In “Theaters” Now: Poltergeist v. Poltergeist

When I decided to start this blog, I had one standard that I wanted to hold myself to. Specifically, I wanted to keep it positive. In other words, I didn’t want to spend the summer dumping on horror movies. Look, it is shockingly easy to find faults in movies (hat goes doubly so when it comes to horror movies)… I’ve spent hours (probably months… okay, years) of my life dissecting and ripping apart movies… anyone who spent any amount of time in my general vicinity during the summer of 2003 couldn’t help but get sucked into the orbit of the planetoid that was my rage towards Ang Lee’s Hulk. At the end of the day though the makers of even the worst movies have accomplished something (Ang Lee included) that very few of us have… they brought something into creation that millions (or at least thousands) will see… and judge. That last sentence made me nauseous… just knowing that (if the stats are to be believed) that a couple dozen people have read my first few posts has caused a minor bit of insomnia… thousands?… nope… no thank you (but, please keep reading… I’ll find a way to deal with my anxiety). Therefore, who am I to judge… well, more exactly, who am I to put my judgements up on the web for others to read. So, no judgments… at least, that was the plan. Then, my beautiful girlfriend had an ugly idea on Friday. She saw that the Poltergeist remake was out… so, “wouldn’t it be fun for you to watch the original and the remake in one day and then blog about it” (paraphrasing)? It sounded like a good idea at the time… at the time being two Manhattans in to the evening… Cut to me walking into the theater this afternoon after having watched the original Poltergeist this morning (more on that later). I sheepishly walked up to the ticket counter and squeaked “one for Poltergeist, please.”… okay, that right there? That was lie… I was so embarrassed that I actually bought the tickets on my phone in the parking lot of the theater, like some kind of illicit transaction. This would mean that my shame would be shared between two people… myself and the ticket taker. I tried to go into this without preconceived notions… I swear… really, I tried. Considering that my response to the Ticket-takers “enjoy the show” platitude was a barely audible “doubt it”, which was received with direct eye contact and a knowing nod, indicates that I failed miserably in my goal. I walked into the vaguely urine-scented theater already questioning my plans for the summer… and other life-decisions. It was five minutes before show time… more accurately, five minutes before the ten minutes of commercials and twenty minutes of previews that seem to precede every movie these days. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “raging about the ads before a movie… very original”. However, the fact that it’s a cliché does not reduce the truth behind the experience or my feelings towards that experience. I’m completely alone in the theater… feeling like in in a 21st century version of that classic Twilight Zone episode, where all the protagonist wants to do is read books, but people keep getting in the way… until the apocalypse makes him the last man on Earth? The difference? He’s reading books and I’m watching a remake of a horror movie. I’m wasting my life… thank god… a couple walked in… confirmation that the world still exists… feeling solidarity in my poor life decisions. The movie final starts… now there are two couples in the theater, plus myself… starting to feel a bit cramped in here. Without spoilers, here are a couple of random thoughts I jotted down during the movie:

  • Hey, it’s not a complete loss, after the ticked and a tasty Coke Zero (please sponsor me Coke!) I’m now only $1.36 away from getting a $10 gift card!
  • Man, this movie is really hitting you over the head with the whole technology angle… I think that the seventh use of the word “technology” in the last two minutes.
  • First “cheap scare”… we’re only three minutes in… blerg!
  • Too much family strife and drama… the original family seemed nicer… it’s making me start to feel like these guys deserve a poltergeist
  • Sam Rockwell… the put-upon Father/Husband… he’s always great… though, I miss Craig T. Nelson… hmmm…. a sentence I never thought I’d say… unless I had just finished a marathon of Coach… how, weird is it that Coach is coming back… wait, what just happened in the movie… oh, another stupid jump-moment?
  • Movie Executive while pitching the remake: “You know what’s scarier than a toy clown?… Eleven toy clowns” (*does a line of cocaine off of a mirrored table*).
  • Feels like a copy of a copy… the original “inspired “ movies like Paranormal Activity and Insidious and now the remake just feels like they’re doing the same thing as said movies…
  • The bit with the drill is pretty good…

That’s where my notes end… because, somewhere near the last third of the movie (whenever it is when the paranormal investigators come in), I found myself sucked in. The movie was following many of the same beats (and direct lines) of the original, but there was enough new, enough different that I stopped thinking about the original and just started watching it on its own merit… and, at the end of the day, isn’t that the best a remake can hope for? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should rush out and spend your hard earned dollars on this movie (hell, go see Mad Max: Fury Road twice… that movie deserves it), but on a long flight or a rainy night in (when it’s free on Netflix) it might be worth a watch… just keep your expectations low (real low, like a slight bump in the carpet low) and you may have some fun. Before leaving you for the day, I do want to come back to the fact that I watched the original Poltergeist this morning. It’s was a dreary morning, so I decided to watch it with the blackout curtains drawn and the lights off… it did a fairly good job of simulating night (so much so, that our dog was thoroughly confused, and ended up spending most of the movie curled up next to me snoring… though, to be fair, she probably would have been doing the same thing in full daylight). Anyway… I had the same reaction to the movie I’ve had every time I watch it… ever since my first viewing at age ten… I just don’t find it very scary. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the movie… quite the opposite, in fact… I think it’s a pretty great movie… just not a great horror movie… it doesn’t register to me as a horror movie. Part of me wonders if that’s what Spielberg was going for (by the way, I know there is a ton of lore surrounding the original, so sometimes the whole Tobe Hopper/Steven Spielberg stuff gets lost in the curse hullabaloo… but, for some interesting reading about who really directed the film check out the following link: http://www.poltergeist.poltergeistiii.com/really.html)). Like most of Spielberg’s earlier films it feels more like an adventure movie… yes, there are some (effective) scare moments (for example, I think I wipe the face sloughing scene from my memory after every viewing), but once Carol Anne is dragged into “the other side” (thirty-seven minutes in) the movie shifts into this wonderful, action-pack adventure tone, focused on the hero’s devising a plan to get her back. At the end of this viewing I had the thought that if you were going to call it a horror film, you really that to call it a horror movie for the masses… I don’t mean this as a negative…, it is probably the horror movie that legitimized the genre. This last part will contain a bit of a spoiler for the original, so if you don’t want to read it, you can stop reading hear (and just in case you do stop reading I’ll say “goodbye” here… see you tomorrow!). One last (probably controversial) thought: I would probably trade the last third of the new Poltergeist for the last third of the original Poltergeist. I just can’t get over the logic flaws of the last twenty minutes of the original… you can’t drop your family off at the Holiday Inn before going to office!?! You are horrible parents Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams! me

3 thoughts on “In “Theaters” Now: Poltergeist v. Poltergeist

  1. Long blog posts put me off at the moment (I’m in a flash fiction place right now) but I manage your posts fine because they don’t feel like posts, more like just being in the room with you ranting on about films. And that’s cool, I think.

    Like

    1. I’m glad that you enjoyed, and that you stuck it out! I’m trying to keep my posts under 1,000 words… I tend to be a verbose writer, but if I chop it down more than that I feel like my “voice” starts getting lost.

      Liked by 1 person

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