Review: Poltergeist

6 10

PLOT: A family's new suburban home is haunted by nefarious spirits – or poltergeists – that take the family's youngest daughter to a parallel dimension she's unable to escape from.

REVIEW: All things considered, this remake of POLTERGEIST isn't that bad. At least, it's certainly not as bad as you'd think given the fact that the press screenings were only held at the eleventh hour. Let's face it – remaking POLTERGEIST is a terrible idea. While the sequels were all pretty bad, the 1982 original (directed by Tobe Hooper – although Hollywood lore suggests Steven Spielberg had a very active role beyond what his producer credit suggests) is a total classic. If you grew up in the eighties – or heck even in the nineties – POLTERGEIST was probably one of the first horror movies you ever saw. It's the classic gateway horror flick for kids. With movies like INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING owing so much to POLTERGEIST, what's the point of a remake beyond name recognition?

While I still think the film shouldn't have been made, as far as remakes go this isn't half-bad. While the story is faithful enough to the original that it it never feels like it's own thing, at least it has energy, thanks mainly to director Gil Kenan (MONSTER HOUSE) who's probably too talented to be wasted on a half-assed remake. Still, he makes the most of it. He's not given the freedom to do much with the material, but at least it moves fast running a lean ninety minutes, meaning that whatever it is it's never boring.

The filmmakers do try to shake things up a bit, but the changes to the formula are minor, with the result only being that both parents are sidelined. Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt have a lot less to work with here than Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams did. The mom role is especially affected. In the original she was a real heroine, but here she does absolutely nothing, and a really mean dig at her gentle son early on hits a real sour note. Rockwell doesn't fare any better, handling clumsy exposition and not much else. In short, DeWitt and Rockwell – while both extremely talented actors – don't feel like actual parents here. There's no authenticity to the performances. That said, the script is probably more to blame than they are.

However, one change they've made to the original formula is actually quite inspired. Probably sensing that it would be too difficult to get anyone who could compare to the late Zelda Rubinstein, the part has been re-imagined into a roguish paranormal investigator played by the charismatic Jared Harris. His scenes opposite Jane Adams (playing the Beatrice Straight part) are excellent, with them sharing some history and having effective banter. They could have really just used the POLTERGEIST name and spun those two off without copying the original and they would have probably been better off. It feels like a missed opportunity as they're so much more memorable than anyone else. As for the children, the two younger kids are fine although the teen-aged daughter is really poorly conceived, being portrayed as an over-the-top brat you'll actively be rooting against.

In the end, POLTERGEIST is just another remake that's not a patch on the original, but there are parts of it that work well enough and at least it's fast moving and well-directed. As far as big studio PG-13 horror movies go this is better than average, rating this a very marginal recommendation.

Source: JoBlo.com



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