Director: Gil Kenan Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt & Kennedi Clements 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 Rating: 15 Run time: 93 minutes Release date: 22 May (UK)
It’s a hard task reviewing the remake of a beloved classic. Comparisons are made, lines are drawn and the original can linger in the back of your mind, making you wonder why you ventured out to the cinema when you could have stayed at home and put the DVD on. Depending on your stance though, films should always be called down the middle, right? You should put aside any feelings of the original, and attempt to review the new film with an open and honest mind. So, where does Poltergeist 2015 fit into the realm of horror remakes?
In all honesty, it’s somewhere in the middle. Poltergeist is not a bad film at all and has some nice moments, with a few assured performances and some tight, if unspectacular direction, Poltergeist is a perfectly satisfying film, even if it is a largely unnecessary one. At no point will anyone be screaming “this film is fucking amazing”, then again neither will they be lamenting it for raping their childhood. Perhaps though, that’s Poltergeist’s biggest fault, that it doesn’t do enough to sway you either way.
The set up is largely the same in 2015 as it was in 1982, but with a few minor changes. The Bowen’s, instead of the Freeling’s are moving into a new house, which none of them really want to do. Eric (Sam Rockwell) has recently been laid off from his job, and this is really the only house they can afford. Amy is also out of work, and is avoiding a potentially successful writing career as she instead focuses on looking after her young children. While the three youngsters of the Bowen family are so painfully one dimensional that it’s clear they are merely plot devices to be used by a director who struggles to come up with anything close to a character arc.
There are the usual crew of ghost hunters and paranormal investigators who, of course, have never come across anything like this before. With only Jared Harris attempting to have any sort of fun as Carrigan Burke, a TV personality who specialises in things that go bump in the night. His character injects a sense of fun and adventure to the film, that was lacking until his arrival.
The disappointing thing about Poltergeist, is that it doesn’t do anything new or exciting. Even if you’ve never seen the original, there is a feeling that we’ve all been here before. With the likes of Insidious, The Conjuring and Paranormal Activity all taking their cues from 1982’s Poltergeist, it’s hard to imagine how many different ideas really surround the haunted house premise. What 2015’s version tries to do is lazy, they have a new flat screen TV and shiny iPhone’s to show off, with only a remote controlled drone offering any sense of originality to proceedings.
The success of the first film lay largely in its characters and not in its scares. And it is because of this that you really care for the Freeling’s and want to see them pull through these events. Whereas with the Bowen’s it’s hard to know if you can really like any of them. Sam Rockwell is enjoyable as the sardonic father figure, doing a pretty good Bill Murray impression. Rosemarie DeWitt’s mother is largely peripheral, while Saxon Sharbino’s angst ridden teen is here for, well I don’t know what she’s here for. Then there are Kyle Catlett and Kennedi Clements as the youngest members of the family, who perhaps have the hardest time throughout the film.
Despite the films faults, Poltergeist remains a harmless enough film. It has some good moments, the power drill scene in particular, and manages to possess some of the atmosphere of the original, meaning it’s not a complete waste of time. And it’s harmless enough fun, which is never a bad thing.
In summary: Not a patch on the original, or even the several imitators that have come since. But, Poltergeist 2015 does just enough to avoid being an utterly useless remake.