HOLLYWOOD—I have seriously been waiting for quite some time for a movie to come along to deliver some wicked thrills, something to scare me unlike anything before. Well that wait might finally be over. “Poltergeist,” a new interpretation on the 1982 classic that was helmed by Tobe Hooper, (much debate has said that Steven Spielberg was responsible for the horror classic), is getting an update.
Remakes, they flooded the theaters from 2004-2010 it seems. Things have slowed down a bit because most of those horror remakes were beyond terrible in most cases. This one pays tribute to the classic in a clever way, but finds a way to deliver some unbelievable scares, not to mention the fact that ghosts or spirits may not just be something from the movies.
The narrative follows the Bowen family who moves to suburbia in an attempt to financially bounce back and raise their family. There happens to be one small problem the family wasn’t aware of: the home was built on the ground of an old cemetery where the bodies were never moved. Sam Rockwell portrays Eric Bowen, the patriarch of the clan, while Rosemarie DeWitt plays Amy Bowen, the mother who fights to the core to rescue her daughter Madison (Kennedi Clements) from the evil spirits.
Clements brings a curiosity to the character, one that is just as frightening if not scarier than the character Carole Anne portrayed by Heather O’Rourke. What appears as child’s play to the parents immediately raises a red flag for her older brother Griffin (Kyle Catlett) who is the first to notice strange occurrences in the home. I would never place my child in an attic; it just seems like a place where a child wouldn’t be afraid of things that go bump in the night.
He has a certain fear of clowns, and when the movie begins to ratchet up the level of scares, there is a clown attack that might force one to go home and rid the ‘friendly’ toys from the kid’s bedrooms. The oldest of the bunch Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) is so preoccupied with technology, that she doesn’t realize her sister is in danger until it’s far too late.
The thing about most remakes is the plot is a given; one doesn’t have to dive too much to figure out what is taking place. Evil spirits attack family, kidnaps the youngest daughter, while the family enlists the help of a spiritual medium Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) to help save their daughter. Does Harris measure up to the charisma and chills that Zelda Rubinstein delivered in the 1982 classic? Not quite. That might be the biggest problem with this remake: you want to compare this to the original considering the movie was such a classic.
While the acting from the adults maybe a bit subpar, the performances by both Catlett and Clements are quite strong, bringing a stronger connection to the audience. This remake does deliver a bevy of scares that in my opinion blow the original out of the water. Where the first film mostly relied on crafting a heightened level of suspense, this installment has no trepidations by throwing those scares right at the audience (in 3D) in a way that leaves one a bit unnerved.
Director Gil Kenan navigates the action in a way that keeps the audience immersed into the chaos until its climax that delivers on multiple fronts. I would argue that plenty of the scares would have had an even bigger impact if they weren’t so widely publicized in the movie’s trailers and TV spots. If you expect a scare, it makes it difficult to surprise the viewer when they have an idea of what is coming.
Be warned “Poltergeist” is not a movie for children, if you take your child to see this one, you might have plenty of sleepless nights. Oh, and the movie does a savvy job at making the spectator question the possibility that haunted houses really do indeed exist. It’s just a question of whether you’re willing to dig into the past to find out precisely what transpired.
“Poltergeist” is a solid remake that scores points for ramping up the scare factor on a movie that is considered a classic that still delivers till this day. It doesn’t hurt that the film highlights that classic TV scene that left audiences horrified back in the day.