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Poltergeist (Movie Review)

Poltergeist (Movie Review)
05.22.2015by: Eric Walkuski
7 10

 

PLOT: The Bowen family moves into a house that has been built over an old cemetery. Chaos ensues. You know what happens.

REVIEW: It shouldn't be seen as blasphemy that I liked the Ghost House-produced POLTERGEIST remake, but it probably will be. I get why, but I think the truth of the matter is we should actually be grateful when a remake of a beloved property is both reverential to the source material and entertaining on its own merits. Director Gil Kenan's version is, to be sure, incredibly faithful to the 1982 Tobe Hooper-Steven Spielberg classic, right down to many sequences playing out the same exact way, but he's obviously made an effort to bring his own style to the familiar plot. POLTERGEIST ends up being a satisfying watch, and no one is more surprised than I am.

 

You know the story, and I'm not going to recycle it too much - screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire has already done that. A family of five moves into a new house (they're the Bowens now instead of the Freelings) and it becomes quickly apparent - especially to the two younger children - that there's something very "off" going on. The two have different takes on it, however; Griffin (Kyle Catlett) is terrified of the things that go bump in the night (not to mention that box of grotesque clowns in his room), while Madison (Kennedi Clements) is entranced by the mysterious voices she hears coming from the closet and television. Out of work parents Eric (Sam Rockwell) and Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) don't pay much mind initially - Griffin has a history of freaking out over nothing - but things change when... well, you know, their daughter is kidnapped by poltergeists.

Lindsay-Abaire's script plays like a greatest hits version of the original, every necessary spooky scene has been recreated with a few new twists. Many of the tender character moments of the original have been sacrificed, which is the biggest shame, although Rockwell and family are so inherently likable that you'll still manage to sympathize with their plight. (The two kids are very good.) Running a scant 93 minutes, the film moves very swiftly, and while it doesn't pack the epic emotional or visceral wallop of the original, it gives you a complete experience. You want an hour and a half of good-natured horror, you get your money's worth.

Oddly, the remake is tamer than the original in the scare department, even though Hooper's version is, of course, rated PG. The memorable frights the '82 version pounded into our skulls - the face being torn off, those slimy skeletons popping up out of nowhere - aren't anywhere to be found, replaced by more innocuous chills. Make no mistake, Kenan can get a jump out of you, and the audience I saw the film with had a blast screaming their heads off, but the severely intense horrors provided by the original film are legendary, and the new POLTERGEIST can't touch them. (If there's a major difference in that department, it's that Kenan brings us into the ghostly world where Madison is being held, which is kind of cool yet still not very creepy.)

 

It is, however, very entertaining, and I'll take entertaining any time. Its entertainment value stems mostly from Kenan, who clearly cherishes the original. He knows how to move the camera, letting it glide and creep along hallways and rooms; there's no annoying rapid-fire editing to manufacture a scare. The director is also having fun with the material, not letting it sink into dark and gloomy territory; I feared POLTERGEIST would resemble other Ghost House pictures or even the INSIDIOUS films, but it doesn't get bogged down in morbidity. It has a bouncy air, wants to treat you to an experience akin to walking through a haunted maze; you get jolted, but you laugh and smile. It's sort of refreshing to see a scary movie that just wants you to have a good time as opposed to immersing you in a grim, oppressive mythology.

The cast is having fun, too. Rockwell is, as can be expected, his very laid-back, sardonic self, but he musters up some genuine emotion in a handful of scenes, as does  movie wife DeWitt. Neither can replace Craig T. Nelson or JoBeth Williams (she is so goddamn great in the original), but they do what's needed. I've already mentioned that the two little kids are splendid (especially Catlett), and older daughter Saxon Sarbino is perfectly fine, if a little underutilized. The highlight is Jared Harris, playing a ghost hunter named Carrigan Burke. This is the update of the Zelda Rubenstein character, and this is where the filmmakers have wisely diverted from the original. Tangina was a unique creation played by a very unique actress, she can't be replicated by a long shot. With Burke, Harris channels Robert Shaw's Quint, a scarred and crusty hunter determined to crush out every last demonic entity. Like the rest of the film, Burke isn't meant to be taken with the utmost seriousness, he's there to be enjoyed. Harris succeeds along these lines, as does POLTERGEIST.

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10:29AM on 06/12/2015

How did this get a 7??

I actually saw the movie because this review made it seem not so bad. But holy shit it was just boring, there were so many moments from the original that lost all of its charm. The comics stacking up, the face bleeding in a stupid sink faucet reflection. What was the point??? The stupid dinner party where the only point was to shove down your throat the fact that the house was on an old cemetery.

