Poltergeist: Remake Scares Up Place In Rehash History


They’re Here- Maddy Bowen

The Plot:

The Bowen family had it all. Healthy kids, a promising future, and a low mortgage payment. Only sometimes moving can be murder. Soon after the family settles into their new home, things go from boring to boo-rific. When the youngest Bowen child gets sucked into the ghostly vortex of other side, the remaining family must ban together to save her before it’s too late. With the help of a small group of paranormal misfits, the Bowen family must give it all they have. Or lose little Maddy forever. Welcome to the Poltergeist remake.

The Review:

I honestly didn’t expect a lot from the film; it looked like smelly old garbage. The only reason I went was to have courage, be a man of journalistic integrity, and bear the punishment of a studio cash grab. So I picked up my buddy Andrew, smashed out some Smash Brothers before hitting the pavement, and headed to the theater for the latest horror offering. What I found was a film far from boo-ring. So let’s get our proton packs on, and high five a medium, as I review Gil Kenan’s 2015 remake of Poltergeist.

The Direction:

Gil Kenan directs the new rendition of Tobe Hooper’s three-decades-aged horror classic Poltergeist with much more discipline and intellect than I ever expected. Kenan, whose only other directorial credits are 2006’s Monster House and 2008’s City of Ember, really has made one hell of a film. No seriously, I would have believed Casper the friendly ghost would have swooped in and saved Maddy before I would have said the next sentence you’re about to read. The new Poltergeist, that same spook picture playing in a cinema near you of the same name and nature, is one of the best remakes ever made, and the direction is a big part of the film’s success.

While there are many reasons Gil Kenan Hulk-smashed the film with his big, green directorial fist, his ability to juice the camera for all its entertainment nutrients is strikingly obvious and I welcomed every drop. Well, almost, but more on that in the script section my fellow Deadites. What we get from Kenan are some well composed shots. A lot of effective mediums/low mediums, a few extreme highs angles, and some internal character zooms.

Kenan also moves the camera briskly and effortlessly throughout the ninety-three minute Ghost House-produced picture. You know, those Evil Dead boy’s little boo-tique film company. Man I love the irony in the title. The film is literally about a ghost house. Breathe it in people. Now back to your regularly scheduled review. There are literally a few shots in the film that made me audibly say wow in the theater as I enjoyed the director’s skill. One shot in particular is one used to usher in the infamous “They’re here” scene. How the filmmaker introduces the characters, the now updated flat-screen TV, and the overall execution of the scene due to the camera movement was breathtaking. Honestly.

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Then there are the scares. What makes the new-model Poltergeist stand out among the countless remakes that have littered the multitude of screens we have at our disposal in the past decade is the film’s ability to genuinely earn a few effective scares. It was refreshing to find that the director didn’t try to use the jump scare every other scene to manipulate the audience. In fact, there is a jump scare, the only one I can remember actually, that is the punctuation to a very suspenseful scene. Suspense over stupidity; I’m down with that sickness.

The Acting:

The performances in Poltergeist are shockingly strong across the board. The adults and the little ones are bringing the goods to the picture, most notably Sam Rockwell playing every-day family man Eric Bowen.

Rockwell is so good in the picture that it really is sad that the man doesn’t work more. A big part of the film’s overall success really rests on his thespian shoulders and he commands every scene with ease. He’s funny, charming, and produces the best version of anything he’s task with. There is one moment in particular where Rockwell is preforming with Jared Harris that is some Oscar worthy work. It’s almost as if he’s too good to be in the film, but then again this film is pretty well made.

The supporting case is strong as well. Rosemarie Dewitt brings a genuine take to the roll of Amy Bowen. It takes zero effort on our part to believe she’s a loving mother wanting nothing more than to protect her kids from harm. The film asks a lot Dewitt and the actress more than delivers. Her onscreen chemistry with Rockwell is perfect and the two delivered some touching and well deserved moments.

Jarred Harris is also awesome in the picture, with very little screen time. The actor doesn’t show up in the feature till two-thirds through the picture, but when Harris appears on screen, he uses every second. He’s able to win the audience over very quickly and this is just one of the actors many talents. The two kids in the film, Kyle Catlett and Kennedi Clements, playing Griffin and Maddy, respectfully, are above average in terms of kid talent and the film wouldn’t be what it is without them. In many ways, the two mini movie mannequins are the most important actors in the film.

The Script:

David Lindsay-Abaire’s Poltergeist script is a lean, fast-paced ride. I was surprised at how fast the script not only got the family into the house, but how it kept a loose plot interestingly engaged while filling the narrative with well executed character moments. If it were not for these little details, the payoffs wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying.

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One example of detail is the screenwriter’s exploration what a man is to a family and to a relationship. There are these awesome moments with Rockwell’s Eric that really push the film farther than the average horror film. They are about what a father means to his family, and more importantly, what a man means to himself and to his significant other. I found it becoming that Lindsay-Abaire’s was able to do this while not making the film overtly about these moments. It’s still a script whose prime directive is to scare throughout. Where some screenwriters might take short cuts, Lindsay-Abaire’s script for the new Poltergeist knows the more human the characters, the more the audience will connect. It’s storytelling 101.

The script is also a lot funnier than I expected. While it’s true Rockwell’s talents could make the mundane hilarious, there are comedic moment throughout the script that I welcomed with wider opened arms than a Creed revival concert. In particular, there’s an amazingly funny moment at the end of the film that works like a slave to the Queen bee.

I didn’t drink the drink blindly, however. There‘s a six minute stretch involving a character that smells like a studio note and I cringed in my seat when I realized its derivative attempt. It makes zero sense organically to be in the feature, and it pissed me off. I also hated the CG when it came to visually realizing the “other” side. When Maddy goes to the other side, the family has to . . . well I’m sure you’ve seen Hooper’s original, we see the ghost side of the newly inhabited Bowen home. While I understand what the film was trying to do, and the fact that it may not even be the script’s fault, I was still unimpressed. It was completely unneeded.

The Verdict:

The Poltergeist remake is a worthy experience for your hard earns. I was expecting a wash-over film with little regard to execution, but what we get is a well throughout picture that’s effective and memorable. While the film isn’t perfect – what in this world is? – it’s still a nice entry in our genre that should please even the most resistant horror fan. So stay seeing, keep reading, and I’ll see you at the cinemas.

The Grade :B-

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