Release: 26th October 2015
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
All seems well for Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell), wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) and their three children as they move into their new house in the suburbs of Illinois. Soon, youngest daughter Maddy (Kennedi Clements) begins talking to an imaginary friend, or so the family thinks. It’s not long before sinister spirits wreak havoc in the home, holding Maddy captive and forcing the parents to consult a team of parapsychologists who engage the supernatural entities in a battle for the girl’s freedom.
When a film is remade (or “re-booted”, as is the new euphemism), audiences rightfully ask the question, “why?” If something works so well the first time, why would it possibly need to be repackaged for a modern audience? Good cinema is good cinema, right? Poltergeist is proof of this – as everything that works in the new version is either a direct lift from the original, or at least a healthy ode to it. The only time Poltergeist 2015 makes you appreciate its modern take, is when…well, we will come to that.
There is a moment early on in Tobe Hooper’s original film – we all know it – when Carol Anne Freeling knells down in front of a static filled TV screen. It has, and always will be, a creepy-ass moment in cinema. Oddly enough, this exact moment in Gil Kenan’s version signifies both the sameness and wanton need to justify itself. Because in spite of it’s feeling of, “been there, done that.” One might argue that Kenan’s version of the scene (see title image) is actually more effective. This is a short lived triumph for Kenan, however, as in practice the majority of his film feels like an inferior product. Kenan’s scares are muted; his version lacks a sense of dread or foreboding. The only time Poltergeist 2015 makes you sit up and watch is during a decadent moment of visual effects, when the Bowen’s middle brat Griffin, guides a camera mounted drone through the ‘other dimension’. It’s an engaging and frankly original piece of horror imagery, but it doesn’t warrant the rest of the film’s existence.
In terms of plot, both films are practically a mirror image. Except where Craig T. Nelson’s Steve Freeling was a successful real estate agent (oh, the irony!), Sam Rockwell’s Eric Bowen is recently unemployed. Modern technology is introduced to try and set Kenan’s version apart, with evil iPhone’s, and dastardly Skype calls. But this is just part of long line of trite attempts at ‘modernising’ old horror.
Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt work very well as lead couple. Their kids may be irritating as hell, but Rockwell’s mid-life crisis dad, and DeWitt’s-‘don’t make me the bad guy!’-Tormented mum, contribute to nearly all of film’s warmth and humanity. What little there is of it. And as wonderful an actor as he is, Jared Harris doesn’t hold a torch to Beatrice Straight.
Haunted Houses are great source material for the horror genre. But with more complex audiences comes the need for more complex storytelling. Poltergeist 2015 doesn’t have any hallmarks of a classic, and as such is a much inferior product to its predecessor. Which makes you wonder, is this all just a ploy to get new audiences to revisit the original!?
Film Grade: D-
Not available at time of going to press. But they include;
- Extended Cut
- Alternate Ending
- Theatrical Trailers