It just sucked. It is easily one of the worst movies to come out this year. It had nothing
I actually saw the movie because this review made it seem not so bad. But holy shit it was just boring, there were so many moments from the original that lost all of its charm. The comics stacking up, the face bleeding in a stupid sink faucet reflection. What was the point??? The stupid dinner party where the only point was to shove down your throat the fact that the house was on an old cemetery.

It just sucked. It is easily one of the worst movies to come out this year. It had nothing going for it. Not even Sam Rockwell could save it.
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3:54PM on 06/10/2015
This was a softened up version of the original, which actually tried to be scary. This remake took away anything that was considered "too scary" and replaced it with gee whiz visual effects, aaarrrggghh! That's what was so awesome about the original Poltergeist...that it was a scary family film. Not a "horror film" thats afraid to be a horror film.
This was a softened up version of the original, which actually tried to be scary. This remake took away anything that was considered "too scary" and replaced it with gee whiz visual effects, aaarrrggghh! That's what was so awesome about the original Poltergeist...that it was a scary family film. Not a "horror film" thats afraid to be a horror film.
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12:46AM on 05/23/2015

Disagree for the most part.

Just got back from seeing this, and in my opinion, it was pure garbage. Over acting galore, cheap effects, and just plain NOT SCARY. The original had AWESOME actors, GREAT effects, and was scary as all hell. I think they did Tobe Hooper an injustice by putting an Easter Egg in the film with his name on it, it is that bad.

Glad you enjoyed it Eric, but for me it's 3/10... and I WANTED to like it.
Just got back from seeing this, and in my opinion, it was pure garbage. Over acting galore, cheap effects, and just plain NOT SCARY. The original had AWESOME actors, GREAT effects, and was scary as all hell. I think they did Tobe Hooper an injustice by putting an Easter Egg in the film with his name on it, it is that bad.

Glad you enjoyed it Eric, but for me it's 3/10... and I WANTED to like it.
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11:29AM on 05/23/2015
Id give it a 5 at least its worth a watch i guess lol, but why not just change a couple things in the movie an call it something else it would have made it a better movie, but I guess their banking on the name to make more money stupid.
Id give it a 5 at least its worth a watch i guess lol, but why not just change a couple things in the movie an call it something else it would have made it a better movie, but I guess their banking on the name to make more money stupid.
10:33AM on 06/12/2015
Erik, nothing could save the movie. You are relying too much on people judging it by the title. On its own, its a shitty movie. It could be called "Ass Lickers From Planet 9000" and people would still hate it. There was no pacing to it, there was nothing original about it. It tried so hard to NOT be scary. The script was horrible and I just kept looking around at the 5 other people in the theater and nobody was paying attention to what was on screen. I even saw people walk out , one guy just
Erik, nothing could save the movie. You are relying too much on people judging it by the title. On its own, its a shitty movie. It could be called "Ass Lickers From Planet 9000" and people would still hate it. There was no pacing to it, there was nothing original about it. It tried so hard to NOT be scary. The script was horrible and I just kept looking around at the 5 other people in the theater and nobody was paying attention to what was on screen. I even saw people walk out , one guy just screamed "this movie is so fucking boring".

Nobody liked this shit. It isn't worth a watch at all.
9:18PM on 05/22/2015

Why bother?

Your review reveals absolutely nothing that would persuade me to part with my hard earned. Yet another pathetic remake of a film that should have been left well alone. As the title of my post says - why bother? What exactly did these assholes do that Spielberg didn't? I've always respected your opinion John, but here you sound like a gushing bride to be. This is nothing more than a cash cow and I'm sick to f*cking death of remakes.
Your review reveals absolutely nothing that would persuade me to part with my hard earned. Yet another pathetic remake of a film that should have been left well alone. As the title of my post says - why bother? What exactly did these assholes do that Spielberg didn't? I've always respected your opinion John, but here you sound like a gushing bride to be. This is nothing more than a cash cow and I'm sick to f*cking death of remakes.
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12:49AM on 05/23/2015
This review isn't from John. His review will probably be up Monday. He may tear it a new asshole, who knows?
This review isn't from John. His review will probably be up Monday. He may tear it a new asshole, who knows?
10:17AM on 05/25/2015
Sorry guys, am working on something outside the site right now and I don't think I'll have time to catch this one - and I'm not complaining... who the fuck remakes Poltergeist?! :)
Sorry guys, am working on something outside the site right now and I don't think I'll have time to catch this one - and I'm not complaining... who the fuck remakes Poltergeist?! :)
9:39PM on 05/25/2015
I broke and saw it... [link]
I broke and saw it... [link]
12:27PM on 05/22/2015
7 / 10 isn't as bad as I expected so I might give this a rent someday.
7 / 10 isn't as bad as I expected so I might give this a rent someday.
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