The last time that I watched the 1982 Poltergeist, it was at an open-air cinema. As I sat with friends on a lovely summer evening, we shared wine and popcorn, and watched as the Freeling family battled with increasingly unrealistic supernatural ghosties to save a child with one of the most annoying names ever to be shouted ad-nauseam (Carol Anne? Carol Anne? CAROL ANNE?!). As far as an enjoyable evening of free entertainment goes, it was lovely. Scary? Not so much.
Cut to the new trailer for the upcoming Sam Raimi re-make of the '80s classic, and I guarantee that I will not be watching this with a nostalgic smile and a giggle at the special effects. I'll be trading popcorn for a pillow to hide behind... although that wine may still come in handy!
This new Poltergeist is pulling out all the stops to make sure that horror fans are reminded of why malevolent spirits are so darn scary, and if the rest of the film follows suit, it's going to be terrifying.
A sweet start with the happy family enjoying their happy new house quickly shifts to a rapidly increasing number of jump scares interposed with slowly building fear and tension. There are plenty of moments that recall the original movie, but with lots of new twists, this doesn't look like an entirely straightforward retelling. For extra bonus scare-points, Father Burke reveals that the graveyard spirits aren't just relying on classic haunting tactics - they already know exactly what every member of the family is afraid of...
This is two-and-a-half minutes absolutely packed with nightmare-fodder, and here are my top five scary moments. Enjoy!
1. Inside The Closet
We all know that the closet is the center of this whole issue, and essentially every time it shows up, it's doing something frightening. Small children having conversations with people that aren't there is terrifying enough, but there is something about the door slowly creaking open... it's an image lodged in our memories of horror, and it hasn't lost it's impact over time. I was thrilled to see the rope through the closet as an homage to the original, but there was a jump-scare addition that would have had me spilling my popcorn if I was in the theater. What. The. Heck. Were all those eyes??!!
2. The Clown
Clowns are scary. Even if you never found them scary as a child, there are enough clown-themed horror movies to instill that fear all by themselves (thanks, Stephen King) and I feel like this new Poltergiest may have to be added to the pile. There's an almost weeping-angel vibe to the scene between the little boy and his clown toy, and watching that string moving slowly past his feet nearly had me shouting "don't look behind you" at the screen. Tension + jump scare + clown = me shrieking like a small child.
3. The Hands in the TV
In another nod to the original, Maddie places her hand on the static-filled TV screen (bonus points for added static on an iPhone screen, because that's not a thing), only to see a hand on the other side reaching out. It's scary stuff, but also classic. We know it's going to happen, and The Ring took TVs to the next level of horror trope. So what do they do here? Well, if one hand is frightening, then let's just fill the entire screen with them. Suddenly we aren't dealing with one psychotic ghost, but an entire cemetery's worth trying to burst through the widescreen from an unknown hell dimension. That'll do it.
4. That's Not Maddie
For future reference, if you ever come across a small child in a haunted house facing the wall, just run away. It's not your daughter. It's never your daughter. It's always a terrifying demon thing. Creepy doll-face just adds an extra level. Creepy doll-face-not-daughter who can apparently take down a 6ft tall man? Thanks, but I'll be sleeping with the light on.
5. The Final Shot
Seriously, what is it that makes children in horror movies so ridiculously frightening? After two-and-a-bit minutes of jump scares and horror, there's one final surprise. "Something's wrong, Mommy." You bet there is, creepy child, seeing as she goes shooting up the stairs, exorcist-style after that.
Bonus scary moment
The makers of Evil Dead are involved in this project, and even though the trailer scared the bejeesus out of me, it also made me smile to see the tree-demon from the original film re-visited here.
It's clear from the trailer that this is going to be a seriously scary movie, and not just because everything leaps out at you with murderous intent. Sam Raimi and Gil Kenan are balancing new horror and respect for the original beautifully, taking classic scenes and turning the fear factor up to ten.
Poltergeist is out in theaters on July 24th, where you will find me in the back row hiding behind a pillow I brought from home.