Shocktober, Week Three: That Poltergeist Remake Sure Was Garbage

Shocktober, Week Three: That Poltergeist Remake Sure Was Garbage

There's an inevitable fact about a good horror movie: one day, someone will think it's a good idea to remake it -- and it will suck.

As we roll into the final week of Shocktober, there are more horror movies to be watched, discussed, and sighed at. It wasn't a good week for horror in the Klepek household; we couldn't find time to see Crimson Peak in the theatres, and the majority of the films we watched were terrible. Such is life as a horror fan.

Contracted: Phase II, Poltergeist, and The Tenant were the subjects for the latest episode of my horror podcast, Til Death Do Us Part, which you can subscribe to via iTunes or stream on this website. If you use non-Apple podcast applications, simply grab the RSS feed from right here, and that should get you the podcast.

Shocktober, Week Three: That Poltergeist Remake Sure Was Garbage

On with the blood 'n guts. (Actually, there's only a little of that this week...!)

Contracted: Phase II (2015)

Shocktober, Week Three: That Poltergeist Remake Sure Was Garbage

Ugh, what a disappointment. You never know what you're going to get when the IFC Films logo come sup, but Contracted was a pleasant surprise two years ago. Body horror isn't for everyone, and I can't explain the appeal of watching somebody's flesh turn on them. We expect our bodies to act a certain way, and when it falls apart, that's worse than a killer with a mask chasing with a knife.

The original Contracted, in which a woman suffers from the world's worst STD after a one-night stand, was disturbing in all the right (wrong) ways. Every time she started poking her eye and goop fell out, you wanted to crawl into a box and never look at the screen again. It was simple story with one aim: gross you out. Contracted: Phase II, however, makes the classic sequel mistake of assuming we gave a shit about what was "really" going on and tries to establish a mythology that's clearly planned to expand beyond this movie. I'm here for the disgusting woman trying to claw her arm off, thank you, not the bland conspiracy theories.

Contracted: Phase II is more concerned with establishing mythology than sticking with what works. Granted, it has a few "what the fuck" moments -- I'm looking at you, bloody cheese dip -- but it's not nearly enough. This is Netflix or bust.

The Tenant (1976)

Shocktober, Week Three: That Poltergeist Remake Sure Was Garbage

This is a tough movie to talk about, as it depends on whether you can separate art from the artist. Roman Polanski has been charged with raping a 13-year-old girl -- no getting around that fact. That may put you off from ever indulging in The Tenant, and I wouldn't blame you for passing. Worse, Polanski is the star.

Thing is, he's also responsible for some interesting cinema -- who doesn't love Rosemary's Baby? -- and The Tenant is an all-time what-the-hell-just-happened horror movie. A film of a different time, The Tenant takes its sweet time before twisting the knife, and it's all the better for it. Polanski plays Trelkovsky, a man looking for an apartment in crowded Paris, France. The only one he's able to nail down, however, is the apartment of a woman who committed suicide by throwing herself out the window. Furthermore, neighbours are convinced he's always making loud noises. (And who hasn't lived in an building like that?)

I want to tell you I know what happened at the end of The Tenant, but I'm not really sure. Things continue to escalate, things continue to get super weird. It goes to some truly bizarre places, full of deliciously strange imagery that stays with you after the film is over. When the credits rolled, my wife and I quickly began swapping theories on what exactly lead Trelkovsky to...well, you'll see.

If you're only used to modern horror films, The Tenant can be tough to settle down with. They really did used to make films differently, with scares not coming until much, much later. More movies could benefit from such habits.

Such as...

Poltergeist (2015)

Shocktober, Week Three: That Poltergeist Remake Sure Was Garbage

There was a single reason I'd been holding out hope for the Poltergeist remake: Sam Raimi. His production company, Ghost House Pictures, is the one who decided it was worth revisiting Tobe Hooper's 1982 classic. I figured Raimi had come up with an interesting angle, and would pick filmmakers who had something new to say about a family terrorised by ghosts underneath the house.


