Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, Saxon Sharbino, Kennedi Clements (Rated M – 94 min).
When it comes to horror genre remakes, there are some sacred films that really should remain untouched from their original source. In this case, the 1982 Steven Spielberg produced classic Poltergeist, is highly regarded as flawless. One of the great haunted house spectacles that is indeed as frightening now as it was when first released. The infamous quote ‘They’re here’ became cinematic folklore, while two sequels and a television series followed.
Reimagining (as the studios like to call it) this eerie tale for a new generation was always going to be a risk, but for Hollywood, everything old is new again. Or so they think. The premise of a family moving into a new home only to notice strange happenings and the communication of emulating spirits is similar. Things that go bump in the night get nasty. Raging trees coming alive outside windows and the extreme fear of clowns is strong. Child abduction by a disturbing life force inside the television set which is so apparent in the earlier versions is reworked here with ingenious shock tactics, a rare highlight.
A group of paranormal experts enter proceedings stating the obvious, don’t go into the light and this is where the film flatlines rather than building much needed suspense. The fact a certain protagonist has changed from the original tale and tweaks have been made to maintain teen-friendly watered down atmospherics works against the fearsome impact of what unhappy demons could be capable of.
Mediocre material aside, a decent cast keep things interesting, particularly Saxon Sharbino (who impressed in another genre remake, I Spit on Your Grave) and Kennedi Clements as Madison (renamed from Carol-Anne in the original) who first meets the TV People. Even playing the frazzled dad here, Sam Rockwell (Lawn Dogs, Moon) is and will always be a strong presence on screen. They’re back!
Shane A. Bassett