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Movie Review: Poltergeist – It DOESN’T Know What Scares Us!


June 11, 2015

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“A person terrified with the imagination of spectres, is more reasonable than one who thinks the appearance of spirits fabulous and groundless.”   ~ Joseph Addison

Eric and Amy Bowen are looking for the right new home for them and their three children Kendra, Griffin and Madison. They believe they’ve found just the right one, or at least it’s the one that best fits into their budget.

Not even one night goes by before they begin to hear strange noises, which isn’t necessarily uncommon when living in a new place. What is more disturbing is the bevy of old clown dolls their young son, Griffin, finds inside the wall of his attic bedroom. Of course things begin to get even weirder as lights and electronics begin to behave strangely as well. The capper of all the strange happenings is when the youngest daughter, Madison, is found in the living room talking to the television as if somebody or something is talking to her from inside of it. When Griffin tries to unplug the TV, again the lights in the house begin to go haywire. But it may be too late since Madison says something is coming.

Eric and Amy go to dinner at a friend’s home, during which they find that the reason their home was likely so reasonably priced is the fact that it was built on the site of an old cemetery. Even better, they only relocated the headstones and left the actual graves. While Eric and Amy are away the disturbance at the house escalates becoming more While Eric and Amy are away the disturbance at the house escalates and becomes more threatening as it turns its aggression on Kendra and Griffin. While her brother and sister are occupied by the attacking spirits, Madison is pulled into a spectral void that lies inside her closet and into the spirit realm.

Eric and Amy return home from dinner to find out their children have been under attack by angry entities, and that Madison can’t be found anywhere inside the house. As they all search frantically, Griffin notices Madison’s voice coming from the same TV she had been talking to before. It becomes apparent that Madison is trapped somewhere beyond the physical world as they know it, and can only hear her by way of the TV.

The family decides to contact paranormal researchers at a local university, to help them figure out how to find Madison and bring her back. They come into the Bowen’s home and set up their equipment and furnish everyone in the house with GPS trackers in order to keep tabs on their whereabouts. The entities devil one of the researchers as he attempts to install a heat sensor in the closet where Madison disappears. Later, when Eric tries to contact Madison through the same closet, he is accosted by a spirit that he mistakes for his daughter. In a rage Eric breaks through the wall revealing the passage through which Madison disappeared.

The researchers make the determination that they aren’t dealing with a normal haunting and that it more likely a poltergeist they’re dealing with. They also realize they’re out of their depths in regard to handling the situation. Psychic and paranormal guru, Carrigan Burke, is called in to lend his expertise on how to retrieve Madison form the other side. Carrigan believes the spirits to be angry that their final resting place has been desecrated and have chosen Madison due to her sensitivity to psychic energy. He develops a plan to cross over and bring her back. Since the closet is actually a bi-locational entrance and the exit is thought the living room ceiling, someone can pass through and bring her back.

The clock is now ticking and someone must now pass through the portal to rescue Madison from the spirits holding her captive, before the disturbance ends and the doorway closes forever.

It’s hard to look at this remake without of course comparing it to the original. Often times remakes are disappointing, and other times they can be good enough to stand apart from the original. Unfortunately this reboot, remake, rehash, regurgitation, what have you, of the original 1982 classic is at best, as weak as water.

Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper created a film that’s legacy should have allowed it to endure without the need for a re…something. Of course that’s been said for many classic films that still got the same treatment. Unfortunately, Gil Kenan chose to take on an iconic horror film as only his second live action directing endeavor, and missed the mark badly.

The framework of the story is essentially the same, with the family in suburbia being tormented by supernatural forces that have taken the youngest daughter captive. The family dynamic is also similar, but has obviously been brought up to date to make it more accessible and relatable to today’s audiences. This time around the father is not a well earning real estate developer, enjoying the financial prosperity of the 80s. He is now a father who is dealing with a jobless situation, a struggle that many families can identify with in this day and age.

You get past the basic similarities and the movie just fails to make anything of itself. The original has some of the most iconic, scary, and intense scenes…even by today’s standards. To not try to build on that already very strong foundation the original provided, is ludicrous. And even though the remake borrows some elements like the evil clown doll, the tree that comes to life and drags the son out of the house, the closet portal that the youngest daughter gets pulled into, in the end they were watered down and badly executed. The clown doll was used as a major selling point and it was barely a factor in the movie. This remake is not even a shadow of the original, and doesn’t even attempt to create anything original of its own. The pacing becomes entirely too quick to allow any real tension or fear to manifest itself in the viewers mind. To even refer to it as the “Cliffs Notes” version of the original would be entirely too generous.

The special effects featured in the original still hold up pretty well today, but with all of the current technological advancements in digital and even practical effects, this movie didn’t look nearly as good. They didn’t have to recreate every sequence verbatim, but certainly they could have come up with something original, inspired, and terrifying. I don’t know exactly what the director and the effects department were going for, but it certainly was not impressive

Overall the acting was good, definitely not great and could be inconsistent at times. These are not unlikeable characters, not by any means. But I only really felt any real connection with two characters, Sam Rockwell as Eric Bowen and Kyle Catlett as Griffin Bowen. Rockwell is an immensely talented actor and is a good fit for this role. He’s easily likeable and displays a certain stoicism, as an unemployed man who is facing the struggles of providing a sense of security for his family. As the story progresses he shows real desperation and fear as he fights to hold his family together and get his daughter back. Kyle Catlett gave a great performance and exhibited genuine anxiety, as a boy troubled with deep-rooted emotional issues. He does eventually rise to the occasion, shedding his own inner “demons” to take a heroic turn. jared Harris gave a good performance with what screen time he was given, but ultimately didn’t have the same presence Zelda Rubinstein had as Tangina Barrons. And of course there’s Kennedi Clements as Madison, the young girl trying to be the heir apparent to Heather Rourke. While Clements is an adorable young girl, her performance just doesn’t quite measure up. Her sweetness and innocence lacks that almost angelic quality that Rourke brought to the role of Carol Ann.

A good musical score might have helped, but only just. At times the music sounded as if the composer was trying to mimic parts of Jerry Goldsmith’s score from the original, to give a feeling of familiarity to audiences who have seen the 1982 version. Unfortunately as good as the score was, it couldn’t lend enough to save what was just a badly made horror film.

This movie serves as yet another lesson to be learned about why classic movies should just be left alone. As a fan of the original Poltergeist and the horror genre in general, I really wanted this to be a good remake. However, it plays more like an uninspired and unscary studio revenue grab based solely off of the popularity and cult status of the original.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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