“Poltergeist” is far from a new or refreshing movie in the horror genre, but it is well worth the trip to the movies to see it. While I am a huge fan of the original, I found this version just as exciting and maybe even a little bit more interesting.
In 1982, “Poltergeist” saw the brilliant pairing of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”’s low-budget horror director Tobe Hooper with far more mainstream screenwriter and producer Steven Spielberg for a movie that earned its place as a benchmark among supernatural thrillers.
Leaving behind his movies directed toward young teens, like “Monster House” and “City of Ember,” director Gil Kenan delivers on his remake of Hooper’s “Poltergeist.”
In setting the scene, Kenan and the filmmakers take their cue from the first film in the trilogy, as Eric (Sam Rockwell) and Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) Bowen, crippled by the financial impacts of a massive company layoff, look to downsize so that they can continue adequately providing for their three kids. They find what they are looking for in a distressed, but affordable home for sale that is located in a nondescript development full of vacant properties on the outskirts of an Illinois town.
Youngest daughter Maddy (Kennedi Clements) is excited to move in following the initial tour after conversing with some new invisible friends who speak to her from a mysterious bedroom closet. Anxiety-prone middle child Griffin (Kyle Catlett) is not thrilled to be settling into an attic bedroom where an ominous willow tree looms over the house through a rooftop skylight. Teenage Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) displays visible disaffection with her new situation, preferring to remain in touch with her old life and friends via phone, text and FaceTime.
On the first night in their new home while everyone else is asleep, Griffin discovers Maddy talking to the big-screen living room TV as it flashes and emits strange noises. “They’re here,” she says, referring to her friends, “the lost people.”
Griffin has some solid reasons to feel worried, especially after noticing objects moving around the house of their own accord and discovering a box full of scary clown dolls stashed in a storage space.
His parents just attribute these trepidations to his chronic anxiety, and it is not until the next night when they are out to dinner at a neighbor’s house that they discover some disturbing information regarding their new home that sends them rushing back to check on the kids.
Sophomore Donnie Owen said, “At that point in the movie, I had already been so close to jumping up and leaving the theatre. I was completely terrified, and it was only 30 minutes into the movie. There is no long unnecessary build up; this movie scares you from the beginning.”
By the time they arrive, Griffin and Kendra have suffered supernatural attacks and Maddy has vanished completely. At their wit’s end, Amy and Eric decide to seek guidance from Dr. Claire Powell (Jane Adams) from the Department of Paranormal Research at Amy’s former university. Powell agrees to assist, bringing in her staff to wire the Bowen’s home with video cameras and monitoring equipment in their search for the missing child.
This is one of the points of the movie that loses me a bit. Unlike the original, which was one-of-a-kind, this remake took some very obvious cues from fellow movies of the genre “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious.” The family brings in an expert to get rid of the ghosts, which is equivalent to Elise coming to rescue the family in “Insidious.” Then they set up camera equipment everywhere, which is just like “Paranormal Activity.”
But, as the film reaches its midpoint, all of the essential elements of the original are in place and, in part, this satisfying continuity is attributable to a screen story again written by Spielberg.
Of course, I will not spoil the end if you have not seen either version, but the ending is the best part of the movie. Even having seen the original, I was on the edge of my seat for the last half hour of the movie.
Sophomore Julia McMaster said, “As someone that never saw the original, I was really impressed with this movie. It didn’t really do anything new for the genre, but it was absolutely scary. This movie did have more depth than others, like ‘Paranormal Activity’. I really enjoyed that there was a love interest and back story between the two paranormal investigators. This movie is definitely worth seeing.”
I personally would give this movie a seven out of 10. It did not invent anything new in the genre, but it was scary enough to keep me on the edge of my seat from beginning until end.
Have you seen the movie yet? Do you think you will see it in the theatre or wait until it is out on Netflix?