‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,’ a statement which leads to ‘Why’ as in why remake Poltergeist (2015), a film originally written and produced by Stephen Spielberg which was one of the highest grossing horror movies of its time according to the Business Insider. It was also a franchise in its own right with a trilogy. Lets hope there isn’t another two films in the remaking although it’s very possible. Money talks. But content clearly doesn’t.
The new film isn’t dissimilar to the original. The Bowens are a young family struck by financial difficulty. They move further out into the country to start a new life. Eric (Sam Rockwell) and Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) are parents to three children; a Lindsey Lohan lookalike Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and Madison (Kennedi Clements), and all seems like the start of a perfect all American movie. Life in the suburbs, a fantastic deal on a house and a much needed new beginning.
The house isn’t perfect but it satisfies the basic requirements for the family. On the first day of moving in the youngest two of the brood Madison and Griffin both discover that the closet handle generates an unusual electromagnetism, causing their hair to stand on edge. Madison also starts talking to her new imaginary friend inside of the closet.
At a dinner party, the neighbours inadvertently let it slip that the Bowen’s house is built on a cemetery. The residents are vague about whether the headstones have been removed or if bodies still remain buried within the foundations of the house.
Eric and Amy are dubious about what they’ve been told until they return home to see Griffin entangled in a tree and hovering in the air along with news of Madison’s disappearance to the closet.
Poltergeist wastes no time in unravelling the mysteries behind the paranormal occurences in the house. But the pace of the film appears to be rushed and the relationship between parents Eric and Amy are unbelievable, even if the intimacy between the couple is quite sexy at times. Let’s face it, Sam Rockwell is a rogue. But he’s also slightly unlikable. Why would an intelligent writer choose such a tosser for a husband? Perhaps it’s a case of opposites attract, but it’s difficult to imagine this couple having three children. The casting seems mismatched. Amy’s character is desperately reliant on her spendthrift of a husband who cares more about himself than the kids. There is a teary fatherly moment where Eric proclaims he just wants his kids back, but even then it was a cliched moment, a parody of other movies where parents are seen crying about their missing kids. His reaction was unconvincing and appeared out of character.
In the original movie, there was more melodrama, screaming, contention and drive to destroy the ominous entities overtaking the house. In this film, we were thrown into the next ‘scary’ paranormal scene without any tension built.
There also wasn’t an introduction to the paranormal society who help the family throughout the rest of the film. A direct cut into the office is meant to be enough to convince us that these unknown people will save the day. The director must have been relying on the credibility of the film’s past success to convince us that this society was going to swoon in at the switch of an EMF meter and be done with it.
And although set in the present day, medium Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) was more Indiana Jones than the spiritual presence of Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) who played the medium with eerie conviction in the other Poltergeist films.
Poltergeist seems like a pointless affair, a decent film for a new director who is trying to build upon his craft and screen credits. But I would’ve much preferred a new horror movie than a remake of a film that didn’t need a revamp and where the scares weren’t really that terrifying.