Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Twofer Tuesday, where it’s double the pleasure, double the fun! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they argue about whether their house is built on an ancient burial ground or a local graveyard that was supposedly moved than wasn’t, and which would be a worse scenario.
Today’s Film Offerings: Poltergeist (1982 & 2015)
Lilly: A Poltergeist isn’t your average friendly ghost (see: Casper or Bruce Willis), but an entity that literally cannot even with the living and wants them gone, girl. That’s the message from the two films we are looking at today, anyway, so let’s get started with the 1982 Poltergeist, shall we?
Andy: Okay, well–what is that light in the other room? One second. You sum it up.
Lilly: Picture it: Suburbia, 1982. In the first of a set of newly built middle-class dwellings, we find the Freelings. A typical nuclear family of wife, husband, and two and a half kids, the Freelings are set up as being loving, lovely, and just trying to settle in to the neighbourhood, which the father (played by Craig T.Nelson, or everyone’s favourite Coach) helped build and design. They have an anxious teenage daughter, a son afraid of thunderstorms, and the stupidly adorable Carol Ann. They are happy, even if their tv is somehow controlled by their neighbour’s remote and the mother has anxieties about their children drowning in the pool they are digging in the backyard.
Then, Carol Ann starts talking to the people in the TV.
Andy: lilly where are you I cant see
Lilly: So, 1982 was a strange time, I gather from this film. First off, not everyone knew who Mr.Rogers was. Second, when Carol Ann is staring at television static, her mother says ‘That isn’t good for you!’, flipping the channel to put on a war film in mid jungle battle scene. Ah, better! Of course, she could also watch the football game with her father and his angry friends (one guy literally didn’t stop yelling the entire scene and I’m not sure he was using words), which actually seems to be just a series of tackles on the screen. Or, turn off the tv and listen to the soothing sounds of her father yelling at the guy next door…You getting a theme here? There’s a theme.
And guess what! Violence in the modern day isn’t the only thing this film brings to mind! Oh no! It also brings the desecration of graves into the mix, because guess what! The neighbourhood is built on an old graveyard and apparently ghosts hate that. If you take anything away from the Poltergeist films, it is that fact.
Poltergeist explores the normalization of violence in the modern world, where modernity is more important than respect of others, as we see in the fights over a television remote and the whole graveyard being built over thing. Even the act of ghostly hands moving Carol Ann across the floor is normalized by the Freelings–give her a helmet and that’ll be fine! Fine, having ghosts in the kitchen!
Andy: help lilly
Lilly: A film that was originally slated to be directed by Spielberg, who only ended up writing it and producing it, it was taken on by the late Tobe Hooper (known for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre among other things) yet written by the same guy who wrote E.T, and boy, can you feel that. It’s like a slightly more scary Disney horror film–it could fall into line with Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, or that one that the Olson twins did (I want to say Double Double Toil and Trouble because obvious title is obvious). It has a bit heavier imagery and a few more adult situations, but 1982’s Poltergeist is the horror film people who don’t watch horror films could watch when they were a kid. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good, or that I didn’t enjoy it–it just means it is a gentler take on the story of a haunted family.
2015, however? All bets are off. This shit is getting spooky.
First things first, this is the Bowen family, and in case you have any doubts about them being just a Freeling knock-off, well, rest assured, dear readers, the beloved family they are not. The father, Eric, is a sarcastic asshole who is bitter about being laid off and won’t let you forget it, but also won’t let his wife go back to work because man reasons and ugh and life. Amy is a mother on the edge, clearly worn down by her manchild husband, angsty teen, boy with a million neurosis (though zombies aren’t one of them?) and totally not stupid adorable daughter (but Carol Ann had really set that bar high). They were more realistic, sure, but holy cow, did the new twist on the family dynamic seem to really kick off the darkness of this reimagining.
Something I did not mention was my love for the original medium extraordinaire, Tangina, but if I loved her, I died and came back with undead adoration for this film’s ghost hunting, charismatic Carrigan Burke (maybe a bit of film fun, using ‘Burke’, as in the grave robbers Burke and Hare). He strolled in with all his charm and confidence and stupid hat, and I was sold the moment he showed his war wound. What a strange thing to change, but then, I guess with making the father so hateable, they needed to throw in a male role model who didn’t whine about having to parent, I suppose. You had to believe someone wanted to get Maddi out of the wall, and it was hard to think Eric didn’t want to get her just because no ghosts were going to get one over him, damn it! First John Deere, now the undead!
This version focused more on the son and his finding of his bravery than anything else–and I didn’t really know why. I suppose it was trying to convince me that his strength was to being admired, along with his vulnerability but I think the anger and disdain for him was waaaay to amped up to make it read that way. I rooted for him because his family seemed to hate him past a surface level–like sure, put the kid with a nerve problem up in the attic, and just try and play catch with him even though he clearly isn’t into it and…yeah. It was like I was as scared of his father pushing him to breaking with his masculine bullshit as much as the unearthly forces haunting the family. Maybe that was the point? If so, well played, movie. If not, well.
You might be able to tell I didn’t like it as much as the original. However, that isn’t entirely true. I found it actually really hard to compare them, when I got down to it. One is the story of a family fighting to get one of their own back while the other is the story of one boy trying to save his family, and that is two really different narratives. It all depends on what you are feeling. 1982 gives you family romps with horror elements while 2015 gives you horror with moments of familial discord that is cured by the power they find within themselves to fight the supernatural. Whichever you are into, you’ll find your fit of suburban ghost story in one of the two!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to be going–Andy got sucked into our closet as we started writing the review and I’ve got a few parapsychologists from the local university coming plus a charming rogue of the ghost hunting world I’ve got to freshen up for. This house will be clear, yet!
Go, watch, and enjoy!