A recent article by The Hollywood Reporter (HERE) about screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire erroneously mentioned that horror master Sam Raimi was slated to direct the remake to the 1982 classic haunted house film Poltergeist. Raimi has already been on board as a producer for the film for several months, but this is the first we’d heard of him taking on the directing reins as well.
This tidbit of misinformation caused a bit of a stir among film fans, some generally excited at the possibility of a Raimi driven Poltergeist. The article has since been ‘amended’, but it does call into question the relevance of such projects in the grand cinematic scheme of things. Lindsay-Abaire (whose own animated Rise of the Guardians opens November 21st) is penning the script, the latest unnecessary, connect-the-dots reboot in a long line of unnecessary, connect-the-dots reboots.
“They’re here!” Poltergeist has become legendary in many cinematic circles since its release in the early 80’s. From the infamous co-direction allegations by Steven Speilberg and Tobe Hooper to its rising body count of cast and crew that have died since the film was made, this modern day spook house continues to scare the living hell out of audiences a full 30 years after its release. Who knew TV static could be scary?
It’s already a near perfect haunted house film (second only to 1973’s masterpiece, The Legend of Hell House) that certainly doesn’t need a fresh infusion of younger actors and a boatload of CGI effects, much less Raimi’s hands-on involvement.
In fact, five years after Poltergeist, Raimi would release his own low budget fun house flick in the form of Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. Also considered a horror genre classic, Evil Dead 2 ramps up the humor and gore to such a delightfully gleeful level that few films have ever come close to matching it. Even Raimi’s own Army of Darkness seems tame by comparison.
Art has always been subject to interpretation and reinterpretation, but when it comes to rebooting/remaking/relaunching films (especially classic ones), a certain distillation of the source material occurs, invoking a ‘is it real, or is it Memorex’ vibe that’s often hard to shake. A cinematic Déjà vu, if you will. This is especially true of recent films and those still beloved by the movie going collective.
As a result we often scoff at remakes, finding them to be of inferior product even if they do turn out decent. A good example would be the recent Judge Dredd reboot. Screenwriter Alex Garland and director Pete Travis completely ignored the abysmal 1995 Stallone film and instead went back to the comic book source material to craft an effectively gritty and violent take on the character and story. Karl Urban made a ballsy acting choice by never removing the iconic helmet and delivering a performance only through his body language and his lips, and it worked.
Did audiences care? Not in the least. Dredd 3D sank like a stone when it was released, despite critical praise and positive fan reaction. Stallone’s “I AM THE LAWWWWWW!” antics from the previous version were still fresh in people’s minds, so they avoided this entry like the plague. As the old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you…”
Poltergeist may be dated in some respects, but it’s still timeless in its appeal. 30 years later and it’s still an effective haunt, a ‘lightning in a bottle’ moment in cinematic history that would be extremely challenging to replicate, much less recapture.
Hollywood is of the belief that audiences actually want watered down remakes of preexisting material, but what we really want are new films that take the same creative risks those original films did, not just soulless clones. They don’t satisfy our imagination. Remember when you wanted to go to McDonalds as a kid because they had the best tasting cheeseburgers, but your mom said she could make the same cheeseburger at home? Then you tasted hers and it was NOTHING like the McDonalds one? Exactly.
Sam Raimi should keep one foot in the horror genre pool, but it should be his own pool and not someone else’s. 2009’s Drag Me to Hell was a nice return to form after his much maligned Spider-Man films, but his next endeavor is yet another trip down the Yellow Brick Road with Oz: The Great and Powerful (also scripted by David Lindsay-Abarie), due out early next year.
One begs to ask that if Sam Raimi is so interested in quasi-sequels and remakes of preexisting materials, why didn’t he just direct the remake of his own film Evil Dead and save the money of hiring Fede Alvarez to do it?
Better yet, how about a fourth entry to the series? I think that guy from Burn Notice is still available…