"Poltergeist" 2015 Review
Though the updated story paints a unique portrait of the post-2008 nuclear family, the Poltergeistremake lacks the scares of its classic predecessor.
Few liberties have been taken with the plot, which now sees a Midwest family, affected by the economic crisis of the late 2000s, moving into a new suburban subdivision. Things get weird really quick when middle son Griffin (Kyle Catlett) finds younger sister Madison (worthy-Heather-O'Rourke-successor Kennedi Clements) talking to an imaginary friend in the closet during their first tour of the new house. Disturbances become more violent until the malevolent forces capture young Maddie, prompting her parents (Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt) to seek the help of a team of parapsychologists as they attempt a rescue.
It's pretty much the exact same as Tobe Hooper's 1982 original.
The new Poltergeist features some standout moments, though, including a heart-stopping sequence with one of the parapsychology students (Nicholas Braun) almost literally getting "drilled" while installing a video camera in Maddie's closet. Director Gil Kenan (Monster House) also makes use of drone technology to get some unique angles that give parts of the film a found-footage feel. It's welcome since the drone acts as an extension of Griffin's point of view of the story.
At this point in history, the story of Poltergeist represents the fears and anxieties of post-economic-crisis middle America. Many breadwinners lost their jobs and saw their families at risk. This is exactly what happens with patriarch Eric Bowen (Rockwell), who represents a contrast to Craig T. Nelson's successful realtor Steve Freeling from the original film. I don't think it's a coincidence that these films, at their core, both reflect the state of the nuclear family during significant periods in America's economic life: Freeling an embodiment of Reaganomics in the original Poltergeist and Bowen a reflection of the 2008 economic crisis in this remake.
What inherently keeps this remake from being so sharp is that the story is now sadly contrived due to the success of the Insidious films, which also center around a family losing a child to spirits in an alternate reality. The target audience for Poltergeist 2015 has seen Insidious. Those kids are going to see this movie this weekend and say, "it sucked because it was just another Insidious." That's a disappointing reflection on the state of the horror genre today because the mainstream audiences seeing these new films likely have never bothered to watch the originalPoltergeist, without which there would be no Insidious. Or Sinister or Conjuring or Paranormal Activity. Talk about history working against you.
Furthermore, Poltergeist 2015 features plenty of sins of its own. Aside from the now contrived plot, a shoddy 3D presentation fails to do justice to the wacky special effects. Otherwise, Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) doesn't hold a candle the unforgettable Zelda Rubinstein as the professional psychic brought in to assist the rescue when the university team runs out of answers.
You could do far worse for a night at the movies with friends, but I'd wait for a rental. Better yet, just watch the original Poltergeist instead.
Written by Ben C. of The Reel