Legendary filmmaker Sam Raimi ("Spiderman," "Evil Dead", "The Grudge") and director Gil Kenan ("Monster House") contemporize the classic tale about a family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces. When the terrifying apparitions escalate their attacks and hold the youngest daughter captive, the family must come together to rescue her before she disappears forever.
Although there have been an onslaught of remakes and reboots over the years, there has been one rule along the way: do not touch a beloved classic. Creative ways have been found to re-imagine certain franchises ('Star Trek') and some have been prequelized with a rebooting format ('The Thing'), but no studio has dared to touch a nostalgic property like 'Back to the Future' or 'Indiana Jones' … until now.
There was quite a lot of ho-hum online when it was announced that Fox would be remaking the (arguably) most iconic non-R rated horror movie of all time, 'Poltergeist.' From that moment, I think it's safe to say that most people entirely wrote it off. Without knowing the cast or filmmakers, fans of the original weren't ready – not even for a moment – to give the remake a chance. It comes as absolutely no surprise that it wasn't a critical nor a box office hit (made with a budget of $35 million, the worldwide theatrical income topped at $95.6 million) – but it should have been. Being one of those folks who didn't want to see it remade, I kept my mind open anyway and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
When you look at the new 'Poltergeist' on paper, there's no reason to doubt it. With Sam Raimi producing, Gil Kenan (of 'Monster House' fame) in the director's chair, and Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jared Harris starring, there's no reason to assume that it would be anything but a great time.
The Bowen family is down and out. Head of the household, Eric (Rockwell), was recently laid off from his job at John Deere and his wife, Amy (DeWitt), is a stay-at-home writer – meaning there's little income – so they're moving into a cheap previously-lived-in home in the suburbs. They haven't liked any of the homes that they've looked at that are within their new low price range, but find the most recent home to be the least awful of the many they've walked through. It's got some quirks, but nothing over-the-top nor deal-breaking. It's not until they spend their first night in the new place that odd things start happening. The sassy teenage daughter, Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), carries the self-centered and oblivious characteristics that we expect from girls of that age, so nothing phases her. She's clueless to the recent happenings. The youngest child, Madison (Kennedi Clements), is so innocent and naïve that none of the occurrences strike her as odd. But the middle child, Griffin (Kyle Catlett), is the only one who sees what's really going on. Being a paranoid worrier, each of the paranormal activities hit him hard. With Mom and Dad not seeing any of it, they write off Griffin's vocal concerns as nothing more than exaggerated storytelling.
Like the original 'Poltergeist,' there are great moments of terrifying ghostly activities that follow. Although not directed by Raimi, you can definitely feel his presence in these moments. There's a great unpredictability from them. You may be laughing in one moment, only to jump and be terrified two seconds later. Without using the effortless cheap tricks of loud thumping sounds to drive tension (like the 'Paranormal Activity' movies), 'Poltergeist' is tactful and impactful. An early concern of mine was that the film would do nothing more than be a scene-for-scene recreation of the first. Fortunately, it's played with and modernized. This style of adaptation keeps it entirely fresh, yet familiar through the homage it pays to the original.
I know that my positive opinion of 'Poltergeist' is in the minority – but I believe that's solely because most moviegoers and critics didn't want to give it a chance. If you can cast aside your prejudgments, you're going to have some fun.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox has placed 'Poltergeist' on a Region A BD-50 and slapped it in a single-disc blue Elite keepcase. Included is both the theatrical cut and a seven-minute-longer extended cut (which is the version that I prefer), as well as a code for the redemption of both iTunes and Ultraviolet digital copies of the extended cut. A cardboard slipcase is included, but there's a studio sticker (advertising the Digital HD aspect and the extended cut) on the face of it that will leave behind a nasty residue if you try removing it. I consider myself a pro at removing the stickers and any leftover sticky goo, but this one is hopeless. You're better off leaving it alone. Once you pop in the disc, a forced Fox reel plays prior to a skippable Fox Digital HD commercial and trailers for 'Before I Wake,' 'The Exorcism of Molly Hartley' and 'The Pyramid.' The creative and awesome main menu features a great static-filled menu with hands touching the other side of the screen.
'Poltergeist' arrives on Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, a fantastic example of digital cinema. The clarity and crispness allows for the finest of details to be visible at nearly every instance. Aside from a very minimal amount of soft shots, this is a reference-quality disc.
The movie kicks off with an insanely close shot of a tablet screen that portrays the tiniest pixels in the largest format possible. As we slowly zoom backward, we see the individual specs of vibrant color that make up a graphic zombie-fighting game. From this brief, simple and seemingly meaningless set-up, we get the first of countless examples of fine images and brilliant colorization. Hairs, pores, fine lines and edges are rigid and impressive. Most horror movies bask in darkness, shadows and muted colors. While there are plenty of the first two in 'Poltergeist,' the surprise guest in this video is the wide array of colors. Bouncing around the entire spectrum, this is one bright and colorful horror movie.
Lighting can occasionally suck the life out of the fleshtones, but it's intentional depending on what's happening to the characters. Skin color is mostly lifelike and natural. Black levels are solid and rich. They add to the tone and the tension. Surprisingly, there's a nice faint fill light that faintly lights up the settings that would be pitch black in any other horror movie. No crushing, bands, artifacts or noise arise.
It's nice to get high-quality video out of a little scary picture without much studio rearing.
The best aspect of this Blu-ray's quality is easily the audio. I've seen loads of horror movies, but this 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix truly delivers the goods. If you want to hear a track that playfully uses the sound to add spine-tingling chills to your experience, look no further.
From the very first moment, you'll hear effects distinctly and uniquely mixed to each of the seven channels. They can swoosh around seamlessly and fluidly, but can also pop up anywhere at any time. The highlight of the mix takes place in a dark loft bedroom as the pitter-patter of clown dolls can be heard seamlessly running around the back and sides of the room. There's no gap in the sound between the speakers. Environmental effects are just as experiential as the stand-out ones. Wind whipping through the long draped limbs of a willow tree. Distant thunder cracking from one corner of the room to the other. Buzzing power lines. Effects are always brilliant. Paranormal instances tend to carry LFE. From minimal amounts to loud rumbly cracks, the LFE is dynamic and effective.
The vocal and music tracks are just as strong as the effects, but they often take a backseat to effects because of the wowing nature. Dialog is appropriately mixed depending on the location of the source. They can clearly and uniquely emit from any channel. The scoring carries a nice dynamic feel. It never feels as if it's simply mixed and spread equally throughout the space.
If you want to show your horror-loving friends what a perfect audio mix can do with your 7.1 system, look no further.
Like every other fan of the original 'Poltergeist,' I didn’t want to see the beloved horror flick remade; however, unlike most other fans, I actually opened my mind and gave it a shot. Those who did the same were pleasantly surprised by the Sam Raimi production, but those who didn't, saw nothing more than the bad movie that they predicted it would be. Without trying to be a better-than-the-original remake nor a carbon copy of the classic, it does its own thing, adapting the story for modern times and audiences. Not only will you be terrified along the way, but you'll even chuckle here and there to break up the creepy tones. With near-perfect video and a demo-worthy 7.1 lossless audio mix, the only downside to the 'Poltergeist' Blu-ray is the major absence of special features. If you don't judge this remake by its original, then you'll find it a much more worthwhile (and creepy) experience than expected. If you are capable of viewing it as its own movie, then I definitely recommend it.