Twitter Plot Summary: A family are beset by ghostly goings on when they move to a new home that used to be the site of a graveyard.
I’ll be honest up front. I haven’t seen the original Poltergeist yet. In one respect this is perhaps a good thing as I went into this remake with no expectations and could assess the film on its own merits. On paper it sounds like a good mixture of supernatural goings on and solid casting – Sam Rockwell and Jared Harris are always a reliable presence, and thankfully the child actors aren’t irritating. Where this modern version of Poltergeist falls flat though is that it lacks a purpose, an underlying edge to make it stand out on its own. Instead what we have is a generic ghost story that rarely has the conviction to break away from the pack and be its own thing.
The Bowen family are on hard times. Mother Amy (DeWitt) is an author but is currently taking time out to raise three kids, while father Eric (Rockwell) has recently been laid off and is looking for work. Ignoring the fact that despite their dire financial circumstances they’re still able to buy a really big house, you wouldn’t expect things to get much worse. Then after a number of strange incidents with the electricity supply, their youngest daughter is pulled into a strange netherworld that sits alongside our own, where the souls of the dead reside in purgatory. They really shouldn’t have built this new estate on top of a former cemetery.
Much of the narrative is carried by the reactions of Rockwell and DeWitt as the two shell-shocked parents, which is a good thing given that the plot as presented doesn’t give us much to work with. Events move along at a pace that is all too fast, barely giving you time to register what is happening before the paranormal investigators are called in and the true extent of the situation is revealed by Jared Harris’ “Most Haunted” style television host.
It’s a shame that the story isn’t as developed as it should have been, because everything leading up to Maddie’s abduction is handled well and provides a decent amount of creepy moments. If you’re not a fan of clowns then you’ll probably want to give this one a miss. There’s a lot of good visual effects work too, in particular the iconic TV screen sequence and the representation of the spirits in the other realm. But, again, you end up clamouring for more as the final result is little more than a drip feed of good moments.
It would have helped immensely if efforts had been made to make this a commentary on consumerism and perhaps tied to the recent global financial crisis. Instead, there are a couple of scenes that reference consumer culture – purchasing expensive gifts and a drone, the eldest daughter insisting that she has a mobile phone because it’s a basic right these days – but otherwise there’s nothing. A missed opportunity there I think.
I’ll be moving onto the original Poltergeist soon enough so I can collect my thoughts and compare the two, but when considered in isolation the 2015 Poltergeist is a decent effort but isn’t something that you are likely to return to, especially when you still have the option to watch the original.