As one of a limited number of PG rated horror movies, Tobe Hooper's 1982 spookfest Poltergeist probably conjures up a lot of nostalgia for moviegoers who watched it when they were children and were suitably terrified by its evil clowns and self-stacking chairs. Nonetheless, there's still quite a bit of horror fan snobbery directed at any horror movie that doesn't carry at least an R rating.
It makes sense that the upcoming remake of Poltergeist, from Monster House director Gil Kenan, would also try to avoid the heavier ratings in favor of the more box office friendly PG-13. In this reimagining, the Freelings are now called the Bowens and the dad is Eric Bowen, played by Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths). Eric and his wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) move to a new house but find themselves facing a living nightmare when their young daughter, Madison (Kennedi Clements) is abducted.
It doesn't sound like the plot of Poltergeist is getting shaken up too radically in the remake, but what about the tone? While promoting his upcoming mvoie Loitering With Intent, Rockwell was asked by Collider how the remake would compare to the original. After pointing out that the new Poltergeist will be in 3D, Rockwell also revealed that the center of the movie has shifted somewhat.
"The 10-year-old boy is really the protagonist this time. JoBeth Williams was the protagonist for the most part in the first one and now the kid, it’s really through his point-of-view. So it’s more of a kids’ movie so I don’t know if it’s gonna be like rated-R scary.
“It’s not like Conjuring type of scary. You know, it’s a different kind of movie. It’s more of an adventure. It’s essentially a child abduction film when you come down to it. I mean, the original Poltergeist is too."
The Conjuring, the haunted house movie that Rockwell mentioned, was famously rated R not because of any gore or sexual content, but simply because it was considered "too scary" to qualify for PG-13 by the MPAA. Although R ratings can sometimes mean box office death, The Conjuring's rating was given a powerful enough PR spin to help the movie gross well over $300 million worldwide.
Rockwell's description of Poltergeist as a "kids' movie" and his reassurances that it won't be too scary probably won't have quite the same effect, but there are plenty of kids' adventure movies that also have scary moments. Remakes that change things up a little generally turn out better than shot-for-shot remakes, so it would be unfair to dimiss Kenan's version of Poltergeist outright just for taking a different approach from the original.
Of course, that's no guarantee that the remake actually will turn out well. But hey, at least it'll be in 3D.
Poltergeist is set for release on July 24th, 2015.
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