They’re here…to waste our time.
Since 1982, Poltergeist has scared audiences for generations. Director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg (who also wrote the screenplay) changed the face of the haunted house genre with its slow buildup, great tension, eerie atmosphere, and genuinely horrifying images. The realistic portrayal of a middle-class suburban family being haunted by spirits made it one of the best horror movies of all-time (review of the original coming this October). Because the movie was rated PG, the MPAA didn’t have the PG-13 rating until Steven Spielberg suggested it after the releases of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins. I’m glad the new remake is PG-13 because it would scare the living hell out of young kids.
The biggest problem with horror movies today is coming up with a good scare. Not only do I despise it when movies intend to use blood and gore to scare audiences, but I also hate it when movies don’t have a proper buildup of the scare. there have been countless horror movies that seem to use the haunted house formula to death. A family moving into a new house, they think it’s perfect until they realize an entity is haunting the house, the family leaves, the end. Even though some movies are executed well (The Conjuring), it quickly becomes tiresome. Seeing the remake of Poltergeist last night doesn’t change my opinion of horror.
Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) gets laid off from his job. He moves his family to a nice suburban neighborhood in Illinois. The youngest daughter Madison (Kennedi Clemens) is excited to live in the house. She immediately makes new friends, but they are unseen. In fact, they are spirits, or the “lost people”. On their first night, Maddy wakes up to stare at a malfunctioning television set. “They’re here,” she says to her parents and her anxious older brother Griffin (Kyle Catlett). After the spirits hold Maddy captive, the family calls upon paranormal expert Brooke Powell (Jane Adams) and famous reality TV ghostbuster Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) to bring her back.
Director Gil Kenan (Monster House, City of Ember) makes several changes that makes the remake stand on it own. For instance, the use of modern technology, such as iPads, iPhones, and computers, comes into play when the spirits start to terrorize the family. The Burke family isn’t quite as happy as the Freelings in the original. They are a poor family who try to make a living. Despite getting laid off, Eric tries to hide his anguish by being the goofball he usually is. But, how he is able to afford a nice house is beyond me. Rockwell leads the cast who deliver nothing but ‘meh’ performances, even though they are thinly written. However, Burke is the most interesting character in the movie. He tells his stories about his past investigations, which I think would turn out to be a better movie than this.
There are some decent scares in Poltergeist. In one particular scene, Eric hallucinates worms crawling out his face after taking a sip of his liquor. It reminded me of the scene in the original where one of the investigators hallucinates him peeling his face off. However, most of the “scares” in Poltergeist have appeared in the trailer. The evil clown doll has been everywhere in advertisements and the posters. It seems like the movie is giving a reminder for the people who have a massive fear of clowns. During the screening, one person, who sat two rows in front of me, was so afraid of clowns he left when he attacked Griffin. I don’t have a problem with people who cannot stand the sight of clowns. However, the clown doll in the original movie was absolutely terrifying. At first, you see an innocent-looking doll with an innocent smile until it attacks the boy. In this version, however, not only is he less scary, the entire sequence is an anticlimax of all anticlimaxes. If you want scares, watch the original.