Poltergeist (film series)

"They're here"
"They're here"
D: Tobe Hooper
MGM (Steven Spielberg)
US 1982
114 mins
W: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais & Mark Victor
DP: Matthew F. Leonetti
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
JoBeth Williams (Diane Freeling), Craig T. Nelson (Steven Freeling), Beatrice Straight (Dr. Lesh), Dominique Dunne (Dana Freeling), Oliver Robbins (Robbie Freeling), Heather O'Rourke (Carol Anne Freeling), Zelda Rubinstein (Tangina Barrons)
Tobe Hooper may be the credited director, but suspicions that producer Steven Spielberg had more than his two cents of input are justified. Even so, it remains one of the scariest haunted house movies of the post-1980's, with some rather excellent special effects for its time.
A regular suburban family experience a series of supernatural disturbances in their idyllic neighbourhood. Items of furniture move around on their own, a tree in the front garden moves by itself, a toy clown seems to come to life and the family's youngest daughter vanishes without a trace. The family hire a team of paranormal investigators and make some shocking discoveries about their home.
Whether or not you're a fan of ghost stories or horrors in general, Poltergeist is sure to leave you with goosebumps and tingles as its stories unfold. If not, then perhaps the occult happenings surrounding the film, both on set and following the filming of the production may be enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. I won't get into the details in this film review, but they're certainly worth an investigation into.


"They're back"
"They're back"
D: Brian Gibson
MGM/United Artists (Freddie Fields)
US 1986
90 mins
W: Michael Grais & Mark Victor
DP: Andrew Laszlo
Ed: Thom Noble, Bud Smith & M. Scott Smith
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

JoBeth Williams (Diane Freeling), Craig T. Nelson (Steven Freeling), Oliver Robbins (Robbie Freeling), Heather O'Rourke (Carol Anne Freeling), Zelda Rubinstein (Tangina Barrons), Will Sampson (Taylor), Julian Beck (Rev. Henry Kane)
Special effects dependent sequel to the original 1982 film, with the members of the Freleng family still haunted by evil spirits after moving into a new home.
The fine effects provide a handful of thrilling and scary moments and the main villain of the film is eerily sinister (actor Julian Beck was suffering from terminal cancer at the time of filming, which gave him a truly emaciated appearance), but much of the film feels like a tired retread of the original story, particularly Zelda Rubinstein unnecessarily returning to the fold with her gimmicky character.

Julian Beck in Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Julian Beck in Poltergeist II: The Other Side

D: Gary Shearman
MGM/United Artists (Barry Bernardi)
US 1988
98 mins
W: Gary Shearman & Brian Taggart
DP: Alex Nepomniaschy
Ed: Ross Albert
Mus: Joe Renzetti
Tom Skerritt (Bruce Gardner), Nancy Allen (Pat Gardner), Heather O'Rourke (Carol Anne Freeling), Zelda Rubinstein (Tangina Barrons), Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna Gardner)
Overshadowed by the real-life death of young star Heather O'Rourke, this third film of the series is a very lacklustre sequel, focusing on the young girl who is still haunted by spirits even though she's moved away from her parents and into her aunt & uncle's high rise in Chicago.
The second half of the film feels unfinished and unscripted and there's very little horror or shocking moments to recommend the film to even huge fans of the genre.

Heather O'Rourke in Poltergeist III
Heather O'Rourke in Poltergeist III

D: Gil Kenan
20th Century Fox/MGM/Ghost House (Roy Lee, Robert G. Tapert & Sam Raimi)
US 2015
93 mins (Uncut version: 101 mins)


W: David Lindsay-Abaire [based on the 1982 screenplay by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais & Mark Victor]
DP: Javier Aguirresarobe
Ed: Jeff Betancourt & Bob Murawski
Mus: Marc Streitenfeld

Sam Rockwell (Eric Bowen), Rosemarie DeWitt (Amy Bowen), Jared Harris (Carrigan Burke), Jane Adams (Dr. Brooke Powell)

My rule of thumb is that a film should only be remade if it's either an improvement on the original or another director feels that he can add his own artistic interpretation to the original source, anything else is purely for commercial reasons and generally lazy filmmaking. Poltergeist is lazy filmmaking.
The original wasn't quite perfect, but it has still dated reasonably well and still serves as a family-friendly horror movie with some atmospheric and chilling moments. The remake takes the scary scenes which built up tentatively in the original film and simply crams them into one plot device, updating the bare bones of the story with some 21st century tech and blatant product placement.
The characters here are so poorly written that they might as well not have names and their behaviour and interaction with each other doesn't come off as believable for a second. 
The biggest loss is replacing Jerry Goldsmith's creepy music with a score which doesn't echo with foreboding dread. It's just bargain basement shit for the lowest common denomination of moviegoer.
Watch the original instead, it's far more rewarding.