The poster of this movie begs us to ask the question, “what are you afraid of?” I wish I could answer that with saying with a loud and clear voice, “the Poltergeist remake!” Unfortunately I can’t. Unlike a lot of people I was actually looking forward to this update on the classic horror film. I, of course, don’t mind remakes, reboots, sequels or prequels as long as a movie is good then that’s all I truly care about. As a fan of the horror genre I have nothing but respect for the original 1982 classic directed by Tobe Hooper (whom also directed one of my favorite horror films, the 1974 low budget classic ” The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) and produced by the great Steven Spielberg. The original “Poltergeist” is a big land mark in the genre. That all being said it’s far from my favorite horror film. I respect it’s status in the genre but for me it doesn’t work as well as it does for others that saw. Although a very well made film from a technical aspect (especially for the times in which it was made) I never found it all that scary.
Perhaps that is why I was looking forward to the remake so much. This film had a strong opportunity to take the tropes that the original “Poltergeist” established and turn them on their head. However, this 2015 update is both lacking in scares and some fresh ideas. Well acted, and directed this film is competent, being very watchable and not to painful to sit through. but it isn’t too thrilling either.
Some hardcore fans have the tendency to believe that most filmmakers or studios don’t have any shred of respect for the original films that they are remaking. With this remake you do get the feeling that the filmmakers have great respect for the original feature (and are possibly big fans of it). In some regards that is a good thing to have in your tool kit that way you won’t bear the risk of insulting the original fan base but at the same time that clearly works against the movie here. Being so close to the source material it’s almost as if the filmmakers were too scared (no pun intended) to try anything new.
There are some slight changes and updates to the film’s story. This time around this family of 5 is moving into the suburb area because of money issues and are down on their luck. The father is out of work (Sam Rockwell), the mother is a stay at home mom trying to finish her book (Rosemarie DeWitt) and raise their three children having to adjust to a new way of living. Just as you expect though, something is lurking in the house. A group of angry spirits that want the family’s youngest daughter which forces the family to take action against them.
The update on the family’s social economic status is probably the biggest difference between this remake and the original while the rest consist of small tweaks and updates. The other portions of the film are all too eager to recreate famous part of the original classic. Yet every time there is too much of been done that feel to this film. Plus the recreation of the scenes feels like a generic cover band than genuine effort. In all actuality this remake feels late to its own party.
With James Wan’s recent horror blockbusters “Insidious” and “The Conjuring”, it already feels like the industry has done a proper and spiritual update on the original. These two films take a lot of the same premise and ideas from “Poltergeist” and do things in unexpected ways and create real atmospheric tension. In some ways this remake feels like the next logical step after those two films but the problem is while those films take two steps forward this takes three steps back, playing it very safe on horror’s tropes.
Still most of the criticisms I have levied on the film is all in comparisons to its original counterpart. Taking the original film (that I am not even a big fan of) out of the equation how does it hold up? Pretty much the same way as I describe it before. A competent horror film that is well acted and well directed but isn’t all that great either. It has its moments for sure. The screenwriters do develop the characters well enough, and there is some good interaction between them (which is mostly credited to Sam Rockwell’s engaging performance). But, this movie lacks any real scares. While this film is riddled with jump scares (that will never actually make you jump) this movie doesn’t create any real tension or creepiness. I certainly didn’t get the chills and I slept just fine that night.
I was never checking my watch, begging for this film to be over. This isn’t painful like some of the horror movies we had to endure from last year (like “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” or “Ouija”). The 92 minute runtime is a blessing because it’s the perfect length to never too bored or be over too quickly. Jared Harris is solid in his role and does make for a few other decent moments. Yet, that’s the best I can say, only solid and decent moments. Nothing about this movie jumps out or stands out to me and will be forgotten quickly. I do like director Gil Kenan (I find “Monster House” to be an under appreciated animated film) but this doesn’t quite hit that mark we were all hoping for.