Review: Poltergeist

A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.


The original Poltergeist while a good film does not have the special place in my heart that it holds for others (like Mr Logan for example). So with the remake coming from ‘Rami’ (and a somewhat promising trailer) I was looking forward to catching this.

Whats the old adage? If you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  The same could be said for horror remakes, unless your going to even attempt to do something notable with the material, why bother? With Poltergeist – its like they didn’t even try. It’s almost felt that they were too busy circle jerking themselves over re-making a Hooper/Speilberg film with 60+ million in the kitty,  that they forgot to actually do any of the hard work.

From start to finish the film is so obvious in its scares and ‘ominous bass tone’ that you see every jump and scare coming a few minutes before they appear. In the entire 90 minutes I jumped once, somewhat embarrassingly at the initial ‘false’ jump. From that point on it was a mix of creepy trees, clowns and crappy cgi vying for your attention, all attempting to raise you heart rate with minimum effect. There was so much cgi, so much cgi, in its crappest form. It looked like test models from Lightwave at points, the quality was so poor in places it almost felt like the film had been made 10-15 years ago and shelved.

With a few of the recent large studio horrors, its been very easy to say the cast is interchangeable and forgettable. This is very much the case here, BUT this cast includes Sam Rockwell. Rockwell is so woefully underused it’s almost criminal.

Story wise, not much changes except the ‘plot’ is now a 200 acre site, so why the other residents have no issues is never really explained or dealt with. In fact highlighting the totally 2 dimensional aspect of the film, you never see another person in the neighbourhood until the final few minutes.

In all, this is utter dirge, lazy filmmaking at its worst. I’m not going to say don’t watch it, but you could spend your time watching something better. Like the wall.

Oh, God! Dear, God! Make it stop!

No, that’s not a quote from the movie, although I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the future behind the scenes footage emerged which reveals the cast being forced to perform in this tripe with the crew using cattle prods to get a performance out of the cast. Note to the producers, it didn’t work!

Let me be honest. By and large I don’t like remakes. Now, as with all such comments, there are exceptions. The Thing and The Fly 1980’s took quite shallow, but well done originals and created something far more impressive. Films which took the original idea and ran with it, taking it to places and subtexts that weren’t to be found within the originals. More recently fare as different as Patrick and We Are What We Are both significantly changed and evolved from the original, and imho, both

were successful. Of course there are also the films that aren’t bad films but should maybe not have been made as a remake. I would personally put the Fright Night and Evil Dead remakes into this category. They weren’t bad films, but there was something tonally very different which made me wish they had been made as stand alone unrelated movies.

Then we come to this. This. This. Well, garbage, really.

Now, I remember going to the cinema to see the original and writing a review of it in my English class. Got a good mark, too. It was everything I loved, and still love about entertaining horror movies, like a Ghost train or haunted house at a fairground, it was spooky but fun. In short, I loved it. Clearly any remake was always going to have an uphill struggle with me.

But. As I’ve already pointed out, there are remakes that I enjoy, or even love. This is not one of them. The writers have done a checklist of every significant event ( almost) from the original. Tv interference, check. Scary clown, check. Scary tree, check. Disappear into the closet, check. Etcetera, etcetera. The face being torn off in the mirror is back, but this time the filmmakers have cleverly had it reflected in a kitchen tap. Clever hey? No. You can’t really see it and it stinks of just being another, ‘hey, this was really cool in the original’ let’s make it better. Only it sticks out like a proverbial sore thumb, and what’s more is difficult to make out.

But in trying to keep close to these whilst changing each one dramatically ( and with cgi!) the finished film feels suffocated by the confines of the original, and when occasionally, as with the major change to the character of the medium that is called in to help, the film consistently makes bad choices. I warn you this is just painful to watch.

The family unit never feels believable, and the actors often look bored. When the parents arrive home to discover their young son being attacked by the cgi tree outside the house, they merely look as though they’ve found the babysitters boyfriend in the house. When their daughter disappears the authorities aren’t called. Because hey in the modern age who would call the police if their 5 year old vanished. ‘No, let’s keep it to ourselves…’ Really??? There is a point in the film when Sam Rockwell looks almost too bored to even deliver his lines. Can’t really say I blame him.

Worse thing about this? I watched it alone in an empty cinema. And never jumped once. Not once. And I often jump in trailers! This is a prime example of lazy, uninspired retreading of an old idea that fails on every level to reach the heights of the original.

Avoid like you would Ebola.

The original Poltergeist was one of the first horrors I ever remember when I was younger but it was that memorable that you can still pick out individual scenes now; the stacked chairs in the kitchen, the tree in the bedroom, the worm in the glass, Tangina and “They’re here!!!” That was what made the original such a good film and whilst not the most scary it still made for a good watch. So in 2015 we find it has been dug up for yet another remake and the question is why?

So what are my thoughts on this version? Perhaps I am becoming desensitized to horror scares but there was very little in this that I found scary and is that not the point of a good horror movie? I also found I could not relate to the family dynamics in this movie; it all felt too much of a sob story trying to pull on my heart-strings about how poor they were and how they were struggling, I really don’t need social commentary in my horror movies thank you.

Things start to improve when Jared Harris rocks up as Carrigan Burke, this versions own Tangina and he brings a certain something to the movie that had been lacking up to this point. Here there finally arrives a character that I find interesting to watch and who brings a bit more presence to this snore-fest.

As a standalone movie it isn’t completely terrible but it doesn’t match the original or do it any justice aside from a few little homages to it. It is another remake that doesn’t need to have been made and whilst not the worst example of one it is still pretty poor horror-by-numbers. It is redeemed by a brilliant closing scene that made me smile but that isn’t enough to save this. There isn’t really anything I found stood out with this film, even trying not to draw comparisons it isn’t a great addition to the horror genre and I found myself getting bored and the few scares that were there did nothing for me.

One to miss

Poltergeist is out on DVD and BluRay 26th October 2015




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