Remakes get a bum rap. The oft-maligned “R” word often gets thrown around as the most toxic symptom of a creatively bankrupt modern Hollywood, but the truth is that people have been remaking movies for nearly as long as they’ve been making movies. And some of these remakes have in fact not just been superior to the original but are so fantastic that people forget that the original even exists. None of this positivity applies to the new Poltergeist 3D though.
Director Gil “Monster House” Kenan’s new take on Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg’s 1982 horror classic is a tired remake, as pointless as it is mostly toothless, which contemporizes and adapts the original’s story in an admittedly serviceable way, but then offers nothing in the way of vindication as to why this needed a do-over at all. Well, besides for hellishly reinvigorating that clown doll scene (and so another generation of coulrophobia sufferers are created).
Despite the overall negative sentiment of that previous paragraph, I always believe that remakes should be judged on their own merits, and not just as comparisons to the original. Unfortunately here 2015’s Poltergeist still comes up short. Besides for far too brief flashes of cinematographical inspiration, Kenan mainly directs with a journeyman’s malaise: Nothing overtly criminal but lacking any believable wow factor in the film’s big moments (he admittedly does better in the film’s quieter, more suspenseful opening scenes). Combining this lackluster performance behind the camera with David Lindsay-Abaire’s uninspired, running-on-remake-fumes screenplay results (not always; see: demonic clowns) in rote jump scare tactics so predictable that you can see them coming from the afterlife.
And while on paper Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt are solid picks as financially down on their luck parents Eric and Amy Bowen who move their young family into a new suburban home (which the realtor fails to mention is built on an old graveyard – oops?), the pair just sleepwalk through their roles, with the usually dependable Rockwell being especially narcoleptic.
As Madison, the creepy-cute youngest member of the family that gets contacted and eventually dragged into the spirit world/TV by the poor CG rendered ghouly nasties that want to use her latent psychic abilities for their own purposes, newcomer Kennedi Clements puts in the best performance of the young Bowen brood. Her siblings unfortunately don’t fare as well, with Saxon Sharbino’s Kendra playing just another catty older sister because, like, teen angst, man, while Kyle Cattler’s scared-of-his-shadow Griffin never really convinces, leading to his intended terror-filled scenes coming across about as scary as an episode of The Real Ghostbusters [editor’s note: update cultural references].
In fact, that is the case for most of Poltergeist 3D, as while there are a couple of peaks of horror and suspense, they are few and far between and practically non-existent by the time we hit the film’s blowout third act. At least Jared Harris is there to inject some lip-smacking fun into proceedings as scarred reality-TV ghostbuster Carrigan Burke, called in by Jane Adam’s paranormal researcher, Dr. Brooke Powell, to help the Bowens get their daughter back and rid them of their ghost problems.
Kenan fails to have that fun spread anywhere else though, even missing several opportunities to make use of the new 3D technology to any entertaining visual effect. With the script also comprised of more plot holes than frights (wait, so Eric lost his job and Amy quit hers to try to be a writer… and now they’re buying a new house?), the only thing about Poltergeist 3D that will haunt you is the regret of expecting it to actually be better than needless. Well, that and those clowns. Why did it have to be clowns?
Last Updated: May 29, 2015