Horror remakes are often kind of pointless. Films like Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) for the most part just redo all the classic moments from the original movie, but usually in a far less effective way. However, a decent number of horror remakes are surprisingly effective, like Evil Dead (2013), which takes the spirit of the original but changes things up with a new protagonist and new scares.
So when we found out there was going to be a remake of Poltergeist the question became, what kind of remake would this be?
The original Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, is a brilliant little horror movie. It's scary as hell, but it's definitely a product of its time, opening on the national anthem playing on television before the station shuts down for the night. That's something that would definitely leave kids today scratching their heads.
The subtext of the film is very much about technophobia, tapping into a fear of television that was terrifying in the 1980s but isn't quite as relatable today.
The new Poltergeist, directed by Gil Kenan, attempts to take the classic and update it for modern times, incorporating new technology and fears for a new generation. As far as remakes go, it actually isn’t bad, falling somewhere in between Nightmare on Elm Street and Evil Dead. It surely can’t compare to the Tobe Hooper version, though.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what Kenan did by examining 10 key differences between the 1982 film and the 2015 one.
10. Everything Happens Way Quicker
Rewatching the original Poltergeist, it might be a bit surprising how late into the movie a lot of the most famous scenes happen. The moments with the clown doll and with the skeletons in backyard actually don’t happen until the last 10 minutes.
The movie is extremely patient, and that’s part of what makes it so effective.
The remake isn’t quite as patient because neither are we as an audience. In this version, the sequence involving the clown doll happens about halfway through the film, before Maddy is taken into the spirit world. In the original, this sequence happens after Carol Anne has been rescued and after we think everyone’s safe. There, the moment is saved for the end, but the remake would rather space out the scares a bit more and get to the moment with the clown earlier.
So which is better? Overall, the original is more effective at building a sense of dread. We keep seeing the clown and keep waiting for it to do something, and then finally at the very end it strikes. On the positive side, the new version is not as slow and often tedious as the original, but that arguably makes the last act less effective because there isn't as much of a buildup.