Friday, May 22

Poltergeist (2015) Review

Dir: Gil Kenan
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements, Jane Adams, and Jared Harris
93 Minutes

Theyre here. The 1982 horror classic “Poltergeist”, directed by Toby Hooper of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" fame and highly influenced by Steven Spielberg, has been an influence for many horror films since its release. It's no surprise, especially for a horror film, that a remake would be inevitable.  How does one fill the shoes of the original “Poltergeist”? You dont. Its impossible. Director Gil Kenan, who directed 2006s animated Monster House, takes on the unenvied task of updating “Poltergeist”. And, aside from a few accomplished scenes and set pieces, this updated product hits all the highlights but looses all the substance that made the original a portrait of quaint suburban life turned into a nightmare.

The Bowen family moves into a suburban community and strange occurrences begin happening in their new home. Eric (Sam Rockwell) is looking for a fresh start after being recently laid off from his job and his wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt), a stay at home mom, is struggling to accomplish her dream of writing a book. They have three kids, a moody teenage daughter named Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), a timid younger son named Griffin (Kyle Catlett), and an inquisitive younger daughter named Madison (Kennedi Clements). The strange events heighten in severity and young Madison is taken captive by the entity. The Bowens, with the assistance of a group of paranormal researchers, must come together to take back their family.

The pacing for this new update is noticeable faster. Its only a matter of minutes before the first jump scare is employed. The scares are reproductions from the original, the clown doll makes an appearance as does the spooky tree, but their scary effect is diminished because of their familiarity. The best setup is one of the only originally composed scares in the film, one that involves a drill and a hole in the wall. Its an effective and welcome scare. Where the original film slowly and meticulously built the terror, playing on perceived apprehensions with blindsiding imagery accomplished primarily through practical special effects, this updated film utilizes a more contemporary style with the usual digital approach that has come to define many theatrical horror releases today. Still, amidst the familiar beats are glimpses of originality. Like the portal to the other dimension which is now investigated by a flying drone and envisioned with pulsing strobes peering into the darkness. Or the promising introduction that hints at underlying strains for this family due to a damaged economy. Its unfortunate that the narrative doesnt try to incorporate more imaginative or creative ideas. Instead of building on the established concepts and turning this film into something freshly modernized, a quality that all the best remakes have, it feels content with being basically a carbon copy of highlights from the original.

Sam Rockwell is good here, composing a character that smiles brightly to mask the stress and anger that creeps through when his family isnt looking. The children in the film do a decent job as well, especially young Kyle Catlett whose fear and worry are conveyed nicely with movement and expression. Jared Harris has the most difficult job, filling the shoes of Zelda Rubinstein. It's an awkward and subdued attempt that functions as a movement into the final act of the film.

The problem with the remake for “Poltergeist” is the past it has to live up too. If it werent called “Poltergeist” the film would be less harshly judged. There is an expectation that exists with remakes; to what extent does the creative team remain dedicated to the source verse being original. The balance for remakes lies somewhere in between, look no further than the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “The Thingin 1982, or recently the 2013 version of Evil Dead for successful examples.  The 2015 version of “Poltergeist” isnt the worst update but it is far from the best, an example of another misguided remake attempt.

Montes Rating

1.50 out of 5.00

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