Poltergeist gets an awful lot right but without one key ingredient it ends up being a flat and tame horror with a lot wrong. The acting is superb, Sam Rockwell and Rosemary DeWitt convince with realistic and grounded performances that drive the film, they feel like a sweet and real onscreen couple that are worth rooting for. Their situations are interesting and I like the development that they go through, and even the young actors do a good job at showing fear, curiosity and mischievousness as events worsen.
The film is also beautifully shot, even in darker scenes there are shot compositions that interest, the framing is neat and I love the lighting, it's moody, taking on a very purply hue with vibrant blues and deep blacks. I didn't see this film in 3D but you can it would've definitely worked, as the 3D moments are built into the story and aren't just thrown in for higher ticket prices. This has been thought out really well and I even think that the 3D would've added to this experience.
The real issue with this horror is that there is absolutely zero atmosphere. A horror without an atmosphere is like a restaurant without food. In other words, flat and disappointing. Everything about the set up works, it's just a real shame that the scare factor and suspense is missing. Poltergeist had so much potential but it's left with jump scares that aren't effective because of that lack of atmosphere, they end up being useless. This is a crying shame, I was enjoying the first act of the film as it drew me in up until the darkness crept it. Damn I'm disappointed.