Every scene feels like the filmmakers going "hey, remember that scene from the old movie? Wanna see a version that's way worse, and full of CG? Here ya go!" I get that remakes want to have nods and homages for diehard fans, but Poltergeist takes this to a groan-worthy extreme that had me chugging my beer.

(What are you doing in this movie, Sam Rockwell?!)

There's little to celebrate in this version of the movie, besides the short running time. It does, however, have a unique vision of the purgatory souls can get trapped in before heading into the light. It's grotesque, unsettling, and despite being completely built from CG, it's the scariest thing the movie has to offer. It sure would have been neat to see a movie built around that idea, but this isn't it.

While this was a dud, I can't wait until they try to remake it again in 20 years.


    Damn, it's a shame to hear about Poltergeist. I was hoping the casting of Sam Rockwell meant that either the script was decent, or as worst he could do something with a lacklustre script... but I guess not.

    The idea of art vs. artist isn't a new one. Polanski is a good example - there is no denying his talents as a filmmaker, but... yeah, paedophile. Woody Allen is another example that comes up. For me, it was Ian Watkins from lostprophets - I absolutely loved their early albums when I was younger, and then found out years later that he was the worst kind of paedophile. Some days I can listen to the songs and just enjoy the nostalgia trip, other days I can't look past his actions.

      Maybe check it out for yourself.

      Remember, critics sledged John Carpenters remake of 'The Thing' back in the 80s.

        Some did, some didn't. It wasn't universally panned like this one.

    Saw Poltergeist for the same reasons, and agree on all points. So disappointing :( if you want to enjoy those old scenes just watch those old scenes!

    Nah, garbage can be recycled into something useful...

    Potergeist 2015 was pus. Nothing good comes from pus.

    I watched Tales of Halloween the other night. It ain't scary, but it was actually a lot of fun. I'll be watching it along with Trick 'r Treat on Halloween!

      Trick r Treat is a fantastic movie!

        Trick 'r Treat is freakin amazing and deserves a sequel or two...

          Theres 'Tales of Halloween' that's just come out.
          Getting decent reviews. Haven't watched it yet though.

    Has anyone seen the original Poltergeist AND have a reasonable understanding of film techniques and production elements? I'm not sure they do based upon the most astounding level of ignorance and generalisation at a film that bears NO resemblance whatsoever to the actual product they're describing. I understand WHY people are so harsh on something that literally has nothing in common with any of the criticisms people are levelling at it but that just begs the question of why people never paid attention in school. So sad that critique isn't just dead but people are incapable of separating it from prejudicial generalisations made by a massively uneducated population.

    Even in its day, Poltergeist was a goofy B adventure/light horror film. Today people are so unable to make a leap between genres or ideas for context that people's perspectives are becoming more homogenised than the films themselves.

      I'm a bit confused as to precisely what you are trying to say re Poltergeist. Can you offer up some specific examples?

      Here you go:

      While Poltergeist itself was not an R rated movie in the early 1980's (achieving a solid PG), Tobe Hooper and Stephen Spielberg wanted to present a genuinely scary movie. Though scenes would hold certain elements, they weren't overdrawn and held onto the manta of 'less is more'. The Clown scene is a primary example, playing on the primal fears of being afraid of the dark and the monster under the bed that a child has. Poltergeist was a family movie, given its rating, and still managed to achieve this while having certain aspects such as a gory scene where Craig T Nelson tears skin off his face during a paranormal experience and the skeletons coming up from the ground. While it's easy to dismiss the original it also has to be taken into account the context of the period it was made in. The early 1980's was a time when the nuclear family and it's absolute safety in America was paramount, it was the tail end of the 1960's. The ghosts being on an Indian burial ground and the family 'invading' their territory was a nice little play on the invasion of the white man into the Americas and the destruction of Indian society.

      Then there's the economic reflection of the 1980's in Poltergeist. The house is too much for them, despite their initial assurance that they can handle it. Items stop working, rooms are no longer able to be lived in, things are broken and it costs and costs and costs the family. This is of course the micro view of the macro American situation and to an extent the world at the time. One can view the Indian spirits assault on the house during the movie as reflective of the social climate and familial climate at the time, the home under assault by changing ethics and standards, the family unit falling apart, the house once the sole shelter for the nuclear family unit, no longer safe and under assault by everything around it (The ghosts/American society) and those within it (the family/the family falling apart). Hell, even Carol Anne can be referred to as the loss of innocence in that time period. But that's enough of that.

