After months of reading about remakes and reboots of ‘Horror Franchises’, I decided to go against the grain and watch my Poltergeist DVD last night. As this ‘film franchise’ from 1982, is due to have its reboot in 2015, I wanted to see if the original could have the same impact on me that it did when I first watched it as a blemished teenager back in them heady days of the 1980’s.
I remember when I first came across Poltergeist on Video Cassette in 1983. I had removed it by chance from out of shabby box owned by a bearded old chap who went by the name of ‘Big Roy’. He used to drive around in his beaten up Ford Cortina and rent out an array of various video nasties to us teenagers – which we would watch on our parents’ video machines in the evenings much to their dismay.
Some of the videos in Big Roy’s possession were from the Italian, Lucio Fulci’s genre and numerous others too infamous to mention. Some of these films were banned and uncertified by the BBFC, mainly due to the UK’s Obscene Publication Act of 1982. This was enacted to combat the flow of the most extreme of this horror variety from falling into the hands of the innocent youth.
But to me as a teenager, it wasn’t the gore of the Zombie movies or The Driller Killer or axe wielding maniac types that scared me. It was Poltergeist! This was one film that terrified the living daylights out of me. Its whole premise being psychological, ethereal and supernatural – and having a gripping entrapment that holds your senses while it shocks effortlessly without much gore at all.
So to the present, and after watching Poltergeist for the first time in years I can say that it has managed to stand the test of time, while other films from that eighties period sadly have not.
The movie was a Steven Spielberg production with Tobe Hooper (of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame), in the director’s chair.
The original Poltergeist is well paced and the lines and dialogue from the actors are delivered with an intense reality and a passion.
The film begins quite innocently enough, a cute family, the pleasant Labrador dog, all in a quiet suburban environment. It all seems so safe and tranquil. There are even gags littered in the children’s bedroom, one being a deceased budgie called ‘Tweetie’.
In addition, there is a Star Wars duvet cover, a Darth Vader mask and an Alien movie poster on the children’s bedroom wall.
But the nightmare begins soon after this opening pretence. The plot is crafted and weaved with such clever twists that you soon become drawn in before you know what to expect next.
Carol Anne, played by Heather O’ Rourke, is the young daughter of the Freeling family whom the plot revolves around. She seems to invite the strange spirits, phantom hands and whispering ghosts to materialise from out of the family’s television set.
Spielberg’s inspiration for this concept of ghost communication may have come from a science called Electronic Voice Phenomenom or ‘EVP’ as it is referred to today which is a way of contacting the dead through electronic entertainment devices.
And so when Carol Anne vanishes into another dimention via the televisions’ white noise, a paranormal team and a spiritualist medium are employed to being her back, using a selection of technical ghost hunting gadgets.
George Lucas Industrial Light & Magic’ (ILM) was used for the special effects, so understandably the quality is high. Also the use of optical camera shots was blended with precision. The scene with the kids’ clown still managed to make me jump out of my chair and it’s elements like these that can’t be recreated to the same effect with CGI. It was done with an optical snap shot frame and patience.
And on the subject of CGI, we must leave the original Poltergeist movie and spin forwards to 2015 and the Sam Raimi production of Poltergeist 4, or Poltergeist 3D as it’s now being called, with ‘Gil Kenan’ directing. Reportedly it’s going to be more of a “kids movie” (according to The Guardian), an idea that fills me with dread.
I wish the modern studios would stop remaking classic horror movies in abundance. These movies are best left as they were intended to be. I can’t see how this Poltergeist reboot can possibly hope to match and supersede the original, especially if it is going to be a ‘kids’ movie.
The thought of ipads, iphones, flat LCD televisions, mp3 players, super thin computers and other advanced audio devices can’t be used on screen with the same effect for ghost communication.
Then there’s the obvious CGI that will no doubt be used in abundance. I know that these modern techniques have their benefits. However, to me, years ago you would spend weeks shooting and re-shooting to get that perfect special effect result. With the onset of CGI you can do the same thing in a matter of hours and days. This may help the small independent filmmaker with his ideas but the big studios tend to overuse it as a shortcut and it can become a lazy form of filmmaking, degrading the originality and optical technicality that horror filmmaking once had.
Call me old fashioned with my views but I’m still living back in the 1980s and prefer the filmmaking techniques from that era.
Nevertheless, if this Poltergeist remake can manage to thrill audiences in 2015 as the original did back in 1982, then I will be the first to sing its praises. It’s going to be one hell of a task to pull off, so I for one am not holding my breath.
The film is due in US cinemas this spring and in the UK in the summer.