Well, saw the new POLTERGEIST film Thursday night, and I have to say, I was very disappointed for so many reasons, most of (or all of) I’ll be talking about in this review.
First off, it isn’t necessarily a remake, but more of a sequel as the events are present day, instead of 1982. The family dynamic is a bit different (we spend an inordinate amount of time on middle son Griffin), as is the family itself. So long Freeling family, here comes the Bowen family! These are clues that inform us (well, at least me) that this film is a sequel that takes place over thirty years after the events of the first. So if it isn’t ‘technically’ a remake, why does everything else practically SCREAM remake. If they had taken the concept behind POLTERGEIST (1982) and then took it in a new direction, I would be able to rest easy by understanding it was a sequel (or God forbid the dreaded ‘reboot’ word). But they didn’t go in a new direction. They tell nearly exactly the same story as the original. Happy family? Check. Youngest daughter talking to ghosts through the TV? Check. Little girl gets captured to the ‘other side’? Check. Rescuing her in exactly the same way as the original (complete with some of the shittiest CGI I’ve seen, not counting Birdemic)? Check. Son gets taken by tree? Check. Portal to the other side is in girl’s closet? Check. Girl gets sucked into ‘other side’ through said portal? Check. Parapsychology department skeptical but come around because of creepy things? Check. Parapsychology unable to help and so calls in the ‘big guns’? Check. Clown sequence (notice how I left the word ‘scary’ out of that one)? Check. Eldest daughter is absolutely useless? Check. Moving the headstones but not the bodies? Check. That’s a huge list of similarities for it to not be considered a remake, and there were still more I didn’t mention!
So, okay, it’s not a sequel. Despite all the attempts at making us think it’s one, it isn’t. Same story, same scares, the only difference is that POLTERGEIST (1982) did those things first, and better. As a remake, I have to say, it sucks, it sucks hard. I think during production there was an exchange kind of like this:
Production Assistant: Okay, I just got back from the scary scenes store west of Hollywood.
Director: Good, what did you get us?
Production Assistant: Sorry, I got there late or something because all the good scares were gone.
Director: Damnit, looks like we’ll have to recycle old scares…terribly.
Now we’re strictly in remake territory, what makes a good remake? Taking it further than the original, showing us something new. The only ‘new’ info we are given is that the family is having money problems and Griffin, the son, has a fear of damn near everything. As for going further, it doesn’t. In fact, it comes to the line drawn by the original POLTERGEIST (1982) and gets so scared it turns back where it came from. Which is one of the films biggest flaws, it’s just flat-out not scary, almost bordering on boring. One of the reason being is that they’re recycling scares from the original. A few of these recycled scares have a tiny twist to them to make them slightly different, but these aren’t scary tiny twists, it just makes you watch and wish you were watching the original POLTERGEIST (1982).
So many other problems that it’s almost impossible to tell you about them. I know I’ve covered this one before, but we’ll briefly touch on the clown scene (because there’s a new reason to hate it). The trailer shows the clown scare at the end with a very not-scary clown as the aggressor. However, the newest poster, which I saw last week while buying tickets for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (which is pretty awesome, by the way) showed a substantially scary clown, not the clown in the trailer. Well guess what, the scary clown on the poster appears NOWHERE in the film (except for a brief few frames when the kid finds all the clowns, but I didn’t see it in the pile). WTF!?!? Okay, got that out of my system. Moving on.
As we’ve covered, this film follows damn near the exact storyline as the original. Just one problem, the original is 114 minutes, whereas the remake is 91. So now the remake is trying to tell the same story but squeezing it down by 23 minutes. This is unfortunate because every scene, and the progression of the story itself, feels really rushed. REALLY rushed. I’m not really upset about the scares it may have missed out on had they that 23 minutes back. What really suffers is the family unit in the remake. In the original the family was likeable, believable, and relatable. Not so with the remake, they didn’t take that time to build the relationship between all the family members, except Griffin, of course.
Griffin has a storyline in the remake that ties him closer to Maddie. But if you’re looking for character development, Griffin is as far as it goes. The rest of the characters may as well have been cardboard cutouts with moving lips. Also sacrificed in the remake are the very important tender moments from the original film.
In fact, watching the film, I have a lot of trouble believing that any of the family members, except Griffin, are sad Maddie is gone. It isn’t so much that the acting is terrible (which it is, by the way), it’s the script. It’s just a very poor script with really shitty dialogue. In fact, most of the scenes with Sam Rockwell in them? You can just tell he doesn’t give a f*ck, and why should he? His lines, and character, are terrible.
I guess in the category of ‘going further’ than the original, it does do ONE thing, it shows us the ‘other side’ (which we saw, but not until the end of POLTERGEIST II). But it’s not very interesting. Just hallways built out of shitty CGI corpses and skeletons. So there, there’s ONE good thing that the film did…but since they did it with the most laughably awful looking CGI ever, it’s not much of a plus.
And then we have our Zelda Rubinstein replacement, played by Jared Harris, the host of a show called, no joke, HAUNTED HOUSE CLEANERS. Oh yeah, you read that right. Sounds like a paranormal reality show starring housemaids. I’ve got nothing against Jared Harris, but boo filmmakers for making him the poor man’s Zelda Rubinstein.
Even as a stand-alone film, POLTERGEIST (2015) fails miserably. Even if the original never existed, and everything they did in this movie was original, it’d still fall flat on its face because of poor writing, bad CGI, each scene feels like a sprint to get to the end, and the family unit isn’t very strong, or all that concerned about Maddie’s disappearance. And of course, not even remotely scary. Goddamnit, I wanted to be wrong, too. I wanted all my preconceived notions about the film from the trailer to be wrong. I’ve never wanted to be more wrong before. The bar was already lowered, but POLTERGEIST (2015) isn’t even up to that challenge.
This movie is just awful on every level imaginable. Just stay at home and watch the original, hell watch the other two as well, even POLTERGIEST III is better than this film. That’s right, I just suggested POLTERGEIST III. Deal with it.