Cinematic Releases: Poltergeist

From the producers of The Grudge and Evil Dead comes a terrifying new vision. Indeed.

"Yo man!!! You seen
my clown car?!!!"
The original Poltergeist arrived at a time when Star Wars and Indiana Jones ruled the box office. It was an original concept that blended Spielberg's talents with Tobe Hooper's sense of horror and brought forth a cinematic entry that families could enjoy together despite its horrific nature. As a child of that era, it was the first scary movie I ever saw and it still remains with me to this very day. I can remember many sleepless nights, afraid my closet would swallow me whole and take me to the other side where lost souls would use my innocence to find the light. 

Hesitation and some amount of trepidation set in with the idea of this remake. Unfortunately, every fear comes true with this Poltergeist do over. What starts out as a shining tribute turns into a lackluster, groan inducing, sad sack of a film that is poorly directed and way too heavy handed in its modern updates of the classic story. Where mystery, shadows, and practical effects made the tale of Carol Anne so horrifying, overused CGI and a poor, almost non-existent family dynamic ruins this dire attempt at capturing a new audience for this story. Poltergeist (2015) starts out relatively strong but ends on a whimper with one of the worst third acts in the history of cinema. 

With the original Poltergeist there was a natural bond between each of the Freeling family members that was reliant on humor and a natural dynamic. However, the real story revolved around a strong connection between mom and daughter. Heather O'Rourke and JoBeth Williams were a believable on screen duo with an emotional bond that felt real and non-forced. With the new version there is none of that. The family feels disconnected, vacant of any realistic emotion, and the mother/daughter part of the story never hits the same high notes. Plus, the defining matriarchal presence of Williams mixed with the dopey Craig T. Nelson just can't be matched

"Damn you closet!!!
Give me back my integrity!!!"
Rosemarie Dewitt does her damnedest to try and capture the essence of Williams but fails at each and every turn. With the remake, she revokes every single ounce of respect with a fatal performance not deserving of the Poltergeist legacy. And poor poor Sam Rockwell. He tries to unleash his dramatic prowess on this dreadful script, but is shot down at every turn by a director that couldn't find his way out of a closet full of clown dolls. Young actress Kennedi Clements takes over the role of Maddy (formerly Carol Anne) and delivers an eerily reminiscent version of the character. Other than her darker hair, she's a spitting image of Heather O'Rourke in physicality, vocal delivery, and all around performance. She is the only one that makes this movie a worthwhile watch....and she's 8 years old. That's saying a lot when you're competing with powerhouses like Rockwell and Dewitt. 

Poltergeist (2015) begins with some stunning throwbacks to the original movie. From lighting to Spielberg-esque lens flare to cinematography ripped right from 1982, this feels eerily the same. The story sticks to the same key elements while technological advances offer some new twists to the story. Yet, the techy updates are much too forced and destroy the mystery of what lies on the other side. Unlike the first bout with the closeted spirits, the remake approaches a known franchise with the idea of trying to reinvigorate with more modern ideals. Sadly, it just doesn't work.  

Sometimes its just best to leave the classics alone. 

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