- RatedPG13 /GenreHorror, Thriller
Filmmakers should have these words “if it's not broke, don't fix it” printed large, in bold and featured somewhere prominently so that they can be reminded whenever they receive a pitch for a new film.
The original ‘Poltergeist’ in 1982, made possible by the excellent pairing of director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg, was a horror classic.
The idea that a sleepy suburban home with all the domestic trappings such as the television, blenders and radio having a life of their own was too close for comfort.
It laid the foundations for the modern horror genre, paving the way for films such as ‘The Conjuring, ‘Paranormal Activity’ and even ‘Insidious’ – all featuring terror in suburban settings.
This remake of ‘Poltergeist’ comes a little to late, when things have become all too familiar.
Director Gil Kenan and scribe David Lindsay-Abaire try to bring ‘Poltergeist’ into the 21st century, but their version of this cult classic fails to deliver the scares.
The story wafts through the same basic beats as the original: family moves into a new house, family experiences paranormal phenomena, the youngest daughter starts speaking to spirits through the TV and is then kidnapped by a mysterious presence.
It stars Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt as the cash-strapped couple Eric and Amy Bowen, while Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett and Kennedi Clements play their three children Kendra, Griffin and Maddie.
In place of the spirit medium from the original, the filmmakers updates the role into a world-weary reality TV host Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), a self-style eccentric ghostbuster who has a knack for “cleaning” haunted houses.
What may irk you about this ‘Poltergeist’ is the filmmakers' hastiness to get to the haunting. It seems like they just want to get this movie over and done with.
The actors are not given time to develop their characters further to make us care, but they manage to make do with what little they have to make the story work. Rockwell’s down-and-out dad is likeable as is DeWitt’s supportive mother.
A scene from 'Poltergeist' | Photo: 20th Century Fox
The movie doesn’t skip a beat in introducing the scares: unpleasant surprises come knocking before the family even settles into their new home. And the most obvious was when they find a box of creepy clown dolls in a closet.
“Why would someone leave a box of clowns...” young Griffin puzzles. From here, the movie becomes a checklist of horror movie tropes.
And then there is the spooky tree from the original movie, vamped up and scarier, thanks to its CGI limbs.
All the frights from the original are replicated in a modern setting but the jump scares rarely make you jump in your seat – maybe just a little bounce.
Even that famous line, “They’re he-e-re…”, fails to raise goosebumps.
‘Poltergiest’, is at best the most routine of remakes. Throughout the movie, it is never clear who is the target audience. It’s not scary for adults, and perhaps only mildly terrifying for 12-year-olds.
This movie is simply the latest in the long line of lacklustre remakes of classics including ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (2003), ‘Friday the 13th’ (2009), ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (2010), ‘The Thing’ (2011) and ‘Carrie’ (2013).
‘Poltergeist’ opens 18 June 2015