May 30, 2015

Theatrical Review: Poltergeist (2015)
We've come to accept that remakes are a big thing in Hollywood, and in the Horror Genre especially. People want what's familiar, and Hollywood wants to make movies that are "safer" from a financial standpoint, so it makes sense that they want to remake everything that people have already seen.

We can bitch and moan all we want to, but until the day comes when people stop paying to see remakes, and reboots, and re-whatevers, and instead start spending their money on more "original" properties, they are never going to stop.

That being said, if Hollywood is going to endlessly remake the hit movies & TV shows of yesteryear, then they could at least put more care into them than they did with this Poltergeist redux. I mean, it's a Steven Spielberg movie, for crying out loud, you have to show it a certain amount of respect, or don't remake it to begin with.

And before someone comes along and says "But Poltergeist was a Tobe Hopper movie!" please know that Spielberg was the heart and soul of the original, not Hooper. Tobe is crazy cool, and we love him, but Poltergeist was not his movie.

You pretty much know the story of Poltergeist already, but if you don't, then here you go:

A young family moves into a beautiful home on the cheap, hoping to live the American dream. In this version, they're cash-strapped, and the husband is out of work, but they have love to pay the bills, so why not move into a big house in a decent neighborhood?

Once they move in, strange and scary things begin to happen all around them, but nobody seems to care all that much until their youngest daughter, Maddy, goes missing. When they realize that Poltergeists have taken her into their TV, they call on a crack team of Paranormal Investigators to help them get her back. Together they must travel into the spiritual netherworld to save Maddy, which might just see them all dead. Or scared. Or something.

No scares whatsoever ensue.

The main problem with this Poltergeist remake, is that it doesn't really feel like a Poltergeist movie at all. Instead, it feels more like a typical modern day Haunted House flick that borrowed the Poltergeist name to drum up some extra interest in itself. Sure, some of the same plot elements are there, but only because they have to be; otherwise, this would be a generic, PG-13 ghost story, and nothing more. Which it really is anyhow, so...

This movie isn't scary, creepy, or even mildly frightening. The story feels convenient, its characters are bland and unsympathetic, and everything feels forced together in such a haphazard way, that the movie never really gives itself a chance to work. It really felt like someone took the good scenes from the original, updated them for the modern audience, and just strung them together with any stereotypical plot elements that they could think of.

It also felt really rushed.

The original Poltergeist was a clever, witty, exciting and fun movie, that also knew how to scare us (and still does, for the record.) This remake though doesn't have any of the Spielberg magic that made the original so damned good, and helped it become one of the most popular Horror flicks of the 80's.

  • The family isn't all that likable in this one. In the original, they were a normal, All-American family whom we got to know and like. Eventually, we even came to fear for their safety. In this one, Dad is an unemployed smart-ass; Mom is just kind of there; the oldest daughter needs a smack; the son is afraid of everything; and little Carol Anne Madison is little more than cute. We never once felt like they were people that we should be afraid for, but stereotypes that existed only because the scary stuff needed to happen to somebody.
  • And I'm still not sure how a family that is essentially broke could afford to move into a house that looks like it costs at least 500k.
  • The clown bit in the remake was horrible compared to the one in the original. In the original, the clown was there for most of the movie, creeping people out, and slowly building up our dread and anticipation... and then at the end it finally attacks, and we shit our pants. Here, the clown is found, attacks the kid, and that's it. No one  even really comments on it. It happened early, it happened quick, it wasn't very scary, and it had almost no impact. It felt like just another random jump-scare. 
  • The tree attack screen in this one was half-assed too. 
  • In the original, the whole "you moved the headstones!" thing was given much more weight, and it also made for one hell of a reveal. Here? Basically an afterthought. 
  • Remember in the original how JoBeth Williams put her life on the line to save her baby girl, and ends up essentially trying to "fight" the evil spirits? You know, because any Mom worth their salt would fight to the death for their kids? Well in this one we get a mechanical drone heading into the netherworld to look for the girl, while Mom just stands around looking concerned, and screaming "Save my baby!" I know we live in an age where technology rules, but it should never replace the human element in a story about humans. It just kills the impact.
  • And the ending felt almost tacked-on. It was almost like "Oh shit, we forgot to do the part where everyone thinks that it's all over, but it really isn't!"  
  • Let's not remake any other Steven Spielberg movies, alright, Hollywood

The one bright spot of this movie is Jared Harris. Not only is he a great actor, but his Carrigan Burke was the only character that ever really woke us up during this one. The rest of the cast was fine in this one too, even if their characters weren't anything great, but Jared Harris was the best of them, by far.

The bottom line is that this movie is one that you'll forget about as soon as it's over. It's not a horribly bad movie, as it's well-made and boasts a pretty strong cast, but it's not scary, it feels rushed, and it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. For a remake, that last thing is absolutely unforgivable.

Skip this one and watch the original instead. There's honestly no reason why you should do otherwise.


Poltergeist is in theaters now.

Rosemarie DeWitt makes for a hot Soccer Mom.


  1. when I saw the preview of this bs remake I laughed because it was painfully obvious that its sole intent was to generate $$$ and throw in some new high tech tricks -
    the movie did not need to be fact , the sequels that were made were so bad , I remember walking out of the theatre (long ago)
    a lot of bad shit happened to the cast members , etc but the cast and story were great and some early video tricks were powerful enough to keep you on the edge of your seat...

    when they remade "let the right one in" a few years ago , it was beyond unnecessary , but they truly believed that the foreign language would not sit with Americas too well , etc and there was groundswell at how good the original LTROI was...however this movie (poltergeist ) remake will not get my $$$

    1. Spend your $$$ on anything else, Howard. Even the original Poltergeist sequels, as bad as they were, would be a better expendature of your hard earned cash.

  2. Gotta say, your review is pretty misleading. Seems like you approached this as one of the "this sucks because it's a remake" crowd, instead of as an objective critic.

    Case in point: You complain about the drone and say it lacks emotional impact, yet COMPLETELY IGNORE the plot line involving the brother, which was developed throughout the entire film and paid off in an emotional rescue scene. Gee, a little brother who feels guilty about leaving his sister, and who runs into a terrifying otherworld to rescue her. Call me crazy, but I think that has quite a bit of emotional weight to it.

    1. The fact that it's a poor remake aside, this movie was a poorly done, PG-13 snooze-fest. That brotherly sacrifice would have had plenty of emotional weight to it had the rest of the movie made us care about any of the chacracters. Which it didn't.

      I personally always try to apporach a movie from an objective prospective, and as proof, I really liked both the F13th and Elm Street Remakes, which EVERYONE panned because they were remakes.

      Poltergest just felt like it was a rushed cash-in oppportunity, rather than a well thought out, solid movie in its own right.