      It's easy and simple to say 'the uneducated masses' and try to posture yourself above everyone else... however it's just not true. You rant about generalisations then make the biggest one of all, assuming the majority of people are stupid and uneducated when the fact is, you me and everyone, we are 'average joe', you're not special, neither am I and we make up the cinema going public and give money to studios to define what's made. Education level does not indicate ones enjoyment of a movie, infact sometimes it is possible it can be a hindrance as one gets too wound up in dissecting a film with their knowledge and loses the ability to 'enjoy' the film.

      But I digress, Poltergeist, the original, was a great movie, it relied on less is more, it framed shots beautifully as Amblin movies and the like tended to do, that influence brought over to it by Stephen Spielberg and it was all over, a great 1980's movie that preyed on some very real fears. The sad part about Poltergeist 2015 is it didn't pay attention to this and try to make anything it's own, it simply copied, rather unsuccesfully, that which had come before and failed to carve out it's own identity, while movies such as Snyders DAWN OF THE DEAD 2004, Cronenbergs THE FLY, Carpenters THE THING, Scorcese's THE DEPARTED and Miike's 13 ASSASSINS succeeded and stood on their own against the fact they were remakes.

      Last edited 24/10/15 5:46 pm

        There's no Indian burial ground in the original Poltergeist. It was just a regular cemetary, and in the sequel it was retconned to also have a cave on the site in which a religous doomsday cult sealed itself to die. There were Native American elements to part 2 with the Shaman Taylor brought in to combat Kane, so maybe that's where the myth started.

        Having said that, I just wanted to agree by saying that while not everyone needs to like it, it's impossible to watch the original Poltergeist and not see a well crafted film, regardless of personal taste, intended audience or the time period it was created in.

        Also, kudos to you for giving a civil, reasoned response to someone who is upset by a "massively uneducated population" but uses the phrase "begs the question" incorrectly.

        Last edited 25/10/15 4:12 am

          We don't speak of Poltergeist 2... ever lol. 3 doesn't exist either!!!

        Good job. I also liked how pretentiously academic and elitist that poster attempted to sound and yet, used incorrectly the phrase "to beg the question".

    I watched almost 10 minutes of Poltergeist and had to turn it off.
    The family move t the new house. Boy gets out of the car and stares at the big tree while a deep brooding noise plays. "Oh look viewers, its a scary tree. That's going to be scary later, youll see."
    A couple minutes later the boy stares at the stairs to the attic while a deep brooding noise plays. "Look, scary stairs too. You'll see. They're so scary!"

    I knew exactly what sort of garbage movie I was in for.
    Turned the movie off.

      Didn't Poltergeist (original) also start off relatively normally? Like... everything was just so gosh damn happy, you wouldn't think something bad would happen? I've not seen the remake, but from what you said, it sounds like they wanted you to think it was a horror film right from the get go...

        "Well, everyone saw the original so there's no point building any anticipation or dread. Here's jump-scare versions of certain scenes you remember."

        Uggh - there's good ways to do remakes, and then there's remakes like this one.

          That makes me sad :(

            Same... glad I've got my BluRay copy for Halloween. It's a perfect example of how to build tension in a movie, and the remake a perfect example of throwing CGI at the camera.

              I thought "The Haunting Remake" was the perfect example of throwing CGI at the camera :P

                It is - Poltie '15 is just "a" perfect example.

    If I can recommend one movie to watch this Halloween... Housebound.
    I watched it once and loved it. Then watched it a second time with the wife and her friend. Theres an exact moment in the movie where the two of them went from hiding behind their blankets in fear to blankets down, hands on faces, on the edge of their seats in suspense. The wives friend saying "Oh no, oh no!"

    It was so enjoyable watching them both get such a thrill out of the movie.
    So well done.

      It's worth it, just for the laundry basket scene.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now