They’ve Conjured Up A Stale Remake Of ‘Poltergeist’ (Movie Review)

poltergeist posterIt can’t be easy to face a certain kind of pressure when it comes to remaking classic films. This updated take on Poltergeist’ does not feel too much like a collaboration of great minds in an effort to make something new and different. Instead, it feels like the results of talented people making the best of a bad situation.




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To its credit, the film has director Gil Kenan behind the scenes and producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert providing their support through Ghost House Pictures. In my eyes, having the director of Monster House and Raimi working on a remake of the Steven Spielberg/Tobe Hooper classic should lead to some success. The right ingredients are there, as far as a capable cast and a setting fit for a modern take on the story. It is just too bad the film does not seem to know what works best.

Often times I find myself wondering how much slack I can give in these reviews of horror remakes. Sure, judging the film completely on its own is a way to approach this, but at the same time, Poltergeist is one of the many that feel so indebted to the original that it becomes difficult to really evaluate it on its own. This brings me back to the same dilemma I found in with recent horror dreck like Annabelle, where a general audience may not even care, as long as they felt the jump scares properly equated to the amount of money spent on seeing a horror movie. It really is an unfortunate line of thinking.

Regardless, there are the horror junkies that want to see something fresh and different, even when it comes to a reimagining of another film. It helps when the creative forces really work to try out some new ideas. Having the same title is really just branding anyway, so what does it matter if it strays from what worked the first time? As it turns out, a lot, but this is a movie that does stay pretty true to what the 1982 original presented. Poltergeist hits some minor highs at various points, but it stretches itself in the wrong ways to get there.

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Many of the problems come from how obvious everything is. It is not just the fact that many know what to expect based on the original either. Watching a movie that involves a boy dealing with a box full of evil-looking clowns obviously leads to a boy being attacked by evil-looking clowns. Tight shots of people walking into claustrophobic areas means something is going to pop out at you. The first act is full of standard stuff, before it thankfully gets to the meat of the film, which is part of what allows the original to stand out, as far as haunted house films go.

Both films center on a family in a suburban home that has been invaded by angry spirits. Following a terrible night, the youngest daughter is absorbed into the spirit world and the family bands together (with the help of some paranormal researchers) to get her back. Putting so much focus on a family that knows their house is haunted and people that believe them is a fun way to go. The jump scares are dialed back and it becomes more of a supernatural family drama with some spooky adventuring thrown in. That is good stuff and having pros like Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt adds to all of that.

That said, there is still the issue of how this film wants to handle the actual poltergeists. The film goes the route you expect of being bigger, louder, and more CG-focused than its predecessor, because it can. The excuse continues to be that the first did what it could with the latest and greatest, so the same applies here. Well that may be all well and good, but a horde of fake ghost hands grabbing at you just isn’t the same as real skeletons popping out of the ground.

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Similar to the more recent Fright Night (a remake I liked quite a bit), the paranormal expert has been updated as something of a rock star of his profession. Jared Harris enters late into the film as a reality TV star with the right moves to solve ghost problems. He seems to be having fun, but at the same time, David Lindsay-Abaire’s script feels all over the place with how to juggle the right tone. The film fairs much better with one of its key child stars.

Kyle Catlett plays the middle child, Griffin Bowen, who not only looks like he is genuinely frightened like he should be, but also receives the most effective character work. Were the film given more focus centered on his character, there may have been a more interesting film as a whole to work with. There is little else to be said about the others who suffer the results of the haunting going on in this house, though one chance encounter is a true highlight of the film. It features Nicholas Braun’s Boyd character dealing with a renegade power drill in one of the more effective ways you can see terror in a PG-13 horror movie.

Poltergeist falls into the trap of most modern horror remakes. It cannot begin to compare to the original film and it borrows lots of tricks of the films that were at least partially inspired by the original film to begin with. As a result, Poltergeist is this retread of what has been working effectively enough today, but packaged in a box of what should supposedly be something special because it has the name of a classic stamped on it. It’s a shame, but not much of a disappointment. You can only expect so much, even with good talent involved. In the meantime, if you want to see a film with a retro spirit working well in the modern world, seek out It Follows instead.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “They’ve Conjured Up A Stale Remake Of ‘Poltergeist’ (Movie Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Bummer. It’s supposed to rain here this weekend as it has done the past three weeks already and was hopefully going to check this out at the theater to see something new and scary per Jordan Grout’s recommendation. I guess the new and scary title goes to the lifeless Tomorrowland. Sorry…could not resist. Can’t wait to revisit It Follows again. Human Centipede 3 here I come!