Synopsis: A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.
Release Date: May 22, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
In the world of horror movie remakes, one question is consistently asked; is nothing sacred? After getting recent reboots of legendary movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, the answer is apparently a resounding no. More proof of this: Poltergeist.
Poltergeist is the story of Eric and Amy Bowen (Sam Rockwell from Laggies and Rosemarie DeWitt from Promised Land) who, along with their children Kendra (I Spit on Your Grave‘s Saxon Sharbino), Griffin (Kyle Catlett from “The Following”), and Madison (Kennedi Clements from the upcoming “Wayward Pines” mini-series), move into a new home in a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood. The children have weird experiences right from their first night in the home; Kendra’s phone inexplicably gets fried, Griffin gets attacked by a tree outside his window, and Maddie constantly talks to an unseen entity in her locked closet. When Maddie is sucked into the closet one night, Eric and Amy realize that they are dealing with a supernatural entity. Exhausting all other avenues of help, the family turns to a television psychic/ghost hunter named Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris from The Quiet Ones and The Ward) for help in bringing their daughter back.
There are two ways to approach a horror remake. The first is to take the concept and characters and make it something that still resembles the original work while taking things in a different direction, like Fede Alvarez did with Evil Dead and Marcus Nispel did with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This is not what director Gil Kenan (Monster House) does with Poltergeist; he goes the Carrie route and uses the same storyline as the original, copping out by simply updating it for the new time period. The screenplay, written by David Lindsay-Abaire (Oz the Great and Powerful), basically takes Steven Spielberg’s original script, swaps the order of a couple of scenes, adds iPhones and QuadCopters, and calls it a day. Most of the iconic ingredients of the 1982 movie are there, including the clown doll, the killer tree, and the television set. What’s missing is the heart, the humor, and the good old-fashioned fun.
Okay, maybe that’s not fair. From a filmmaking standpoint, Poltergeist is well-made. It’s well shot, the visual effects are slick, and the cast is above average, especially given that they are playing already established characters (special props go to Jared Harris for not even trying to imitate the original when asked to speak the line “this house is clean”). For a new generation of filmgoers, or just those who have been under a rock and have never seen the original, Poltergeist is a good movie. For those who have seen the original, it’s a disappointment.
The original Poltergeist was a gateway movie for many young fans to discover the horror genre. This Poltergeist is too similar in look and feel to every other possession/ghost movie that has come down the pike in the last few years for it to stand out, so it will not have the same lasting effect. It’s just a poor imitation of a classic, with the part of Craig T. Nelson played by Sam Rockwell and the part of Zelda Rubinstein played by Jared Harris. And fans are going to be mad about it. But they’ll still see it, and they won’t stay mad for long, because it’s just been announced that plans for a remake of The Craft are in the works.
The 3D visual effects in Poltergeist are pretty well done. They’re not just the run-of-the-mill gimmicky in-your-face-every-five-minutes 3D effects, they actually add texture and definition to the film. The 3D is used to emphasize depth perception and to place the viewer right into the house with the Bowens. Through careful attention to depth-of-field and the different focal planes, Gil Kenan is able to create an actual 3D world instead of just throw things at the camera. Of course, it does go a bit overboard during the CG-heavy third act of the film, but when it’s under control, which is for most of the movie, it looks great. If there’s one reason to see Poltergeist in a theater rather than waiting for home video, it’s the 3D.
Maybe it’s because it’s impossible to not compare this Poltergeist to the original, which was terrifying, but this Poltergeist isn’t very scary. There are a couple of decent jump scares, and a few tense suspense scenes, but overall, it’s a pretty tame affair. The scariest scene is most likely the infamous clown scene, which could raise a few goosebumps in the right environment, but it still pales in comparison to the same scene in the original film. Again, it might not be fair to compare it to such a scary benchmark, but the 1982 version was rated PG – this one is rated PG-13. It’s almost like this Poltergeist is trying to not scare people out of immense respect for the original. In reality, it should try to pay respect by being scarier. It doesn’t.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Gil Kenan
- Producer(s): Sam RaimiRobert G. TapertNathan KahaneRoy Lee
- Screenwriter(s): David Lindsay-Abaire
- Story: Steven Spielberg
- Cast: Sam RockwellRosemarie DeWittSaxon Sharbino Kyle CatlettKennedi ClementsJared HarrisSusan HeywardNicholas Braun
- Editor(s): Jeff Betancourt
- Cinematographer: Javier Aguirresarobe
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Delphine White
- Casting Director(s): Scot BolandVictoria Burrows
- Music Score: Marc Streitenfeld
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA