Remakes…It’s no secret that I am not fond of these particular movies, and although I’m willing to admit they occasionally do hit the mark, this is unfortunately not the case with the over-hyped remake of Poltergeist.
Funnily enough, this is not the worst horror reboot I’ve ever seen, not by a long shot, but this unnecessary, unwanted and unimaginative remake isn’t any good either. Directed by Gil Kenan and starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jared Harris, this updated version borrows heavily from the 1982 classic and brings very little (if any) originality to the table. Worse than that, this flick falls flat when it comes to delivering any form of scares, and more than once actually made me laugh out loud with some (unintentionally?) hilarious scenes. The cast are decent enough, the main couple are attractive, likable suburbanites fallen on hard times and Jared Harris is always the best part of any project he’s in (looove him), but the movie is so sloppily thrown together that I found it difficult to relate to the hastily drawn characters or even care much (or at all) about their peril.
If I was gonna be 100% honest (and why the fuck not), I’d have to say that Poltergeist feels very much like a half-baked, ill-conceived cash grab…now I know that can be said of many a shitty movie, but in this case it really feels like the entire movie was put together to bank off of the popularity of the original and the curiosity of its fan base. All of which might have not been so bad if the whole wasn’t so flagrantly dull that I was left wondering why no one, at any stage of the production, noticed that the results were less than frightening and far from interesting…seriously, no one?
The kids are adorable though, especially itty bitty little protagonist Kennedi Clements who looks like she belongs on a jar of baby food with her big blue eyes and sweet little face, but even the smallest cast members weren’t immune to the banality of the script. In the original, miniature Carol Ann is cute and creepy and her guileless performance and innocently delivered lines heighten the tension and incite real concern for the well-being of this child. In the reboot, the little girl now renamed Madison is just as cute and sufficiently creepy, but the tiny actress is far more seasoned than her predecessor and it shows. Unlike the unfortunately departed Heather O’Rourke, who took in her surroundings with wide eyed wonder and infused her delivery with a child’s artless singsong, Clements delivers her lines with the flat detachment of a disaffected kid who has already played this game. Perhaps the character is more in keeping with today’s reality (hell, my own kids are more often than not, bored about bloody everything), but without that sweet, overwhelming innocence, the evil kinda falls flat.
Still there are a few random frights, nothing we haven’t seen before (in a thousand other formulaic horrors), but enough to keep one watching I suppose, and the effects are definitely upgraded and flashy enough to satisfy the most jaded of viewers; purely in terms of style over substance, Poltergeist is not bad at all. Like I said, it isn’t the worst horror remake I’ve ever seen, it just isn’t anything special. It all comes back to what I’ve always maintained about remakes, they take something great, in this case a real classic of a horror film, and strip it of all the elements that made it work. Poltergeist, the original, is a brilliant example of a perfect horror movie, and as such, has stood the test of time, perhaps the effects are somewhat less impressive than this latest incarnation, but effects don’t make the film (unless we’re talking Avatar or the like…and we ain’t).
Here’s what I really don’t get, remaking something perfect is like tearing down a gorgeous, perfectly maintained old house just so it can be rebuilt nearly identical but with chrome fixtures and modern paint colors…it makes no sense.
Once again, in a flagrant attempt to make fast cash, the film industry has proven that originality is in desperately short supply, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but that bums me out. In a year that has given us great horror films like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, It Follows, Maggie and even the hilarious (and original) What We Do in the Shadows, it seems almost insulting not only that movies like this are still being pumped out, but also that so much emphasis has been put on promoting this unexceptional, big budget flick. Sadder still, the new Poltergeist, with all its flaws and disappointing execution, will no doubt manage to snag an audience far larger than all the superior films I mentioned combined, and come to think of it, that’s not just sad, that’s downright scary.
Poltergeist is currently playing at a theater near you, and any of you awesome horror fans saw it and have a different view, feel free to let me know, and as always give A Girl’s Guide to Horror some lovin’ and click that like button 😉