Movie Review: Poltergeist
With the success of the original film (released in 1982), which spanned 3 movies and a spin-off television series, it’s easy to see why Hollywood wanted a remake. However, though the result is decent, it’s uninventive and stale.
Poltergeist’s premise remains of the same, with a house being occupied by a malevolent poltergeist. But this time, the Bowens, who have been affected by the downturn, have replaced the successful Freeling family.
Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell), the father, with his family, consisting of aspiring writer/housewife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt), and three children Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), Griffin (Kyle Catlett), and Madison, AKA Maddie (Kennedi Clements), are downsizing into a house in a less affluent neighborhood after Eric loses his job.
It becomes apparent that the house is ‘unclean’ when Maddie, their youngest, starts talking to an unseen apparition, and Griffin, the anxiety-ridden middle child, sees his comic books start moving on their own.
Things escalate when the parents go out to a dinner party. The huge tree in their backyard attacks Griffin and Kendra gets trapped in the basement. This all culminates in Maddie getting stuck in the television.
The main difference between the 2 films is Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), host of a popular supernatural show; who replaces the eccentric medium Tagina Barrons (played by the late Zelda Rubinstein). While Jared Harris is charismatic and more scientific, he lacks the mysterious charm of Tagina.
Poltergiest does a good job of setting the scene: the characters are relatable and relatively likable. With their good on-screen chemistry, Sam Rockwell as Eric Bowen and Rosemarie DeWitt as Amy are particularly riveting in their roles. They are believable as concerned parents, and are effective in gaining sympathy from the audience.
However, the scares don’t quite deliver. Iconic scenes such as Griffin getting attacked by clown toys, when recreated, do not have quite the same eerie effect. Audiences now are more jaded and scares that might have felt fresh and original 33 years ago have now fallen into stale tropes.
While instances of possessed modern technology are peppered throughout, mostly through teenaged Kendra’s texting or skyping, the theme of technophobia and the overreliance on technology is not fully explored. They pretty much just switched out the old box TV for a flat screen plasma and called it a day.
As a whole, the film fares the best when the focus is on the family. It feels like less of a horror film than a family drama, and the series of hauntings feels more like an annoying nuisance the family has to overcome rather than the core of the movie. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, with convincing characters and bits of humor, the result is still a tad lacklustre.
The movie is a decent watch for those who do not enjoy horror movies, or people who have never watched the 1982 Poltergeist. However, as a remake, it is uninventive, and lacks the edge and charm of the original.
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Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, Jane Adams, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements
Director: Gil Kenan
Run-time: 93 minutes
Release date: 18 June 2015
Photos courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox