Remake Rumble: Poltergeist (1982) vs Poltergeist (2015)


The 411: A family must do battle with the paranormal forces haunting their home when their youngest daughter is abducted and taken to the “other side”.

Steve & Diane Freeling vs Eric & Amy Bowen

poltergeist-the-parents
Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams were so realistic as suburban parents. Nelson was ultimate 80s Dad and Williams was a cool and fiercely protective mom. Their Freelings were not even remotely up to the task of doing battle with angry ghosts but they were believable as normal people in over their heads but still willing to go as far as they had to in order to save their kids. They also interacted like an old married couple which gave their characters an added dimension of genuine realness despite the fantastical things that were happening around them.
Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt are both good actors but I never bought either of them as a married couple or even the parents of the kids in this movie. They just were two actors going through the motions. This was especially true of Rockwell who seemed to be ironically portraying a dad instead of fully committing to the role or the film. These two just didn’t work at all.
Advantage: Poltergeist ’82

Carol Anne vs Maddie

poltergeist-the-girl
Heather O’Rourke wasn’t a professional child actor when Spielberg saw her eating lunch with her mom at the MGM commissary (her big sister was the actor int he family) and it was that natural “kiddiness” that made her such a perfect Carol Anne. She wasn’t one of those overly precocious Hollywood child actors but just a cute, charismatic little girl who made you really concerned for her safety.
Kennedi Clements is a cutie pie but she also seems like she stepped right off of a Hollywood Child Actor assembly line. She was a bit too TV sitcom cutesie for my liking even though she did a good job in the role.
Advantage: Poltergeist ’82

Dana & Robbie Freeling vs Kendra & Griffin Bowen

poltergeist-the-kids
Dominique Dunne really didn’t have much to do compared to the rest of the cast in the original film but Oliver Robins was featured in some of the most iconic moments of the film (namely the clown doll stuff and the possessed tree attack) and he did a great job. I remember as a kid being just as wigged out by that damn freaky looking clown doll as Robbie was in the movie.
Saxon Sharbino was pretty much in the same boat as Dunne was in playing the eldest child in the family but the role for middle child Griffin was bumped up in the remake with young Kyle Catlett giving a really nice performance as a skittish kid who was afraid of his own shadow. Griffin’s interactions with the clown doll and the animated tree weren’t nearly as harrowing as those from the original film but the kid did get to play hero when it came to rescuing his little sister.
Advantage: Tie

The Parapsychologists vs The Paranormal Researchers

poltergeist-the-parapsychol
Beatrice Straight brought a whole truckload of acting gravitas (and an Oscar!) to the role of parapsychologist, Dr. Lesh and she was a very welcome presence to the the Freeling family and to me as a viewer. Her assistants were basically cyphers though but it really didn’t matter because Dr. Lesh was more than enough.
Jane Adams played Dr. Powell a more scatterbrained eccentric academic and never really brought the quiet strength that we got from Straight’s Dr. Lesh. her team was slightly more fleshed out with the male member of her crew being shown to be a bit of an asshat but even that tiny bit of character development wasn’t all that great.
Advantage: Poltergeist ’82

Tangina Barrons vs Carrigan Burke

poltergeist-the-medium
Just to get this out of the way: I love Zelda Rubinstein to pieces. And even if I didn’t I would have loved her Tangina Barrons who, in addition to having the absolute coolest name ever, also brought a full range of emotion from folksy warmth, sage wisdom, surprising strength and a bit of complexity to the part that kept you guessing about just whether she was a charlatan, the real deal or even a bit of a villain. Plus her reading of the “Go to the light” lines were unparallelled.
Jared Harris was really really good as Carrigan Burke, TV Medium, in the remake. I would even say that a movie focusing on his character traveling the world ridding homes of malevolent spirits would be worth making and I would pay to see it. However he is no Zelda Rubinstein and his character was definitely no Tangina Barrons. There is no real comparisons…Tangina wins every time.
Advantage: Poltergeist ’82

The 1982 Movie vs The 2015 Movie

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The Original POLTERGEIST is a horror movie classic that was cast perfectly and benefited from the pedigree of the guys involved in making it (a couple of cool cats by the name of Tobe Hooper and Stephen Spielberg) be more than just some hokey B-movie ghost story. The original film had more than a few truly scary moments but also brought with it a significant amount of charm that endeared the film and the characters into the collective consciousness of the public.
The remake tries valiantly but ultimately fails at measuring up by making unnecessary changes to the film that really did nothing to make it better. there was no reason to introduce the financial and employment troubles of the father into the storyline. And increasing the role of the middle child only served to take away from the character of the mother when it came to heroic efforts. And honestly the supernatural goings on were just done better in the original even if the effects may seem a bit dated all these years later. All the special effects and state of the art CGI in the world is not a substitute for deft direction and a smart script.
Advantage: Poltergeist ’82

Final Verdict: Poltergeist 1982

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Yet another in what is becoming a long line of remakes of classic films that no one was asking for and really did not need to be made. The original Poltergeist is a gem of a movie and the remake never once is able to capture any of the charm or scares that the original film made look so effortless. Even on its own the 2015 version of POLTERGEIST is nothing more than an infinitely forgettable film that one easily dismisses from memory before the credits even start to roll. By comparison, the original POLTERGEIST stays with you whether you first saw it yesterday or 30 years ago.
POLTERGEIST (1982): A / POLTERGEIST (2015): D

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5 thoughts on “Remake Rumble: Poltergeist (1982) vs Poltergeist (2015)”

  1. I like both movies. The one thing that is better in the remake is that we get to go in to get Maddie first by drone and then when Griffin goes in. The father in the remake is actually pretty funny, and the parents aren’t smoking pot while the kids are sleeping in the other room like the 1982 parents were doing. The last thing that is better in the remake is the movie gets to the point sooner. I didn’t feel like I was waiting for something to happen. The problem with the remake is that the movie isn’t as scary as the original. Honestly, their were enough differences that it didn’t feel like a cheesy remake that was trying too hard to be like the original. I’d give it 3 1/2 stars.

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    1. See I thought using Griffin to get Maddie instead of the mother like int eh first film was a misstep. And Sam Rockwell did not work for me at all as the dad in the remake.
      And what’s wrong with a couple parents relaxing with a doobie after a long day of being grown-ups? LOL

      I get that you liked it more than I did though and that is all good because I would hate to think everyone thought like me. Actually that would be kinda scary.
      Thanks for stopping by and posting!

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      1. Sam Rockwell is a good actor, and true, there isn’t that much to do with the Poltergeist remake. He still made me laugh. Griffin going in isn’t a misstep. He felt guilty for leaving in his sister because of his own fears, and so his character development is that he swallows all the fear that he had up to that point in the movie. The screen writer and director needed to show that he does love his sister, and that he’s willing do put aside his fears to help his sister. It’s called character growth. Just like at the end when the family is looking at the new house. The parents finally listen to Griffin and Maddie. It may not have been the best choice to show Griffin’s character development, but it worked. Also, I LOVE that we got to go into the portal to find Maddie with the drone, then Griffin, and finally with Carrigan Burke. As for sparking the doobie, it was illegal in 1982 and I’m pretty sure still illegal in most states. People are going to do what their going to do, and I don’t judge. For cinematic reasons, I think the wine works better than the pot. My opinion, and I completely respect your opinion. Besides, life would be too Stepford if we all agreed.

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