Confirms curse of the Poltergeist is still haunting the franchise.
Thanks to 20th Century Fox we had the chance to see Gil Kenan’s Poltergeist remake. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself!
When first released in 1982, the Poltergeist was considered one of the films of the year and one of the best horrors ever made. The critical and financial success led to two sequels that never quite recaptured the success of the original, but were successful in their own right.
Much of that success of the original has been attributed to producer/writer Steven Spielberg‘s vision who, sadly, seems to have had little to no involvement with this one.
Forward 30 years and like many popular films of the 80’s the Poltergeist gets it’s own remake, a ‘revisionist’ version led by Gil Kenan (Monster House) and produced, in part, by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead). With such pedigree, we’re sure they were hoping to recapture some of the acclaim of the original but unfortunately, have succeeded in only proving that the Poltergeist curse is alive…and well.
The premise follows the Bowen family who are relocating with their three children; eldest daughter, Kendra, their son, Griffin, and youngest daughter, Maddy. We find out that the father, Eric (Sam Rockwell), has recently been made redundant and the home is less than they are accustomed to as vocalised, annoyingly, by their sulking teenage daughter.
Almost immediately, unexplainable things begin happening to the family that centre around the youngest daughter who is often seen speaking to her ‘invisible friends’. When the parents leave the house one evening putting Kendra in charge of the children, the activity increases as Kendra is lured to the basement and attacked by a ghostly figure.
Upstairs, son Griffin notices toy clowns found in the house seem to be moving around his room at which point he’s attacked. Managing to escape to his younger sister’s room, he tells her to stay in the room while he gets help but before being able to raise the alarm he’s attacked by a possessed tree. The parents return to save Griffin and discover that Maddy has gone missing. When they search for her they find that they can communicate with her through the tv.
Unable to call the police, they reach out to the paranormal department of the local university who investigate the disturbances and contact a celebrity psychic (Jarred Harris) they must work together to get Maddy back and rid the house of these spirits once and for all.
Whilst the makers have used some elements of the original that made the first a success, their failure to stay true to the story is one of the films main downfalls – that and the character development that is poor at best.
Throughout the film Eric, the father who’s out of work, spends more time haunting the house than the Poltergeists and the only spirits he seems interested in come from a bottle. He’s incredibly unstable, even before the disappearance of Maddy, and his continued odd behaviour throughout the film leaves us to believe he poses more of threat to the family than the Poltergeist. In fact, by taking Maddy they maybe the Poltergeists are doing her a favour?
But it’s not just Rockwell‘s character that’s unbearable it’s all of them. At the heart of the original is a love story between man and wife and their family. This version has none of that with zero chemistry between Rockwell and his wife and unlikable characters that include the stereotypical privileged bratty teen who is incredibly selfish, the wimpy son who’s scared of his own shadow but somehow plucks up to the courage to face poltergeists alone and, as for the daughter, Maddy, her saving grace is that she’s not in the film all that much.
One of the endearing themes of the first Poltergeist was the notion of strong women. In it the daughter, Dana, is seen sticking up to contractors who are sexually harassing her, while the mother keeps the family together during the crisis. Even the paranormal team is led by a woman who is intelligent and brave, while the psychic that they bring in has a strength and presence that far out weighs her little stature and is beautifully played by Zelda Rubinstein. However, this new version portrays the men as the saviours and the women as needing saving making us think, which one was really from the 80’s?
In order to detract from some of the films short cummings, the makers seem intent to compensate by throwing as much CGI into the end of the movie as possible to explain to the audience what is haunting the house. But the overuse does nothing other than make the film more like the Mummy than the original Poltergeist and demonstrates a lack of ability by the makers to tell the story rather than show it, and let audiences come to their own conclusions.
Sadly, like most remakes this one falls flat and its attempts to be original while incorporating elements of the first film, is as frustrating as this film is irrelevant. Kenan, perhaps, was not experienced enough to do justice to the Poltergeist story and he’s created a film with an identity crisis – half horror half comedy more akin to scream than a true horror. Any spine tingling moments that the film has, brief as they are, are quickly eclipsed by laughable CGI, bad jokes or the fact that, in the end, the viewer is kind of routing for the poltergeist to swallow the house with the family all inside.
We’re all for a good remake, but unfortunately this one’s going to haunt the makers for a while.