There’s really no good reason, beyond the bottom dollar, for a remake of Poltergeist to exist. Technically speaking, it’s not terrible and features some decent visual effects and the acting isn’t half bad, but by film’s end, I could only shrug and wonder what to watch next, feeling neither robbed nor overjoyed with what I just watched.
Genre(s): Supernatural, Horror, Thriller
Fox | R/Unrated – 93 min. / 101 min. – $39.99 | September 29, 2015
THE MOVIE – 2.75/5
The horror remake trend continues following the Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street (amongst others), Poltergeist is the latest hoping to capitalize on the successes of films like The Conjuring, its spin-off Annabelle, Insidious and the Paranormal Activity franchise, and while it’s certainly not a good film, I didn’t have a big problem with it other than it really didn’t need to exist.
Our story centers on the Bowen family who are moving to a new home in a very generic neighborhood where I don’t think there are any people, at least none are seen over the course of the movie… Anyway, they are moving after the father, Eric (SAM ROCKWELL) lost his job and wife Amy (ROSEMARIE DEWITT) is a struggling writer. They have three children: teenager Kendra (SAXON SHARBINO), son and middle child Griffin (KYLE CATLETT) and the youngest Maddison or Maddy (KENNEDI CLEMENTS).
It doesn’t take long for things to go awry in this house from Griffin hearing creepy noises in his bedroom in the attic and finding a hidden compartment full of clown dolls (as seen on the cover and in every trailer in spite of it having little significance outside of two scenes) to a baseball rolling on its own leading him to Maddy’s room where, upon turning around, discovers his comics stacked up. Why the poltergeist’s stacked ‘em, I have no idea. Then there’s Maddy who is talking to someone or something in the television, recreating one of the iconic scenes from the 1989 original.
However, the parents aren’t overly concerned and they don’t believe any of Griffin’s stories and decide to go a dinner party where Eric hopes to land a job. Of course, you can guess that all hell breaks loose when the parents are away. Kendra is led into the garage where oil sludge comes out of the floor and grabs her; Griffin is being chased by the adjoining creepy tree; and Maddy is led into her closet which serves as a portal to the other side. The parents come to discover the tree has a hold of Griffin and Maddy is missing. After frantically searching, they discover she’s on the other side, communicating through the television. Eric wisely doesn’t call the police knowing how ludicrous is all sounds so they enlist the expertise of a paranormal psychologist named Dr. Brooke Powell (JANE ADAMS).
Powell brings in her team to take readings and when the sh** gets real, she calls in another expert, and TV personality, Carrigan Burke (JARED HARRIS). Together, with the Bowen’s help, attempt to retrieve the daughter as the poltergeists need her to find the light as they are in limbo due to the housing development built on a cemetery.
As I said in the opening, there’s really no good reason for this Poltergeist remake to exist outside of the almighty dollar but beyond that, there’s things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. For one, I’m not sure what kind of housing development this family moved in to, but it’s basically a ghost town with nobody else seen on the street (day or night) and unless I missed something, why the Bowen’s home was the chosen portal isn’t exactly explained leaving everyone else alone, though I guess if those homes were vacant, maybe that’s why… The other issue is, it’s not that scary. Creepy? However, unlike the original, which had plenty of scares mixed with the creepy factor, this version feels run-of-the-mill.
On the plus side, the visual and practical effects were fairly impressive, including a look inside the poltergeist’s purgatory/hell, and the acting wasn’t half bad either with Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt possessing some charm while the child actors weren’t overly precocious and obnoxious with the young Kennedi Clements delivering an effective performance. Jared Harris’ involvement was a bit pointless but Harris is such a great actor he at least gives the film much needed weight.
Poltergeist was helmed by Gil Kenan who made his debut with the animated fantasy/comedy Monster House followed by City of Embers. Like his predecessors for many of these (pointless) remakes, the film looks good with all the gloss of these new films, yet short on the scare factor. The film was adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire with a background that included Rise of the Guardians and Oz the Great and Powerful.
In the end, I can’t say I hated this film but it’s rather bland in terms of substantive scares, however it’s passable, if not forgettable, entertainment that might be worth one rental, otherwise just stick with the far better 1989 original.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.0/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy. Unfortunately this is very light on features…
Extended Cut (1:40:53; HD) – This version, from what I gleaned as I watched the theatrical version, adds some character moments but despite 7-minutes of additional footage, it doesn’t alter the story that much…
Alternate Ending (1:46; HD) is slightly different from the theatrical cut where apparently the poltergeist gets passed onto Kendra’s friend.
Last up is a Still Gallery.
VIDEO – 4.75/5
Poltergeist (2015) goes towards the light from Fox onto Blu-ray presented in its original theatrical 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. Unsurprisingly, the picture has excellent and sharp detail levels while colors have a nice pop especially considering the darker tones lit up when the poltergeists inflict their mayhem upon the family.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio track utilizing each of the 7.1 channels effectively with clear dialogue throughout and excellent depth during the major scenes such as when the portal opens up. The LFE channel also kicks it into high gear shaking the entire room (and floor) providing for as close to a theater experience at home. The rear channels are mostly used for ambient noises as well as the generic horror-genre score.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, there’s really no good reason, beyond the bottom dollar, for a remake of Poltergeist to exist. Technically speaking, it’s not terrible and features some decent visual effects and the acting isn’t half bad, but by film’s end, I could only shrug and wonder what to watch next, feeling neither robbed nor overjoyed with what I just watched. At best, this one is worth a rental though I’d suggest buying the original even if you’ve seen it before.
The Blu-ray released by Fox offers fantastic video and audio transfers and an extended cut that, from what I gleaned, doesn’t make the film any better. However, the bonus material itself is vastly disappointing with merely an alternate ending and a still gallery. Kind of strange there wasn’t some making-of featurette…
Brian Oliver aka The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.