Poltrgeist Review and Blu-ray Features
24 July 2015
Interview with Director
How did you first get involved with the project?
Gil Kenan: By getting a copy of the “Poltergeist” script sent to me by Sam Raimi. I had met with Sam a few times over the years but had never really discussed a project. It was just because I was a big fan of his. But he had begun to produce this film with MGM and thought I would be an interesting person to talk to because of my work on “Monster House.” So he sent me the script, got together and hit it off. I was very nervous about making a new “Poltergeist” film because the original was so good and important to me and a whole lot of other film lovers. But, it was after speaking with Sam the first time that there was confidence to do this and honor and respect the original and still reach a new audience.
So you were familiar with the original?
GK: Definitely. I was too young to see it in theaters, but I discovered it in a video store as a kid. It’s a beloved film.
Before shooting this film, did you watch the original or stay away from it?
GK: I stayed away from it. People have very different approaches to these things. I knew this film so well and knew what made it work and were the elements that were essential. But I didn’t want to feel like my choices were being made because of specific choices in the original. When things have lined up closely, that’s from the script. There was very little direct awareness of the choices of the original when I was making this film.
What were some of the inspirations when you were shooting the movie?
GK: The feeling of watching a story that took place told through the point of view of younger characters in a world that was very familiar to fantasy and horror. That spoke to the kind of movies I loved the most growing up. The inspiration was being able to shift the point of view a little bit younger and experience the world of “Poltergeist” at the same age as when I discovered the original film.Is that answering your question?
Of course. But it brings me to another question about whether you watched any other horror movies that inspired the look of the film?
GK: No I didn’t. Watching other movies as a reference point, especially because there was already another Poltergeist film, would not be helpful. And I had already begun to explore how I would make a horror film when I did “Monster House.” I knew that I would favor more objective cameras where you felt like you were moving through a space, rather than cutting on performance. I liked a certain staging in suspense sequences. For me it was an extension of the same muscle that I had begun to stretch in my first film.
Did horror always interest you and what are some of your favorite horror movies?
GK: Horror was how I felt alive as a kid. I really looked for experiences that scared me when I was young. It was always so much more energetic and felt so much more immediate. So movies that were favorites were [David] Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” “Nightmare on Elm Street.” The original was the first film I saw in a theater. I will never forget that experience. And then going into classic work, “The Exorcist” really terrified me. I think there is actually a lot of “Exorcist” DNA in the original “Poltergeist” film. You can really feel the fantasy and horror in the banal. I love “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” De Palma’s “Carrie.” “The Shining” is one of my favorite films. It’s giving away the ability to choose where the story goes and putting it in the hands of the storyteller, in that case the best storyteller in history.
What was it like to work with your cast?
GK: It was a treat. The most important job that a director can do is put together a strong cast because that is how the audience experiences the drama. And so I worked really hard to put together a cast that could be a family. That was the most important part of my job. Once I put them together I saw them jell in ways that were natural. It didn’t require too much work. Obviously during scenes there was a lot of direction, but if you cast well, you can let your characters come to life through your actors. That was a lot of fun to watch.
The first moment I knew I had a good cast was early on when we were shooting the scenes in the van when the family is first arriving at the new house. It is tough to shoot in a van. These poor actors are trapped in a small space going back and forth with lights and cameras. And they quickly found an energy in which they were joking and playing off each other. And you felt like you were listening to a family.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
GK: I hope that they have a great time in the movie theater. That is why I made the film. I think “Poltergeist” should be a thrill ride. That is part of the reason why I made the movie in 3D. It could take better advantage of the experience of sitting in a dark room, experiencing a movie with a large group of strangers. For me the best outcome would be that a new generation finds the love of genre and horror that I had growing up.
So you directed a fantasy film “City of Ember,” an animated film “Monster House” and now a horror film. What other genres would you like to explore?
GK: I think that there is more to be explored in the intersection between reality and fantasy. I don’t feel a hunger to explore something that is completely fantastical. I think that “Ember” scratched that edge, but I think there is more to be done with what happens when the fabric between the impossible begins to rip into our world. That’s a world I would like to work in a bit more in the future.
