All seems well for Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell), wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) and their three children as they move into their new house in the suburbs of Illinois. Soon, youngest daughter Maddy (Kennedi Clements) begins talking to an imaginary friend, or so the family thinks. It’s not long before sinister spirits wreak havoc in the home, holding Maddy captive and forcing the parents to consult a team of parapsychologists who engage the supernatural entities in a battle for the girl’s freedom.
There are certain films that seemingly do not call for a reimagining, but if reimagined can still stand on their own if given the care and attention needed to transcend its original. The Poltergeist remake is not one of those films. From the opening credits this film feels more like a bad tour through a decrepit museum. The original had a magic and atmosphere that made it special. It’s pacing and story were fresh and ultimately terrifying. From the house to the iconic tree, it was all brilliant set up meant to suck the audience into the world and in due time crush them with fear.
The problem with the remake is that it has to deal with the expectations of the original. Even if it were solid, it would be maligned simply for not living up to it’s predecessor. The bigger problem is that it’s not solid, like at all. The Bowen family brings a new cast of characters meant to reintroduce us to the family with a new millennial flair. Sam Rockwell is the big name here as the patriarch who is out of work and desperate to provide for his family. Rosemarie Dewitt is the matriarch making the best of a difficult situation. The kids are three largely forgettable no names that don’t really do much but chew scenery for eighty minutes. The performances lack the nuance and subtlety needed to pull off a successful horror remake. Rockwell is at his worst as he phones it in big time, resigning himself to a few interestingly if not inappropriate sarcastic quips. Dewitt follows suit, and mostly just cries and shouts like a cliche movie mom. The magic of the original is in the performances of the children, but here the kids are just kind of wooden and not very believable. We spend most of the movie really not caring about this little girl because she doesn’t seem to care that she’s gone and strangely neither do her parents.
There were some elements here for a potential success, but Poltergeist takes all the easiest ways out. Electing to rely solely on jump scares and CGI visuals, it lost all the charm the first one had. Keeping some of the original scares but failing to build any of the tension or characters, were left with a predictable and boring film that offers us a vanilla version of a treasured tale of terror. The remake does absolutely nothing to reinvigorate or even separate itself from the original.
The whole experience oozes of sell out. You can tell the movie was developed and packaged as a remake of a classic and iconic horror film, but mostly they just cut down and reshot the original while removing the heart. Even the updated medium in the form of Jared Harris’ Carrigan Burke felt like a hokey riff with a backstory that went unexplored. He is this battle wounded veteran who is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the people he heroically saves. The problem is the whole thing felt so rushed that you never get a chance to actually take in or enjoy anything at all, so you never really care what happens to Burke or the Bowen’s.
2015’s Poltergeist is basically a film with no soul whatsoever. A whopping 21 minutes shorter than the original, you will find yourself whole heartedly missing that time. The film is a mess for so many reasons, but one of the bigger issues is this feeling of being rushed. What it does by cutting the film down is take away any chance of potentially necessary character development. We get wooden characters whose reactions seem so unrealistic given their current situation. If this is how this movie thinks people react to their daughter being taken by homicidal ghosts, then it mistakes grieving families for sociopaths. It’s as if the filmmakers are all pseudo masochists that want to see the audience suffer by remaking a cult classic into a goofy paint by numbers jump scarathon. The saddest part is that the film actively makes no attempt at being a viable remake, and instead insults the audience with this cheap counterfeit product that only resembles the real thing in the most superficial ways.
1/5 Not Cool Bro