Horror movie remakes tend to have a pretty bad reputation, especially those from the past decade or so. But can this modern take on the Steven Spielberg genre classic survive the haunting?
Well, as far as the story itself goes, if you have seen the original then you won’t be surprised by what happens here. It follows pretty much all of the main arcs and primary sequences. A family moves into a new home supposedly built atop a cemetery, and they start to witness very strange happenings taking place through the day and night. It isn’t until the youngest daughter gets taken by the Poltergeist that they realise the situation is far worse than they expected, and so enlist the help of paranormal investigators to bring their lost daughter back to the world of Reality.
So, no twists to the source material to be found here, although a younger (and newer) audience may find this an interesting take on the Paranormal movie genre. It has all the right ingredients in the mix, from the realistic and flawed family, the believable kids, the very normal setting, jump scares, and a third act with a major ending sequence. For teens who have not seen Spielberg’s version, this must have looked really cool to them. For those who have though? Well, we’ll get to that later.
First though, to the good aspects, and starting with that family. A horror movie is always improved by believable characters who don’t automatically fall into tired stereotypes, and instead offer relate-able lives. And that is captured quite a lot better than I was expected here. The father is loving and optimistic, but is at a low point in his live both creatively and financially. The son is in the stage where he is fearful of almost everything around him, especially the changes that a new home brings. And the daughter is completely innocent, but acts strangely from time to time. It takes a while to grow to them since initially they appear over-flawed, but when you see their situation develop it settles much better.
The use of tracking shots is performed well here too. Those slow and progressive entrances into scenes as well as the transitions that build tension have some good direction and cinematography behind them. When so many other horror films focus on stoic and flat camerawork, it is refreshing to see this here.
And even though much of the original is used here, the new inclusions can yield some good results. The shadow of the young daughter on the wall, the arc that the character of the son takes near the end, and some of the minor scares, are moments that worked to keep me entertained despite knowing exactly what was going to happen. Every now and then there would be a little detail that I gave a nod of approval to, something that wasn’t formulaic or a repeat of the original’s material.
But then, that’s where my points of praise end, and the repetitive familiarity of this movie begins to be a real issue. They did attempt to modernise some of the scenes, such as the classic static television, but it removes the surprise and tension the resulting scene holds. In a horror movie, when you know what is around the corner, it is very difficult to get a scare from it, and the movie doesn’t make enough of an attempt of these moments to make them different enough. That’s the big problem, it just wasn’t enough. Sure, seeing the handprints appear on the screen is kind of cool, but not really a scare. There is a distinct lack of any gore-related scenes, instead a focus on cursing which at least they didn’t water down at all. But then the scenes with the clown dolls and the tree were just kind of… okay. Not bad or annoying, just okay.
There is also a sever shift in pace near the end that feels more like a jolt than a natural progression. Suddenly the film is sprinting for the finish line at the precise moment where it needed to be atmospheric and devoted to the scenes. There’s no points where two characters can sit and have that quiet talk, and the accent of the Priest was really bugging me. The gruff Irish speech is an art form that if done wrong ends up sounding very off, and that’s what I kind of was feeling here.
It is very odd that even when I break down what I didn’t like, it doesn’t equate to a whole lot. There’s very little here that was bad, or made me want to turn off the film. In fact, I found the majority entertaining. But as I said before, it was only okay. The decision to retain famous scenes and not freshen up the weight and atmosphere they held, makes is almost redundant viewing if you have seen the original. The parts that are new are small elements and when put together, don’t equate to a large enough percentage of the running time. Thankfully it is very short though, and doesn’t waste time on unnecessary pieces.
The “Poltergeist” remake will be worth watching for young teenagers who have never seen the original 80’s version. For them this will be great fun. For everyone else though, there just isn’t enough here, and the overall feeling you get at the end will be completely and utterly neutral. Not bad, not good, just in the middle. I’m not pissed at all that I saw it, but I sure as hell won’t be in a rush to ever see it again. Keep to the face-pulling classic I say, you can’t go wrong with it.
Thanks for reading!