Poltergeist Review

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It might be more worthwhile to actually clean the house rather than watch this rehash of a horror classic

by Sharuna Warner May 23, 2015 at 10:14 AM

  • Movies review


    Poltergeist Review

    Flickering lights, creepy clowns and ectoplasm all feature in this remake - but is it enough to live up to its predecessor?

    Poltergeist follows the Bowen family as they take up new residence in suburbia as a result of father Eric Bowen, played by Sam Rockwell, being made redundant. After securing the house for less than they had expected, everything seems to be going smoothly for the Bowen’s. However, all is not what it seems. The youngest daughter Madison, played by Kennedi Clements, soon discovers that the house has more to offer than they had originally bargained for.
    Poltergeist was originally released in 1982 and was conceived and produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Hooper. With that kind of pedigree Poltergeist was bound to be a success and the dark flip-side to Spielberg's other hit that year - ET. With the innocently sweet Carol Anne and her shenanigans with the television set, Poltergeist succeeded in delivering a well paced, tense portrayal of a family beleaguered by ghouls.

    Flash forward to 2015 and it's Gil Kenan who has taken up the remake helm to present us with his take on Poltergeist. Based on Steven Spielberg’s original story and with producer Sam Rami on board, Poltergeist seemingly has the potential to live up to its predecessor and hopefully fall into that sought after realm of quality remake. We are introduced to the Bowen family as they embark on a new life in their new home. Shortly after settling in, son Griffin (Kyle Catlett) starts to notice his younger sister Madison talking to herself in her bedroom and soon enough things start to go bump in the night.

    Parents Eric and Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) dismiss their son’s fears and simply put it down to him being a child. What follows is the typical plethora of haunted house antics only this time a simple sage cleansing won’t suffice as the house has taken something dear to the Bowen family. Desperate to restore normality, the family seek the help of parapsychologist Dr Brooke Powell (Jane Adams) along with her assistants Sophie (Susan Heyward) and Boyd (Nicholas Braun). Realising that all their electronic gadgets and cameras will not rid the house of its unwelcome guests, Dr Powell contacts psychic Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) to assist in restoring the house into a happy home.

    Rockwell who plays the father is an unusual choice as he is more typically used in comical roles which does make his character slightly unbelievable despite the film having subtle comedic tones to it. DeWitt who plays the mother is more convincing in the parental capacity but unlike in the original Poltergeist her role within the film is not as imperative in the film's progression. Catlett and Clements who play the young siblings are both at the centre of the film and they ultimately steal the show. The casting and directing of these young actors is brilliant as they each deliver a performance which resonates with the innocence of the children in the original film. The psychic played by Harris had a lot to live up to with Zelda Rubinstein who played the enchanting and kooky psychic Tangina in the original. With this in mind Harris manages to conjure up a wacky and marginally eccentric performance as celebrity TV ghost hunter Carrigan Burke.

    Rather than remake an entire film it would have been better to just re-release the superior original!

    Poltergeist is a remake and therefore the story is inevitably going to be very similar to the original, having said that, the order of events that unfold are mixed up and moved around which keeps fans of Hooper’s film on their toes and saves it from being a total carbon copy. Subtle changes have been utilised which does help in mildly setting it apart from the original. The remake runs 21 minutes shorter this time which definitely shows in the films progression, in that it seems to happen all too quickly. The original’s pace was steady and didn’t give away too much too soon which helped create the tension and atmosphere. In Kenan’s film everything seems to happen all at once, giving the impression the characters don’t have enough time to actually acknowledge what is happening to them. There is almost no set up for the chain of events that unfolds and what does get explained is condensed into the second half of the film, which feels jam packed whilst at the same time lacking all the brilliance of the 1982 version.

    With the film being set in this day and age the presence of modern technology is rife from the get go, with the not too discreetly placed apple computers to the GPS tracking devices and iPhones. Personally, I feel the use of so much technology detracts from the essence of the film which the original embraced so well, most likely not through choice. Unfortunately in the case of this film the progressing technological developments means the use of CGI, and in this film it feels unnecessarily overused as it tries to give away too much information, when sometimes its best left to the imagination. I suspect that a lot of these special effects were done for the 3D screenings which may offer some justification for it; although the film wasn't shot natively in 3D and was converted in post-production.

    Remakes are often very disappointing compared to the original, occasionally we are presented with an anomaly which lives up to the original; take for example John Carpenter’s The Thing which was a remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World. However all too often Hollywood’s rehash of old classics fall into the ‘what were they thinking?!’ category and unfortunately this version of Poltergeist has become yet another example.

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