Poltergeist: What You Need To Know
The last few years have seen a number of classic horror movies getting the remake treatment, with films like The Omen, The Amityville Horror and Carrie all being remade or rebooted for the big screen. The latest of these is Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg's seminal haunted house flick Poltergeist, with a new version produced by Sam Raimi and directed by Gil Keenan released in cinemas earlier this year.
The new film arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday (October 19th) but how does it stack up to the 1982 original? Here's everything you need to know...
Who's in it?
Sam Rockwell and Rosemary DeWitt appear as the parents of the Bowen family whose new house contains more than a few surprises, with Touch's Saxon Sharbino and The Following's Kyle Catlett appearing as the family's eldest children, with young actress Kennedi Clements taking on the role of youngest sibling Madison.
Jared Harris also appears as priest / paranormal investigator Carrigan Burke, while elsewhere there are roles for Jane Adams, Susan Heyward and Nicholas Braun.
What's the plot?
Although this isn't a shot-for-shot remake of the original in the vein of John Moore's 2006 version of The Omen, Gil Kenan's film doesn't deviate too far from the original plot either, so we still begin with the Bowen family moving into their new home full of wild-eyed optimism, blissfully unaware that the house is built directly on top of a former graveyard. No sooner have they moved in than they start hearing strange noises in the middle of the night, and before long the spirits lurking in the closet take an interest in the youngest daughter Madison, dragging her through a portal into their dimension.
Enter Carrigan Burke, who explains in a fairly dodgy Irish accent that the house they have purchased is being terrorised by poltergeists angry at the fact that the family have moved in on top of their graves. He explains that while they may have been told that the bodies were moved from the site of the former cemetery, in truth it was only the headstones that were relocated – the graves themselves remain very much underneath them. He also explains that if they want their child back then one of them will have to enter the spirit world to retrieve her.
For anyone who has already seen the 1982 original, all of the above will seem pretty familiar, but where the new version really differs is that it's the kids, not the adults, who are the main protagonists here and the story is told much more from their point of view. There have also been huge advances in visual effects over the three decades that have passed since the original first arrived in cinemas, so this time we actually get to see inside the spirit world, instead of it being left to the imagination. Many of the most iconic factors – we're looking at you, demonic clown doll – are also still present and correct in Kenan's version.
Does it deliver?
Sam Raimi said when he took on the project that he wanted to update the film “for modern audiences” and while that's a fairly generic statement to make, perhaps he's working under the assumption that the internet and social media have made us all very impatient. The pace of the new film does feel much quicker and in some ways that's a good thing – the original film does have quite a bit of padding - but it also loses some of the tension that comes from being made to wait for the really scary bits.
That said, he and Kenan have done a good job of paying respect to the original without being too reverent and fans of the horror genre will enjoy it more than most. Although the film's PG13 rating is roughly the equivalent of the original, this does feel more targeted at younger audiences and you have to hand it to the young actors here; the future looks bright for all of them. If you enjoyed the updated versions of films like The Amityville Horror, you'll probably find plenty to like about Poltergeist too.