Title: Poltergeist (2015)
Director: Gil Kenan
Runtime: 93 minutes
I haven’t seen the original Poltergeist film in probably twenty-some years. My memories of it are fuzzy outside of the fact that I did enjoy it, but didn’t care for the sequels. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what was carried over to this remake, and I just can’t piece it all together.
Poltergeist is your typical Hollywood horror film. It’s bright and shiny, has a semi-recognizable cast, and has been modernized just enough to allow teenagers to enjoy the film. A family of five moves into a new home, and crazy things start to happen. I’ll leave the plot description at that because if you’ve seen the original you know where this is going, and if you haven’t, you’re going to be in for a treat. Or something like that.
I didn’t hate Poltergeist like I probably should have, nor did I love it as so many others have. There are plot holes large enough to drive a truck through, and while we are talking about a film like this, its plot holes are based on common knowledge.
In the film, our happy family has no income. Dad has been let go from his job, and mom is a stay-at-home mom who is writing a novel. Yet, they are able to afford a new house. It’s implied that it’s a downgrade from the family’s first home, which is believable to a degree, but no bank would ever allow someone to get a loan with absolutely no source of income.
Once you get past that fact, the film completely forgets itself as we find dad at Home Depot or some such store. All of his credit cards get declined except one. As he’s leaving he notices a mall, and comes home with a new computer, cell phone, drone, and so on. Mom makes a stink about having bought the new gear and pizza, yelling, “How can we afford all of this,” and then a groan-inducing joke flies. But we need these new toys to update the film, and allow the final act to even happen. I personally couldn’t get around these terrible holes that happen due to lazy writing. David Lindsay-Abaire penned this remake, and you might know him as the guy who butchered Inkheart and Oz the Great and Powerful.
Oddly enough the film goes to extra lengths to promote a ghost hunter on TV, even with a silly one-line slogan: “This house is CLEAN”. Oh, you know they are going to run with that. Despite never developing or explaining our parental units, the film has no problem giving this ghost hunter an ex-wife, battle wounds, and more character development than anyone else in the film. Go figure.
Did I mention how annoying the characters are? Kennedi Clements and Kyle Catlett play the two youngest siblings, and they have no chemistry together, which is required for the plot we are given. Saxon Sharbino is completely useless as the elder sister, and is just used to show off our ghost hunter on TV. The biggest flaw is Sam Rockwell as the dad. He’s detestable and has no screen presence at all. It constantly feels like he is acting. The only thing he does well is rocking a pair of red briefs, but that’s another weird, convoluted scene with no chemistry between our “loving” family.
Director Gil Kenan thankfully has the fun, animated film Monster House under his belt, and he definitely knows what he’s doing here. Poltergeist moves at an absurd pace, though, especially seeing as it takes place over something like three or four days. There are some great, creepy bits, and some moments of suspense. The assault scene is pretty much the highlight of the film, but happens within the first forty minutes. It really ramps the tension up, and while I’m sure it’s a spot-on carbon copy of the original, it works really well.
Sadly, Poltergeist does use some spotty CGI. I watched this film in 3D, and it’s not until the finale that the 3D is finally utilized, and even then, it isn’t very good. The tree is definitely the highlight of the film’s CGI, while the rest of it looks a bit wonky, mainly the weird portal thing.
Part of me wants to just rip Poltergeist apart, but I can’t because it isn’t that bad of a film. It is terribly flawed, and, at times, miscast, but the bits that seem to be brought over from the original film are strong enough to make this remake watchable, and to some degree, enjoyable. I wouldn’t recommend going to the theatre to see this, but a rental would do it justice. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, though, and that says a lot about the film’s quality.