‘Poltergeist’ First Look: They’re Heeere…(And They Look Awfully Familiar)
The original 1984 ‘Poltergeist’ is one of the best horror films ever made. With its PG rating, it’s also one of the great Trojan Horses of genre cinema. Parents show it to their kids, thinking it will be a a little scary but totally family-friendly experience, only to realize too late (usually around the point where the guy hallucinates his face being torn off) that the movie means business. So, when we dive into the first look at the upcoming ‘Poltergeist’ remake, we do so with the skepticism of people who think the original masterpiece holds up as well today as it did over 30 years ago.
The first images from the film come to us courtesy of USA Today, who also sat down with director Gil Kenan and producer Sam Raimi. Raimi is, of course, the mad genius behind everything from ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘Spider-Man,’ making him the ideal guy to help shepherd a glossy new version of a horror classic. Kenan, while not as well known, is also a superb fit for the material, having directed the genuinely spooky animated movie ‘Monster House.’
At the very least, Kenan is well aware that he’s treading on a material that is already near-perfect. If you’re going to build your new house on sacred Indian burial ground, you might as well know what you’re getting into:
Whenever someone approaches material that’s so beloved, there’s a reflexive reaction to be worried. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously. We’re working to make a Poltergeist film that lives up to the original’s legacy.
And truth be told, Kenan appears to be putting his money where his mouth is, at least when it comes to the film’s cast. This is a horror movie starring the great Sam Rockwell (as the patriarch of the family besieged by otherworldly forces) and ‘Mad Men’ veteran Jared Harris (playing the clairvoyant called in to assist with the ghost problem). By casting people we can take seriously, the remake already has a leg up on much of its horror brethren. Kenan continues:
Unlike the traditional horror film, I wanted to put together a cast to give weight and reality to these characters. It’s the way to anchor the family. It’s such an emotional story at the core. Parents fighting to get their child back from the beyond.
And yep, the ghosts communicating with the family through their television set will still be a thing in the remake, with Raimi suggesting that the scares (and the commentary) could extend to other devices as well:
The original film commented on how we’ve let television get out of control, babysitting our kids. It’s only gotten worse with the handheld portable devices. Screens are everywhere.
‘Poltergeist’ has endured because it’s just terrifying enough. If it was harsher, it wouldn’t have gotten that PG rating. If it was lighter, it wouldn’t have the same kind of impact. We have already heard word (straight from Rockwell’s mouth) that the remake will be a family film, which is one half of the equation. Can the new one appeal to younger horror-buffs-in-the-making while being frightening? Kenan seems to think so:
The film is super-scary. And it’s scary on its own terms. I am excited to finally be able to share that with the world.
That’s a big promise. We honestly hope the final film lives up to those words. You can check out the rest of the images from the film below (which you can click to enlarge) or head over to the original article for additional details.
‘Poltergeist’ opens in theaters on July 24.