Sunday, February 08, 2015

Poltergeist 1.2: The Line Must Be Drawn Here

A couple of years ago, Hollywood announced they were going to remake POINT BREAK, the early Nineties Kathryn Bigelow/James Cameron flick with Keanu and Swayze, and I just shrugged.  My friend Ian, however, sent me an angry, disgusted email announcing the creative bankruptcy of the studios and that this was the worst example of how long the industry has sunk.

I didn't really get that.  POINT BREAK was never a game-changer for me.  It was never a movie I loved--or even liked.  In fact, the only reason I don't dismiss PB as a 90's Action turd like Steven Seagal made is because it's featured so lovingly in HOT FUZZ, an excellent film I do love.

But today, I watched this:

I guess we've finally found my POINT BREAK.

I've had many conversations about movie remakes, and a rule of thumb was, you can't go right by remaking Hitchcock, and nobody will remake Spielberg, not while he's still alive and a filmmaking powerhouse.

Well, they remade DIAL M FOR MURDER, remade REAR WINDOW, and worst of all, remade PSYCHO (in the most baffling manner conceivable).  None were well-received, and those kind of shenanigans dried up.

But here we are, with a remake of POLTERGEIST.  And wow, look at how updated and modern they've made that trailer!  The woman parapsychologist/ghost whisperer is now a man!  Physical effects have been replaced by cutting edge CG!  The trailer builds to a refreshing cacophony of unrelenting shrieks and booms!  The daughter's name has been updated from Carol Anne to Madison!  Yay!

Disgusting?  I think so.

But hey, I love POLTERGEIST.  Love it from the opening shot (of the television) to the final one (of the television).  It's a movie from my formative years that intrigued and scared me when I was too young to understand all its nuances, and still intrigues and scares me now.

There's so much I love about that flick: how the mom says watching static is bad for her daughter and changes it to a violent movie, "The tree, it knows I live here," all the Star Wars stuff on Robbie's walls, "Can we get a goldfish now?", Zelda Friggin' Rubinstein, the maggoty chicken leg, "What do you have, a thousand watt bulb in there?", how utterly worthless the older sister is, the Mr. Rogers versus football scene, "This house has many hearts," the Jerry Goldsmith children's chorus music, "Why not?  We've done it before," the clown doll, "Now, we never spank the children!", the countdown of the lightning to find out if it's getting closer or farther away, "The TV people," the swimming pool skeletons, the kitchen floor skating, and a scene that I think about all the time--when the parapsychologist talks excitedly about a toy car that moved three feet over several hours, and then they show him the kids' room.

And hey, I know what you're saying: that new movie looks good.  The whole building-a-house-on-a-cemetery plot is as old hat as Vaudeville.  The first movie was just a rip-off of that "Twilight Zone" episode anyway.  Craig T. Nelson is nobody's hero.  The Eighties are too dated.  Hey, Sam Rockwell!  That shot with the hand inside the TV screen is pretty boss.  The original wasn't all that great or scary.  Carol Anne is a shitty name.  Men are underserved in film, and female parts should arbitrarily be substituted with men.  Horror movies are all the same and shouldn't be viewed with any respect.  Steven Spielberg didn't direct POLTERGEIST, it was Tobe Hooper.

Yeah, well.  They say Millennials won't see movies that are older than they are.  But maybe we don' expect any better from them.  I say, let's give them the chance.  One day, they'll see a movie from 1993, or 1981, or hell, 1939, and be impressed by it.  Or maybe they won't, I dunno.  I know they never will if it's not placed in front of them, though.  After all, if somebody says, "Why would you see THE OMEN starring a bunch of people you've never heard of, when you can see it starring Julia Stiles?" I suppose it's no contest. 

Okay, bad example.

I grew up in the era after Spielberg and Lucas "destroyed" the artistic medium of film.  They rose to such prominence not because they were hacks or appealing to the lowest common denominator, but because the work they did spoke to my generation, resonated with kids on the playground, echo in the minds of now-adult children.  Movies were all aimed at teens after JAWS and STAR WARS, with spectacle and special effects overshadowing deep storylines or attempts at creating art.  And the movies today, it seems to me, aren't much, much worse, now aimed only at the stupidest of teens, with cookie-cutter plots and unoriginal effects overshadowing the slightest bit of character or story.

Truth is--the ugly truth--I'm getting old.  I've gone from being too young to be allowed to see the first movie, to being old enough to have kids who could drive themselves to see the remake.  I've seen a lot, become cynical, and I require a lot out of my entertainment.  Movies aren't made for me anymore, and Hollywood probably views me with the same kind of grudging disappointment as a ladies man views the contented lesbian couple that moves in next door.

And these remakes are never about restarting the franchise, fans of the original wanting to revisit something they love, breathing new life into a once-viable IP.  It's about doing a one-and-done single remake film capitalizing on nostalgia and curiosity, and wringing the last drops of revenue out of a film classic/beloved film only to forget it immediately afterward, which is how they movies themselves are often received.

As a great man once said, the line must be drawn here.  In the same way I refuse to see another Superman film by the people who made MAN OF STEEL, I have to commit not to see this remake of POLTERGEIST.*  I didn't go see the remakes of EVIL DEAD, ROBOCOP, THE THING, or A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (all movies I'm less fond of than POLTERGEIST), and I doubt I'll really be missing out.  I can let young people go to this movie, and hope somebody at MGM springs for a insanely-overdue special edition of the 1982 original.

Alright, now I will waste my time worrying about something more important . . . like Disney's plans to reboot RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Rish Outfield the Grouch

*And of course it's a remake.  These fucking things can never just be sequels anymore.  No, it would be too difficult to hire a pretty blonde to play the adult Carol Anne Freeling, who has children of her own, and has all but gotten over the fact that, years ago, a bunch of ghosts became quite fond of her a trio of different times, and now, in 2015, they don't want her anymore . . . but want her children.

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