Confession time: I’ve seen the original Poltergeist, but not in quite a number of years. I remember very little about it, outside of the iconic moments that I’ve seen in TV shows and documentaries that reference them. Poltergeist is an extremely influential film, and the problem with remaking a film that inspired so many movies is that, by now, because of those other films, the remake often feels derivative.
And,ultimately, that’s the problem with the remake of Poltergeist. We’ve seen it all before. Though director Gil Kenan has shown promise in previous films (though I don’t enjoy Monster House as much as I wish I did), Poltergeist, outside of some clever technology updates from the original, does absolutely nothing to differentiate itself from all of the Poltergeist-like movies that have been released since the original.
While I appreciate the efforts to bring levity to the film, so much of the humor feels a bit out of place (my sister’s been kidnapped, let me crack a couple of jokes). Sam Rockwell, taking over Craig T. Nelson’s role from the original, comes off at best as an asshole, at worst an emotionally disconnected father (until the midway point of the movie). On the flip side, all the children actors are well cast and carry the weight of the majority of the film admirably.
It’s just not enough to really bring the film above average. If you’ve seen one haunted house film, you’ve seen them all, and without the creativity of a James Wan-esque director at the helm, you end up with an all ages horror film that’s a bit too light on the scares (despite some good scary bits in the first half – it’s just not enough). There’s no blood and gore, and while the original Poltergeist is a great gateway drug to bring kids into horror, I’m just not sure this remake is as successful in the same way.
It would be easy to write this film off as “another unnecessary remake,” but we live in the age of remakes and sequels. They’re what Hollywood is producing. Taken on its own merits (and not as a remake), which is how most young moviegoers will be seeing this movie, it’s still nothing new, but it’s serviceable. It’s not bad, it’s just the same movie we’ve seen so many times before.
Overall – can someone bring something new to the haunted house genre, please?
Score – 2.5/5 (below expectations, but with some redeeming traits)