Apparently there are only so many ways that you can throw a chair across the room before the routine starts to get old, which is perhaps why Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper's 1982 haunted house movie Poltergeist is the latest piece of classic horror to have a modern remake slated for imminent release.
This project has been kicking around for a long time now, but was recently put back on track by MGM with Nathan Kahane and Roy Lee (two of the producers of Spike Lee's Oldboy remake) and attached to produce, along with Sam Raimi. Gil Kenan, who is best known for animated family spook movie Monster House, is the latest director to be hired for the project. Barring any more delays, he will be behind the camera when filming gets underway.
Casting calls for the remake have now begun, with plans to start shooting in September, and with them come details of some of the characters who will be making an appearance in the revamped version of Poltergeist, according to a source over at Bloody Disgusting. Firstly, the film is now about a family man called Eric Bowen (rather than Steve Freeling) who moves his wife and kids to a new town in the hopes of a fresh start, a plan which goes horribly wrong when his daughter, Madeleine, is abducted.
Zelda Rubinstein, who played the unforgettable psychic Tangina in the original Poltergeist trilogy, sadly passed away a few years ago. Her character isn't going to be revived for the remake, but is instead being replaced by a number of new experts in the field of the supernatural. Eric Bowen's wife, Amy Bowen, has the ability to communicate with the dead, and his ex-wife, Dr. Brooke Powell, works as a parapsychologist at the local university, and will more or less play the same role as Dr. Lesh by bringing in a team of researchers to investigate the house. The final new addition is Carrigan Burke, host of a TV show called Haunted House Cleaners, who is apparently unfazed by the manifestations of the supernatural.
Based on these details, it sounds like the central plot points of the original movie - the family moving into a new house, the daughter being kidnapped, and psychic powers being used to retrieve her - are going to remain the same in David Lindsay-Abaire's script, but because of Poltergeist's dominating influence within the horror genre these plot events have become clichés by this point. James Wan's Insidious could probably pass for a loose Poltergeist remake, as could certain entries in the Paranormal Activity series. So, aside from the title, what will really set Poltergeist apart as a clear remake and - more importantly - would it have been better to simply make an original film in the Poltergeist mold, thereby bypassing the certain stigma that often comes with remakes?
Of course, the most obvious argument for making a Poltergeist remake is that the original film is among the highest-grossing horror films of all time, and is still fondly remember by many, so the title still carries a lot of weight. Not enough weight to keep this project from floundering in development hell for a decade, but enough that it's finally managing to work its way into existence. If the producers stick to the PG-13 rating of the original, using the similar kind of gore-free scares that worked in the 80s, that will also work in the film's favor by including young teens in the target box office demographic. After all, who needs blood and guts when you're got evil clowns?
Money aside, there are artistic reasons - though their value might be debatable - that justify remaking old horror movies. In this particular case, it will be interesting to see whether the spirits' communication through appliances like the TV is expanded when the story is retold in the modern era, where technology is a ubiquitous part of most people's lives. It' would also be easy to use the remake as an anchor from which to subvert or question the tropes that Poltergeist helped to create within the horror genre.
The last remake that Sam Raimi delivered was of his own biggest claim to horror fame, The Evil Dead, and the commercial and critical success of that film no doubt played a significant role in finally shoving the Poltergeist remake into production. But is it enough to get audiences interested?
Let us know if you're excited for this remake, or if you think it should have been allowed to rest in peace, in the comments.
There's no release date set for Poltergeist yet, but if filming stays on schedule then it could be out by late 2014/early 2015. We'll let you know as more details emerge.
Source: Bloody Disgusting