They Know What Scares You
Directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House, City of Ember), Poltergeist is a remake of the 1982 horror of the same name. The film stars Sam Rockwell (Moon, Iron Man 2), Rosemarie DeWitt (The Watch, The Odd Life of Timothy Green), Saxon Sharbino (Touch, I Spit on Your Grave), Kyle Catlett (The Following) and Kennedi Clements (Rogue). Will Poltergeist be able awaken the terrors of the 1980s classic for a new generation?
Poltergeist was a pleasant surprise - I didn't think it was that bad at all. The first half of the film was truly excellent with only minor flaws and I thought Kenan was on to something great but then the second half began and it went downhill from there. This movie is far from being perfect but it is definitely not one of the worst movies that I have seen this year.
I can't really comment on originality as this is a remake so it is not going to be original - I haven't actually watched the 1982 version but after some research, I have found that some minor details have been changed - such as the daughters name previously being Carol Anne and now it is Madison - however, these changes don't bother me as changes need to be made to appeal to the modern day audience. I do actually like the story though and believe it is quite creepy and chilling - I can see that horror successes of the modern day like Insidious have somewhat been inspired by elements of Poltergeist. However, Poltergeist did gloss over some elements which made some story changes a little random. One creative choice that I believe would have been effective for the film is if it ended when Madison says SPOILER that she didn't take the dead to the light - that would have left the movie on a cliff hanger and made the audience leave feeling a little more excited.
The scares were brilliant for the first half of the movie - I'm usually quite good at preparing myself for a jump scare but the ones in the film still managed to get me - they were extremely effective! This is a step up from Ouija, Angel of Death and Annabelle which only occasionally caused a scare but the first 45 minutes of this film was packed with them. My favourite scare was when Kendra (Sharbino) was getting stuck in the slime/mud-like substance and then she turned to find something - very good! However, the other half of the film was stripped of scares - the film actually felt like a video game towards the end due to silly CGI - Kenan could have been a lot more clever with the end sequence. Usually with a horror film, all the little scares at the beginning are building up for a terrifying end sequence (see The Conjuring) but this didn't really have that and was a little underwhelming. Poltergeist didn't even have the one scare that Unfriended actually had - the one before the credits - they usually have the audience leaving thrilled and shocked but Poltergeist ended with a comedic element - strange choice Kenan!
Other than the disappointing final sequence, the only other thing letting this film down was the acting - they just weren't very good. Rockwell and DeWitt were believable parents but they didn't really seem to have much depth to their characters - its debatable whether this is fault of the writers of the acting talent. One choice that this film did make was to focus on the brother of Madison: Griffin, who was played by Catlett - now I'm going to be nice because he is only a child actor and still learning but I felt he was just trying too hard and just wasn't very believable. Sharbino was average but the star of the show was Kennedi Clements who was fantastic! She was adorable when she needed to be but also extremely creepy when she needed to be - I was very impressed by her.
Despite it being a horror film, Poltergeist also has some nice messages - to be brave (good message for younger viewers - even though no one under 15 can see the film in the UK so it mostly appeals to American viewers as the film is only a PG-13 there). The film also reinforces the meaning of family which is nice to see done well in a horror film which never really happens - its always a group of friends (Ouija) or a family where they many deaths occur (Sinister).
Poltergeist is a pretty good entry into the horror genre of 2015 - it is better than Unfriended in terms of scares but lacks the originality and intelligence of that film. Poltergeist is generally acted poorly but that is saved by a terrific first half of true scares. The gaming industry has clearly had an influence on this film as the end sequence looks like it has been taken directly from a video game. With unusually nice hidden messages and a creepy plot - you will be kept awake throughout this film. Poltergeist - coming to XBOX and PlayStation Soon!
3 STARS - C+