Some names have been changed, the TVs are bigger, there are smartphones in play, and Zelda Rubenstein's beautifully weird Tangina has been replaced by Lane Pryce from Mad Men, but by and large, this Poltergeist sticks to the original's playbook.
Hooper and Steven Spielberg's suburban haunted house movie was a rare effects-driven horror tale, and this version, from director Gil Kenan and producer Sam Raimi, sticks to that. Of course, the effects are digital now, but they actually look well-executed.
This new Poltergeist replaces Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams as the Freelings with Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt as the Bowens. 8-year-old Kennedi Clements takes over as Madison, their daughter yanked into another dimension by malevolent spirits. Saxon Sharbino and Kyle Catlett also appear as the other Bowen kids. Zelda Rubenstein walked away with the original as Tangina, a role that's had its gender swapped, with Jared Harris carrying the exposition this time.
Regardless of how nicely done the effects and some of the scares are, though, there's a smell of familiarity here that's about more than this being a remake. Poltergeist has been influential for decades, providing inspiration for all manner of horror films. So even though Poltergeist preceded a lot stuff like, say, Insidious, this remake might smack of staleness to anybody not familiar with the first movie, which spawned two inferior sequels.
Still, there's plenty of spookablast goodness on display in the trailer. Mayhaps that's because spookablast legend Sam Raimi is the Spielberg to Kenan's Hooper, producing through his Ghost House Pictures.
"The original film commented on how we've let television get out of control, babysitting our kids," Raimi said earlier this year. "It's only gotten worse with the handheld portable devices. Screens are everywhere."
"The film is super-scary," enthused Kenan. "And it's scary on its own terms. I am excited to finally be able to share that with the world."
Poltergeist unleashes malevolent spirits on the world in theaters May 22nd.