Do you feel that there are challenges with jumping from one genre to the next? Has it helped you grow as a director? Has it changed the way you see certain aspects of filmmaking?
I think that it is nice to hear that I’ve moved from one genre to the next, but for me all of these stories have found ways to bring darker genre elements into stories that normally wouldn’t have them. That is the thing that is exciting for me. Creating human stories on screen and really challenge and test the actors in fantastical elements. It is important to feel inspired when making something. Whether it be a remake or something completely original or working in a genre you’ve never worked in before, it is a really hard and long job to direct a film and you have to feel really inspired so that you can do your work. For me that is the most critical element.
RT/Meta Critic Review
but it will keep you on the edge of your seat. (Click here to see)
Poltergeist is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM with MVC (3D) and AVC (2D) encoded 1080p transfers on separate discs in 2.40:1. As the closing credits detail, Poltergeist was “captured” (as the logo proclaims) by Arri Alexa cameras, and the image has the typically sleek, sharp and smooth appearance that these cameras afford. While some shots have a slight buttery yellow quality to them, and quite a bit of the interior footage features the harsh blue, quasi-fluorescent, hues of a television broadcasting static to an empty room, generally speaking detail and fine detail are often at excellent levels. There are several sequences that feature things like “video feeds”, where the imagery is intentionally pixellated or distorted. Shadow detail is generally quite well delineated, though there is occasional murk in the second half of the film. CGI and other special effects work can occasionally look slightly soft, but some of that relative gauziness (including some of the depictions of the ghouls Madison is contending with) seems to be intentional.
Poltergeist‘s 3D presentation offers consistent depth, without offering too many hokey “in your face” elements. There’s significant if at times subtle dimensionality in relatively simple scenes like the bird’s eye view of that nefarious tree in relationship to the background information, or, later, shots of a mailbox at the Bowens’ home which is repeatedly run over. Other scenes typically offer foreground placement of a prop that instantly establishes planes of depth within the frame. Some of the depth is slightly mitigated by the extreme darkness of some of the effects sequences, but even here, seemingly unlikely objects like the ooze that wells up from the Bowens’ concrete floor display surprising depth and texture.
Note: Our screencapture equipment can only capture images from 2D Blu-ray discs. The main menu shot (screenshot 20) is therefore of the 2D version. The 3D main menu offers no Extras option.
Note: The audio and subtitle specs listed above are for the 3D Blu-ray disc. Please see our Poltergeist Blu-ray review to see the audio and subtitle specs for the 2D Blu-ray disc also included in this set.
From virtually the first moments of this film, even as its credits continue to unspool, Poltergeist‘s lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix announces that it’s going to be a no holds barred display of incredibly forceful LFE and well placed surround activity. There are a glut of fine moments scattered throughout this film, including the weirdly spooky and menacing sound of the flutter of the leaves in the Bowens’ new house’s iconic tree, to some of the less naturalistic sounding effects that dot some of the big set pieces. There is no dearth of startle effects, including one huge one when little Madison makes contact with “the others” via the television. While some of the special effects sequences get a bit stuffed with effects, prioritization is generally strong, though a couple lines of dialogue in the second big SFX sequence get a bit buried in the maelstrom. Otherwise, dialogue is cleanly presented and easy to hear in the mix. Marc Streitenfeld’s kind of generic sounding score resides quite comfortably in the side and rear channels and is reproduced with excellent fidelity. Dynamic range is also extremely wide on this track.
All of the supplements are included on the disc containing the 2D version of the film. The 3D Blu-ray disc has no supplementary content.
- Alternate Ending (1080p; 1:46)
- Gallery (1080p; 1:03) offers both a Manual and an Auto Advance option. The timing is for the Auto Advance option.
- Theatrical Trailers:
- Theatrical Trailer 1 (1080p; 2:20)
- Theatrical Trailer 2 (1080p; 1:41)
- Theatrical (1080p; 1:33:41) and Extended (1080p; 1:40:53) versions of the film. The extended version features seven alternate scenes.