Monday, October 5, 2015

Poltergeist Extended Cut ~ Revisiting the Remake

The Poltergeist remake released earlier this year had many strikes against it. It was compared to the beloved original, expectations were sky high due to the filmmakers involved, and remakes create instant loathing. The Extended Cut released to home video last week fixed a huge chunk of the movie and revealed the true focus of the movie.

In the original, the Carol Anne was the pivotal young girl who makes first contact and is subsequently abducted by spirits. The relationship between the mom and dad are also crucial in establishing this as a realistic family. (It was a Steven Spielberg production after all.)

The new Poltergeist Extended Cut restores some of the family dynamics needed to establish the characters and relaxes the build up in the first half hour. However, a curious discovery emerges. This story is really about the young son and overcoming his fears – not the young girl (here called Madison).  I'm sure the studio/focus groups saw this deviation from the original and director Gil Kenan recut it. In doing so, it ruined young son's the coming of age arc that makes the finale more resonant.

There are still significant problems here. The mom and dad are either terribly underwritten or they wanted to come across as disaffected a-holes (sorry Sam Rockwell). The tree that grabs the son, simply gets bored and let's go. Sure, it was trying to distract them but not having the parents at home to witness the tree attack also weakened the context. But the worst infraction is that there is no "big bad" in this one. In the original, the clairvoyant, Tangina, gathers the family and tells them the young girl is in the clutches of The Beast. It is a shocking moment, and I can't imagine the helplessness and fear that it would give any parent. Here, the hundreds of ghosts who did not cross over for some unexplained reason are pissed that they built housing over their graves. That's it.

Overall, the movie is not terrible and the Extended Cut makes a good case to revisit the film with a fresh perspective. There's still at least one more cut scene that didn't make the movie or Blu-ray. The first trailer features a scene with many giggling eyes in the darkness (see the video below at the 1:06 mark), presumably more clowns.

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