Starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jane Adams, Jared Harris
As Hollywood continues its 80’s & 90’s retrospective remakes, the 1982 horror classic co-written by Steven Spielberg, has been reinvented for the modern day. The original version, followed by its two sequels, have long been the source of controversy due to the fact five of the actors died somewhat of unusual circumstances. Minor details have been changed to the script, while everything is modernized for and with technology. The opening shot is of an iPad just to drive home that exact point. Poltergeist 2015 doesn’t do for today’s audience what the 82’ version did back then, it also doesn’t measure up to more intellectual and “less is more” films like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Conjurin, which were just good films despite their genre.
Recently laid off work, Eric (Rockwell) and Amy (DeWitt) are forced to relocate their family to a suburban subdivision in rural Illinois. Their oldest daughter Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) is unhappy being isolated from her friends, while Griffin (Kyle Catlett) is afraid of everything, including his new attic bedroom. Six-year-old Madison (Kennedi Clements) however loves the new family home, and the voices she hears inside the closet. Griffin notices it first, the strange behavior of his little sister, his warnings go unnoticed due to his constant frantic demeanor. When Madison disappears, the entire family will test the limits of their imagination as the dead underneath the ground try to use Madison to settle their unrest.
I was on board for Poltergeist until the tree outside the Bowen’s new home came alive, reached into the house and snatched Griffin out the window.
Familiarity with the original will only make you more skeptical of the remake, while less knowledge of the story and plot might make it more enjoyable. Gil Kenan’s retelling is pretty standard as far as what we see in these types of movies today. Scary clowns, handprints from inside the television, demons underground, the check list of horror antidotes are all satisfied. Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back) brings a level of humanity as the father that most films in the genre lack. He and DeWitt (Kill the Messenger) are allowed enough character building moments to at least make the audience concerned with the fate of their family. It’s also nice to see the classic format, with high quality cameras, real editing and what seems like a functional set, being used versus the cheap hand held, point of view films we have been subject to over the last several years.
The reason I liked The Conjuring, The Mothman Prophecies or ‘Emily Rose’, had to do with those films taking elements from facts, real stories, and writing compelling (light) horror genre scripts around them. I was on board for Poltergeist until the tree outside the Bowen’s new home came alive, reached into the house and snatched Griffin out the window. The modern creepy house being built on an old cemetery, the disturbing clown dolls and the unexplained static running throughout the house all work to build suspense through effective visual storytelling, only to be ruined when the script feels the need to visualize the demons and the horror. What’s in the viewer’s mind will always be more frightening than any image on screen and that’s where Poltergeist’s biggest mistakes lie.
Doesn’t improve on the original, nor does it exceed mature modern horror dramas.