2015 / Director. Gil Kenan.
Review by Jarret Gahan.
Feeling the pinch of the global financial crisis, the Bowen family are forced to downsize to a residence in a lower socioeconomic end of town. Over the course of a few days, the family are teased by a metaphysical presence, escalating when the youngest, Madison (Kennedi Clements) is kidnapped by the mysterious entities. Eric (Sam Rockwell) and his wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) call in paranormal heavy-hitters Dr. Brooke Powell (Jane Adams) & television ghost hunter Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) to aid the rescue of their daughter from the spectral forces and potentially put an end to the haunting once and for all.
The task of remaking a film held in an equally high regard by fans of genre and cinema alike was never going to be easy and to the credit of POLTERGEIST (2015), it doesn't attempt a complete re-tread of the original either, albeit with mixed results. The few attempts to rework certain standout moments (in particular the tree crashing through the boy's bedroom, taking him hostage) from its predecessor are flawed, missing the spectacle and scare that made them so indelible. Gone are the practical, optical and mechanical effects of the first and replaced with predominately computer-generated imagery, a regular causality of modern genre cinema, just a shame given the enduring impact of the original's effects. Replacing the memorable though dated face-melting sequence is an impressive scene with a hole in the wall and a power drill that will doubt have audiences squirming in their seats and solid proof that sometimes a simple yet well choreographed in-camera effect is all that's needed. In addition to the aping of a few key sequences from the first, there are a couple throwaway references to the original in the dialogue, played more for laughs than a tip of the hat and unfortunately they barely illicit a smirk.
Unlike its predecessor, this film moves at a far faster pace, clocking in at ninety-three minutes (almost half an hour shorter) but in doing so it feels rushed, there is not enough time given to generate anticipation let alone suspense. The scares are few and far between, none of which evoked more than a mere tremor comparable to mild flatulence. Performances for the most part are pretty hammy (particularly Jared Harris) with exception to Sam Rockwell who turns in a fine effort as a loving charismatic father/husband maimed though undefeated by financial ruin, physically powerless to protect his family from inhuman duress. Gil Kenan seemed a promising fit as director giving his prior history with MONSTER HOUSE & CITY OF EMBER but his attempts fall short in what ultimately feels like a rushed and possibly under-budgeted production.
It’s not the standard set by the original that makes POLTERGEIST (2015) ultimately an average film, it’s the fact that there are many contemporary films such as INSIDIOUS and the more family friendly THE HOLE that are far better. Unfortunately it appears that the Poltergeist curse continues, though this time rather than the untimely passing of a cast or crew member, it may very well be a death at the box office for the film itself.