Excuse me for sounding a little churlish, but the newly-released trailer for 20th Century Fox's Poltergeist remake has my stomach in knots, and I don't mean in a good way. The film, which opens July 24th, has been touted as "a revisionist take" on Tobe Hooper's 1982 horror classic, with "modern" updates including cell phones and flat-screen TVs. Which is fine, I guess - I mean, this is Hollywood, after all, where people aren't truly happy unless they're busy ripping off someone else's work or exploiting the latest adventures of the world's greatest superheroes. And this is hardly the first time Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures label has tried rejiggering a modern classic, with remakes of The Grudge and The Evil Dead burning up theater screens in 2004 and 2013, respectively. My question, though: what's the point in remaking something if you don't have anything new to bring to the table? Why reproduce the same thrills and chills if you can't be bothered to give a fresh spin on old material?
Despite the change in cast (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt make fine replacements for Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams from the original movie), the new Poltergeist looks to be a rehash of the same exact plot - close-knit family moves into suburban home and is immediately beset by supernatural forces. Again, this is nothing new. Remakes have been a part of our cinematic diet since the days of the earliest films, when Cecil B. DeMille remade his 1914 silent The Squaw Man in 1918 and again in 1931. (Trivia bit: DeMille also directed a silent version of The Ten Commandments in 1923, then later reused some of the same props and sets for his 1956 remake.) True, the marketing gurus behind Poltergeist 2015 could be deliberately trying to goad us into seeing the new movie by plumbing our nostalgia for the previous one. And yes, the final film as released could be entirely different from what the trailer lets on. But the fact that so many elements come directly from Hooper's version suggests a paucity of imagination on the filmmakers' part.