The Poltergeist remake: The gold standard of what not to do with ghost stories

I didn’t seek this one out. My husband flipped on the TV tonight and the new “Poltergeist” was on. Now I read some of the reviews. I had avoided it because of my love for the original, but it was there and so was I so I watched while it did everything wrong.

Now I have to add a disclaimer. I do not consider myself a big fan of traditional “horror”. Lots of blood and big body counts don’t do much for me. This is a much loved genre that I believe the makers of this new version were trying to incorporate more of in their quest to bank of the success of the original.

But ghost stories, that’s another matter. The paranormal, when done correctly, scares the crap out of me, but it’s got to have the right elements and it HAS GOT TO have a foundation in reality.

Because ghost stories play on our fears of the world unseen, the things we think we don’t believe in during the day, the things we can’t quite deny in the dark. If a story doesn’t feel like it could be real to us, than it is not scary.

And in order for it to feel real, the non-supernatural (or I guess natural) aspects need to be spot on.

So what not to do:

Everyone is way too chill

When something is terrifying, people act terrified. When something challenges everything they believe in, they also act terrified. Terrified people are not chill. They are irrational, they are aggressive, they are emotional, they are inappropriate. In the new Poltergeist everyone is kinda irked and a bit confused. Occasionally they do something that resembles terror, but then it kind of putters out.

Starting at the bottom

This is a personal preference of mine, but I don’t love it when people who really need a break end up getting crapped on instead. While in the original the family is at the top of their game, in this one they are starting over and really need a break. The father is unemployed and the mother isn’t working either. Then things get worse but, apparently, only kinda.

Money? What?

As I said, unemployed father, not working mother- because they agreed he would work until she finished her novel, but she’s not writing the novel, but she still can’t work. Even though he isn’t working. So they buy a giant four bedroom house “in a bad neighborhood” which apparently means a very nice suburban neighborhood with large 4 bedroom houses. They’ve maxed out two credit cards and that makes that dad very sad. So he buys everyone in the house expensive gifts. Jewelry, new iphones, a drone, at least $1000 worth of gifts. And the mom’s all like “we should return these” and then it’s dropped because he doesn’t want to.

AND when they’re house is destroyed by the ghosts, they are looking at other very nice 3 bedroom homes. Because, you know, they had that down payment for a new house in their back pocket the whole time. I can explain to you why this is stupid and detracts from the story, but since we all live in the real world, I don’t think i have to.

Seriously, these people aren’t just chill, they are robots

Little girl disappears. There is no holy shit moment. There is no break down. The only one who comes close to having a human reaction is the son, and that’s just because he, instead of encouraging his sister to run with him, stopped, talked to her for about five minutes, then ran away and left her there to be abducted by the closet.Mom is really embarrassed to go talk to the paranormal people. Dad wants to drink a bit, but has a bad ghost experience with it and then dumps his drink. The kids waffle between looking kinda scared and making smart ass remarks.

But maybe that is because…

I don’t care that much about this little girl

She’s kinda creepy and there is no time spent making the audience care about her. Plus, she kinda seems to want to be in creepy land. Sure, she’s a little girl, taken away from her family, but they are pretty chill about it, so why shouldn’t I be?

Nobody talks to each other

Ug, how infuriating is this? People, who supposedly trust each other, not sharing their experiences with one another even though they all accept they are in a haunted house this stuff is happening? Nope. Not realistic. Not good story telling. Just lazy writing.

I honestly hate dissing anyone’s art. I really do, but if you are going to take on my favorite movie and smash it up against your sub par effects, than I have to try to guide people away from recreating your flaws.

Bottom Line: A ghost story is just a story about people encountering something they know nothing about. Just like a drama about a family moving to a foreign country or a romance about a woman dating a severely damaged man, without the humanity, it’s not going to be much of a story. Give your stories a heart, otherwise your audience will not give a crap.

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