How do you make a Poltergeist remake in 2015? The original is so thoroughly stigmatized with drama and superstition that a remake, albeit long rumored, seemed impossible. And yet, here we are looking at official images from the set.
The original 1982 horror film, directed by Tobe Hooper was notoriously difficult to produce, with rumored fighting between Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg. To this day, it's unclear how significant a role Spielberg had in the film; at the time the director's contract at Universal Studios prevented him from taking the official director role on Poltergeist, but even fellow Poltergeist producer Frank Marshall called Spielberg the film's "creative force."
There's also a superstition, originally believed to be circulated by crew members, that the production was haunted. The film itself deals with a cemetery beneath the family home of the main characters. For scenes involving skeletons, the prop master used actual skeletons. Lovers of the phantasmagoric speculated about how the vengeful ghouls of the film echoed into the real world. Following filming the Poltergeist trilogy, three of its former child actors died in grisly, strange ways.
Hollywood is hesitant about any risky project, so the drama and "curse" seem like reason enough for studios to pass on a multi-million dollar remake. But the real reason I'm shocked Poltergeist is actually getting remade is because it's so of its era. The film is a parable about America's habit of demolishing its history to make way for bigger and better. Its family's patriarch is a successful real estate developer hoping to capitalize on a booming market for planned communities. The entry point for the film's titular ghouls is a CRTV that still receives analog static transmissions. And the "do bad" moment — the impure act protagonists commit that makes them a target of evil; you know, like the teenage girl having sex in a slash film — is the parents smoking pot.
A lot has changed since 1982.
All that said, damn does this remake have gobs of talent. Director Gil Kenan (Monster House), producer Sam Raimi (Evil Dead), and Pulitzer Prize-winning screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole) are guiding Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, who will play the parents who seek help when their daughter is taken by evil spirits. The supernatural researcher called in for support is played by Jared Harris, one of the most underrated members of the Mad Men cast.
The story on USA Today includes a quote hinting at what direction the reboot will take:
"The original film commented on how we've let television get out of control, babysitting our kids," says Raimi. "It's only gotten worse with the handheld portable devices. Screens are everywhere."
The Poltergeist reboot will open on July 24, 2015. Visit USA Today for more images.