(The gist: I cannot compare the new Poltergeist with the original, but on its own, it is an acceptable horror movie. I did not love it or hate it. The pace and flow was disruptive for me, but I do not regret seeing it.)
I should begin this review with two disclaimers.
1.) I have never seen the original Poltergeist. Now, before you yell at your computer screen, allow me to explain that this is due to a sheltered childhood. Anything in the 70s (before I was born), 80s (when I was very young), or early 90s, I simply have not seen. That is largely the point of this New (to me) Horror exercise I do every week: to catch me up. Unfortunately, the child-free opportunity to see the remake in the theater arrived before the original made it through my queue.
2.) I am not big on haunting horror movies. The original Poltergeist is THE haunting horror movie, as I understand it. The subgenre is just not my favorite because I, personally, do not believe in ghosts, hence the fear is not as deep and effective for me. That being said, I can still appreciate a good haunting or possession movie. Most recently, for example, The Conjuring creeped the life out of me.
I cannot really comment on how Poltergeist stands up as a remake (and obviously I don’t have that nostalgia from loving the first), so I will evaluate it on its own individual merits (and will move its predecessor up in my queue).
Poltergeist is about a family who moves into a new home, not knowing it has been built on top of an old cemetery. When the evil spirits take the youngest daughter, the family must fight to get her back, enlisting the help of paranormal researchers.
I had a problem with the flow of the movie. True to a paranormal horror, the film initially starts by building the creep factor, laying the groundwork for the haunting. However, instead of continuing along this trajectory, the plot seems to jump from slow and steady to an explosion of everything all at once. It leaps from subtlety to full on haunting manifestation. I understand that this is probably done to accommodate for so much of the story being tied up in retrieving the daughter, yet it was jarring to me. The leaps in action really disrupted my investment in the characters and the effectiveness of the haunting.
Even with the flow execution, I did not dislike the movie. There are some finely executed jump scares throughout, as there should be in a good haunting movie. I enjoyed Sam Rockwell in a horror movie. I cared about the family and their plight, in particular the abducted daughter.
Ultimately, there is nothing glaringly wrong with the new Poltergeist, but there is also nothing astoundingly well done either. Bottom line, it is ok, trapped somewhere in the limbo between impressive and atrocious horror. I could definitely enjoy it, and I do not regret watching it, but it did not affect me in any real way.
I wish the film had done a little more. I wish they had really spent the time and developed the creep factor with the haunting. I wish they had shown me something new in a haunting movie.
I wish I had waited for HBO.