!