The original Poltergeist movie left all who dared watch uneasy of open wardrobes and paranoid of possessed clowns. The two sequels that followed? Well, let’s just say they had little to be desired. This wariness from the previous films prevailed into this 2015 remake, and I would be lying if I said I had no doubts when I chose to watch it.
Much like the original, the film begins with two parents and their children moving into a seemingly normal suburban home. Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) has lost his job, made apparent through a rather surreal awkward exchange with the realtor, and his wife Amy Bowen (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a stay at home mother and writer. Their eldest daughter Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) is a typical teenager, written so stereotypically by Spielberg; it’s almost painful to watch, and their only son Griffin (Kyle Catlett ) is clearly the viewer’s mouthpiece, immediately wary of the house and all things within it.
But who could forget the key character in any Poltergeist film? The youngest daughter, named Madison in this remake, and played brilliantly by young actress Kennedi Clements. Clearly influenced by Heather O'Rourke, Clements seamlessly portrays the ideal childhood innocence and naivety the Poltergeist would ultimately seek out. Truly the saviour of this film.
But why all this negativity you ask? Spielberg is a renowned script writer, famous for so many beloved films, and combined with David Lindsay-Abaire and director Gil Kenan why wouldn’t this film be a success? To that, I have one thing to say: Imagination.
Where there is no imagination, there is no horror. -Arthur Conan Doyle.
Anyone will say that what makes a film truly terrifying is what the film can make you THINK is happening. By that I mean, leaving the viewer to create their own nightmare, rather than showing them one. This is something the original film used as a foundation to build their scares on. What was beyond that closet? What was terrorizing this family? Why did they choose her? All these questions are constantly running through the mind of the audience, drawing them in closer and closer to the film being played out before them, making them increasingly fearful of what could come...without actually showing them anything.
Think about it. What makes your heart beat faster? Someone jumping out at you from an open door? Or the creak of a floorboard upstairs when no one else is home? Poltergeist relied too heavily on that open door, and not on the creaking floorboards.
Modern films have become increasingly unsatisfying. Not to say they all have, but with increasing use of special effects and CGI, the soul and character of good movies are being squandered, being replaced with metaphoric bionic limbs.
The new Poltergeist lacks the plot, character and genius subtly needed for higher ratings. It shines in places of great casting and the occasional memorable one liner which raised my expectations and the directing choices of Kenan were also something I admired. But, ultimately, as many remakes fail to achieve, it didn’t reach the standards of the 1982 original.
By no means let this review sway you, watch it for yourself and tell me what you think!
Poltergeist is out in theaters now.