Director: Gil Kenan
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements
They know what scares you
The Bowen family are down on their luck and has to find a big enough home to fit the family of five that they can actually afford. They find a surprisingly nice house and are all excited to move in, but it doesn’t take long before the family figures out why it was so cheap.
The family starts to experience supernatural events that cannot be explained by simple logic. Things go worse when the youngest child of the family, Maddie, is taken by the entities that roams around in their house. The family now has to rely on paranormal researchers to find and bring Maggie back from the other side… but by doing this they also put everyone at risk of being taken as well.
The original Poltergeist is not only a classic horror movie, but also a horror movie that both became a gateway film into the genre for many as it works for both the young and the adult. It had a family that felt real and characters that everyone could identify with and care for. The scares worked and there was something magical about the film (the good old Spielberg magic some might say).
Fast forward to the current time and a remake has just hit the market. This remake is a type of remake that stays with the original story instead of switching it up and attempting to do something new. And frankly, there’s no real reason to change much of the story as it is the typical cliché about a family moving into a cheap house with a secret – and that does work if it is executed correctly. It also seem like a perfect time period to do a remake as the supernatural films have been rocking the genre for the last few years.
And yet, this film failed. The film feels like it is just rushing through the plot, feeling like a work that was only done by the filmmakers for a paycheck. It lacks passion and creativity. Director Gil Kenan probably got this assignment due to his work on the 2006 movie Monster House. He didn’t have an easy task being compared to the likes of Tobe Hooper (and Steven Spielberg) from the original and no one expected him to surpass the work on the original either, but Kenan’s work here almost makes it seem like he doesn’t understand or even like horror films.
None of the scares work, even if the scenes seem decent on paper. There’s hardly any tension and compared to the other haunted house movies we’ve seen over the last ten years there’s not much new here for horror fans to enjoy. The original had its main focus on the family members, this one fails in developing likeable and interesting characters. Some of these problems are not only due to the director or the actors as it feels like this film is either cut down poorly or had some studio interference.
The story requires the film to be at least 20 minutes longer as the haunting and disappearance of Maddie should be going on in a time frame of several weeks, instead in this film it feels like the events are over in a few days. This is most notable in the scene where the paranormal researchers is setting up the equipment and Sam Rockwell’s character Eric (the father of the family) is looking very tired and used to the events that are taking place. All of which feels to sudden due to the fast pacing of the story and lack of emphasis on showing the torment that the family goes through when Maddie is taken by the supernatural entities in the house.
Another big problem with the film is how it presents its “further” universe. They make the same mistake that plenty of same sub genre films did in the late 90’s and early 00’s by making the ghosts all CGI and stuffing them in front of the camera as much as possible. Compare this universe to the one we got in the Insidious films and you can clearly see and even more important feel the difference of how it is supposed to be done.
Is there anything good about the Poltergeist remake though? I am being very harsh on it, but it’s simply because I am a fan of the original and I also thought that the remake could work as we have other great PG-13 movies these days. Poltergeist is not a terrible movie, but it does lack in all departments and it is not a movie I would recommend to anyone. The only thing it will do is remind you of how great the original film is – go see that one again instead.