Weighing it up
“They’re here!!!!” There are few more famous lines uttered in horror movies than young Heather O’Rourke’s ominous warning back in 1982’s Poltergeist.
Written and produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ Hooper, the original tale of a suburban American family being tormented by a supernatural entity was a fun but flawed supernatural thriller.
Scope, then, for slight improvement in Gil Kenan’s remake, which sees Sam Rockwell (Eric) and Rosemarie DeWitt’s (Amy) parents fraught with fear when daughter Madison (Kennedi Clements) is targeted by evil apparitions.
But while Kenan and writer David LindsayAbaire (Oz the Great and Powerful) deserve some credit for avoiding the shot-for-shot redux approach, they don’t mix things up enough to make Poltergeist 2015 feel like anything other than a cash-in for a new generation.
Sure it’s slick enough; Kenan playing with fans of the original’s expectations with fresh visuals on many of the 82 flick’s famous scares and utilising darkness and flashing images to heighten the tension.
And while they lack some of the comedic material and Spielbergian family values gifted to leading couple predecessors Craig T Nelson and JoBeth Williams, Rockwell and DeWitt are in fine form, particularly Rockwell with a performance that’s far more nuanced than the film he’s starring in deserves.
But Clements can’t help but feel like a pale imitation of the late O’Rourke, not helped by a long dark hair and pale skin look that smacks of the tired J-Horror genre.
The original’s best moments are present and correct — TV, clown, portal to another realm — but not nearly as affective with the upgrade on technology hindering rather than helping the more unsettling practical effects found in the eighties’ version.
Kenan’s attempts to freshen things up are either lazy — more than one clown — or downright bizarre (demonic squirrel!).
His remake also suffers from the never ending conveyor belt of similarly-themed horrors to hit cinemas in recent years; the teens it’s aimed at will have seen all this carry on before in the likes of Sinister, The Conjuring and the Insidious series. It’ll take more than creaky floorboards, loud jump scares and loopy paranormal investigators (a barely worth the paycheck Jared Harris) to get modern fans of the genre going.
The closest Kenan gets is a freaky finale that deviates slightly from Hooper’s original and dials up the intensity to previously unseen levels.
Sadly it’s all too little, If you’ve ever seen people frantically too late to save a remake swappingsw luggage between bags at that’s more silly than theth airport check-in you’ll know why spooky and fails to go over a scale is vital. This one is compact, enough new ground.
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