Much as a film's remake will draw comparisons to the original, so will the score to such an iconic film. When watching Gil Kenan's remake of Poltergeist, it's hard not to hold it up to Tobe Hooper's 1982 movie, and the same goes for Marc Steitenfeld's score versus the Jerry Goldsmith original. It's always difficult to hold a remake separate and distinct, but given that part of the appeal is that people are familiar with the story, part of what's being used to sell the remake is a curiosity as to what's similar and what's different.
There are myriad chances to compare the differences and similarities, and such comparisons are invoted almost from the get-go. They're Here manages to evoke sounds of static while not actually using television fuzz, playing on the fade-out static at the end of Goldsmith's Star-Spangled Banner which opens the original film and score.
It's a rare moment when Poltergeist doesn't feel standard. Part of the appeal of Goldsmith's original score was that it would dip and pitch and swerve, almost on a dime, leaving you just as confused and panicky as the Freelings were in the film. Streitenfeld's score relies heavily on strings to ratchet up the tension, with brass to really make it ominous. It's a standard formula, but at times, the composer relies too heavily upon it, and telegraphs all of the action.
Clown Attack, however, takes those aspects and adds in discordant elements, strange high-pitched tones, and a bass so deep you can feel it to create an atmosphere of terror not easily forgotten. The following Into the Closet is almost peaceful in comparison, although the ominous tension builds and returns as the piece goes on. When you put the two pieces up against the likes of the original's Twisted Abduction, however, Streitenfeld's music seems almost rote.
There are exceptions, of course: You Have to Get My Sister Back is a short, repetitive theme, but manages in its very short running time to imply importance and a slight hint of sorrow. Into the Portal is the sort of music you always want to hear in a horror film, in that it's disturbing and creeping, but still somewhat enjoyable. Nearer the end, Let Her Go manages to swirl and eddy in an epic action theme which also ties in the cries of the dead in a superbly disconcerting fashion, but it's an exception that only proves the rule.
Music on Vinyl has a very lovely release of this on deep blood red marble vinyl, with an astonishingly creepy art print. It sounds wonderful, as per usual with the label's releases. If you're after a film score on vinyl, their mastering is always top-notch and when you put this on with headphones, you can hear each and every scrape of the bow upon the strings. It's lacking in liner notes, which is a shame, as we’re sure some explanation from the composer or director might have given better insight as to what they were aiming for with this remake.
POLTERGEIST (2015) / COMPOSER: MARC STEITENFELD / LABEL: MUSIC ON VINYL/AT THE MOVIES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW