Horror movie remakes…what else can you expect nowadays? We’re still stuck in the cycle of ‘ghostly goings-on’ in modern horror. Audiences like being scared & movie makers think that means making you jump 50 times throughout. I can’t wait for this cycle of horror to end but sadly that looks unlikely to happen anytime soon.
So here we are…a remake & a ghost film rolled into one. The original Poltergeist was released in 1982 & is an absolute classic mixing good scares, great acting, impressive visuals, plenty of shocks & excellent story-telling. Why anyone would want to remake it beggar’s belief, I think this has to be the most unnecessary remake ever.
Before I get into the movie’s plot I have to mention that I saw this movie in 3D & found it to be mostly pointless. It didn’t enhance my viewing & several times I took the glasses off as it made the screen much darker. Occasional flashes of torchlight showing 3D dust-mites looked cool but I hardly think that is a ringing endorsement of films in 3D.
So the plot…Eric & Amy Bowen alongside their 3 children, Kendra (teenage girl), Griffin (young boy scared of everything) & Madison (the youngest girl) are house-hunting & find one within their price range. Somehow having been laid off from work, Eric can afford a new house (even if a later scene shows him having several declined credit cards for being over the limit) but let’s not think about that…here are some ghosts!
It doesn’t take long for stuff to start happening…that night we get noises in the wall, lights & electronic devices turning on & off. Griffin finds Maddie talking to the TV in a scene similar to the originals ‘they’re here’ scene (yet lacking the same kind of impact).
The next night Eric & Amy go out for a meal leaving Kendra to babysit the kids. She is lured into the basement & attacked by a ghost who tries to drag her into a muddy pit. Griffin is attacked first by one of the clown dolls before the old tree outside goes after him. Meanwhile Maddie is tricked into going in her closet where she is abducted by more ghosts.
Eric & Amy arrive home; rescue Griffin from the tree before finding Kendra who is pretty shaken up. Unable to find Maddie at first it quickly becomes clear that they can hear her voice through the TV & she is trapped in some sort of other world.
The family contact a Paranormal Research department who agree to help but discover that the haunting is actually a violent poltergeist so call in TV occult specialist, Carrigan Burke. The race to rescue Maddie from the ghosts clutches is heating up but this poltergeist isn’t going to give her back without a fight…
The first thing to say about the Poltergeist remake is that it offers nothing fresh yet is happy to rehash many classic scenes poorly. When it does do things differently it does it them in a much worse way. For example…in the original the discovery that the cemetery’s bodies, that the house is built on, were never moved is incredibly tense & shocking. The acting is amazing & the effects of the bodies coming up out of the pool is very intense.
Here it is just dropped mid-conversation & lacks any kind of bite. The parents look suitably shocked but a minute later it’s forgotten about & we get no real payoff from that revelation either (unless you count a final CGI skeleton that pops out of the ground & comes to life).
The second thing to say is that the movie as a whole is one of the most boring films I’ve sat through recently. The down-time in the original was designed to give you a breather from the chaos, to show you a family unit struggling to get by facing off against unimaginable danger & horror. These moments were used to build tension as we built towards the next big thing. We get none of this subtleness here, the film has 2 speeds…super-slow or super-fast & neither is actually that appealing.
The use of CGI is frustrating particularly in regards to the tree & the demon squirrel. Ask anyone what they remember about Poltergeist 2015 & they will tell you that it was the squirrel scene. So stupid & looked awful.
Nasty little buggers….
The scenes set in the other-world were initially quite exciting but rather than giving us fleeting shots the movie chose to keep showing more & more as it went on. This ends up giving you too many chances to pick holes in the poor CGI. If you’ve seen the movie version of Constantine you’ll recognise these ‘ghosts’.
The film lacks subtly & has little build choosing instead to just shove the ghosts in our faces with tired jump-scares. There are loads in this movie & some of them are very frustrating such as the old ‘hand on the shoulder trick. There is none of that initial excitement over the paranormal activity except for a brief section between Maddie & Griffin because of this the parents never experience the poltergeist until the night Maddie is taken by the ghosts.
The movie tries to build tension miserably but always pays it off with an obvious jump scare. The best bits involve sequences seen in the original but made worse. One of the most famous bits in the original involves a certain clown doll. This clown doll is innocent enough until the poltergeist decides to use it to attack the boy. It is an effective scare that still has impact today.
Here they do the same scene but make the doll a scary looking thing. It looks like a scary doll so when it behaves scarily it has no real bite…except, of course, for a jump scare.
Being aimed at a younger audience the famous face-ripping scene is gone replaced with Eric spewing up bugs & blood into a sink that is reflected in a tap. It comes out of no-where & doesn’t impress.
These are is not the only massive mis-steps that the movie makes though. Let’s talk acting…many have praised Sam Rockwell (Eric) as being the only good thing about this movie & that is true but by no means is he doing a great job. His sarcastic Dad thing is charming at first but becomes tiresome by the end.
For some reason Maddie actually takes a back-seat here & Griffin, is given a more prominent role. I found him to be unimaginative & unconvincing. I couldn’t believe that a kid scared of his own shadow would go into the other world to rescue Maddie just because he felt guilty.
Maddie doesn’t even come close to Heather O’Rourke’s portrayal of Carol-Anne but to be far the makers recognise this by avoiding as many comparison spots as possible except the most obvious one…they’re here which is delivered with no childish innocence but rather a deadpan look…she could have been talking about the postman for goodness sake.
Remakes are rarely better than the original…that is a fact but they shouldn’t be trying to be. What they should be doing is trying to offer a fresh take or a new idea on what has come before. Poltergeist does none of this, instead offering a poorly paced, lacklustre & jump-scare filled movie.
Worse acting, worse characters, a worse story, worse music, worse scares, worse effects (at times – that bloody squirrel)…a worse movie.
Hopefully the death-knell for all classic horror movies reboots. This was one step to far for Hollywood & with universally poor reviews we can only hope they stay well clear of any sequels (although the movie doesn’t have a sequel-bait ending).
Poltergeist - Remake in 3D