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Article by Teddy Durgin

'Poltergeist' fails to scare up any new frights - by Teddy Durgin - "Poltergeist" is one of THE seminal films of my childhood. I was 11 when I experienced it in the summer of 1982. Bless the power of Steven Spielberg back then. Coming off the gargantuan successes of "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," he got "Poltergeist" - for which he is credited as producer and co-screenwriter - a PG rating. This was two years before PG-13 would be an option. So an R would have severely limited its box office. As a result, millions of little Generation X'ers witnessed their first real, true cinematic frights and scares. What a jolt it was! From the skeletons in the pool to the tree snatching the boy out of his bed to Carol Anne's disembodied voice traveling all over the house, it was an intense experience made great by the fact that the family in the film, their house, their neighborhood, their very lives were all so... so... ordinary! This wasn't some flick set in a Gothic castle in Ye Olde Europe or some creaky, boarded-up mansion out in the middle of nowhere that you would expect to be haunted. This was a suburban, single-family home in a community full of cul-de-sacs, bus stops and kids riding bikes. The new 2015 remake? Ugh. What a limp, lifeless, unnecessary film that basically repeats the exact beats of the original. It throws in a few tweaks here and there to justify its existence, but generally squanders whatever opportunity it had to be good. New "Poltergeist" offers not a single moment, line of dialogue or CGI scare to make it truly stand apart from the '82 original. The sad thing is, it's obvious how this remake could have stood out. Director Gil Kenan should have approached the story from the outside in. Instead of introducing the main family with Sam Rockwell as the harried dad and Rosemarie DeWitt as the frantic mom to a teenage daughter and an elementary-school age son and daughter who discover their new home is haunted by evil forces, the story should have been about the paranormal expert who is eventually summoned to get rid of the malevolent force. In the remake, that person is celebrity ghost-buster Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), who hosts a cable TV show in which he ventures into haunted houses, does battle with the spirits inside, and once he rids each place of its ghost(s) declares, "This house is clean!" If you center the remake on his character who is brought into a story already in progress so that we meet the family through his eyes, then you can have some real fun retelling the narrative. Instead, Kenan opts to rehash the same plot as the original, throwing in little changes here and there, but never really veering far from the source material. I wish he - Ah, the hell with it! I just want to write about the original. What a great freakin' movie! People forget that it and Spielberg's "E.T." were released one week apart in June 1982. They were shot less than 20 minutes from each other. And Spielberg auditioned many of the kids for both films. So, Drew Barrymore could easily have been Carol Anne in "Poltergeist" and Oliver Robins could have easily been Elliott in "E.T." JoBeth Williams should have been both moms, by the way, because she was smokin' hot. She was like the ultimate suburban soccer mom I'd like to - Ahem. And you can't tell me Spielberg didn't direct "Poltergeist." I know Tobe Hooper is credited. But there's no way he mimicked Spielberg's shooting style and use of light and sound that precisely. You also had a flat-out awesome music score by Jerry Goldsmith and the special effects of ILM making up for decades of cheesy horror-flick visuals. So, my friends, what's my final take? Rent the 1982 original "Poltergeist" obviously!

"Poltergeist" (2015) is rated PG-13 for frightening sequences, brief suggestive material and some language.


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