|The ghosts really get hands on in Poltergeist|
In the thirty plus years since its release, the 1982 film, Poltergeist, has become a classic. Many have tried to duplicate it but, they all miss that one thing that the original has; Charm. Sure, anyone can use scare tactics like a person hiding behind a door, a startled cat, or a loud sound effect but, what is missing from most of those copycats, is the little things. Little things like a guy transporting beer for the weekly football telecast on his bike while being harassed by kids with r.c. cars or, a funeral for a dead bird that will soon be replaced with a goldfish or, a father taking a break from half-baking with the wifey to relax the mind of his young son who's afraid of thunder and carnivorous trees or, an experienced teenage daughter using the proper hand gestures to ward off horny construction workers or, etc. etc. etc.. The original Poltergeist used all sorts of relatable scenarios and situations to connect the audience with the family otherwise, when their little daughter got sucked into the family Magnavox, no one would have really given a shit. I believe those little things are what separates the classics from the regurgitations that Hollywood keeps spewing out at the mass public year after year. Let's be honest, there is nothing nowadays that sticks with you in the haunting genre like the original Poltergeist. Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring, Sinister, Insidious, all of them and more, don't have the staying power of a classic and will be forgotten with the same speed as a One Direction TOP 40 hit.
Sorry to say it but, the long awaited remake, Poltergeist, is more ADD filmgoer friendly and, less of a clever modern day update of a classic. This film being twenty minutes shorter and less creative than you know what, is just a couple of the many problems that this movie has. By making this film shorter, some important elements get left behind like, connecting with the family and building up the scare factor. Instead, the majority of this movie feels rushed. Forgive me for this but, I have to compare this to the original. It's just how it is. Instead of practical effects that worked, this film emphasizes on computer generated visuals that look like just as much. Even cracks appearing around the house are obviously CG as well and, don't get me started on the ghosts. When the poltergeists are finally revealed, I was about as impressed as I was with that dancing baby on Ally McBeal. There are plenty of little nods to the original in this. Some nods are from remarks, others are with certain objects and events that alternate from before. Now, I'm perfectly fine with changing some things around but, in this case, most of those changes come off as obvious and aren't really worth the time at all. Also, the cheap f/x get in the way of most of the spookiness. Compare the tree eating the kid from thirty years ago to this one's just shaking him around but with all the artificially colorful brightness that a computer processor can offer.
The family dynamic itself is not bad. It is believable for the most part. What's odd, is a barely addressed subplot involving the father's unemployment that disappears nearly as quickly as it's mentioned. Sam Rockwell (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) as the father, is as good as he always is but, his character is no Craig T. Nelson from the original. That's the filmmaker's fault, not Sam's. His wife played by, Rosemarie DeWitt (The Watch), is also good and gets just as much screen time to deliver her character. Their kids are a mixed bag. The oldest daughter is realistic as a spoiled, attitudey, phone addicted, brat. Their young son is that quiet scaredy cat that no one wants to play with, nor care if that darn tree launches him into the next county. With the character's name of Carol Anne being changed to Madison, the youngest daughter and beacon of light for the reluctant to cross over, is portrayed kind of strangely this time around. This one playfully copies her family's accidental uses of profanity but, other than that, she plays a creepy little girl that seems more interesting when she's in the TV. The scientists that come to the house to help with the poltergeist, are all boring and have nothing worthwhile to do or say unlike they did.........in the original. You actually cared for everyone involved before but this time, not so much. The most disappointing character is played by Jared Harris (Fringe). His role properly represents this film; Too short of screen time, no depth, pointlessly alternated from the original, and no soul nor charisma to be had. Sure he 'cleans' the house but, it smells like a wet fart afterward.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Poltergeist
The Good- All the cool gimmicks like, the TV people's hands on screen, the thermal tracking system, ghosts tracking lights through the house, and the clown delivers. The squirrel scene; It was probably the only moment that this film felt connected to the original Poltergeist.
The Bad- Where's the beast?! Instead it's just a bunch of CG ghosts that all look the same. Lazy! Hey look, I alternated a famous 80's quote to push my agenda.
The Ugly- All of the best parts were shown in the trailer and this was not screened in advance for critics. Smart marketing, bad result.
Final Thoughts on Poltergeist
Poltergeist isn't as much of a waste as say The Fog or The Amityville Horror remakes but, it's still a disappointment after it showed so much promise with the trailers. Check this out if you're a filmmaker that wants to learn from other's mistakes. God, even the way that the new Carol Anne (Madison) delivered the classic line, "They're here!", was without charm. Her delivery was so droll that I place it somewhere between comedian Steven Wright and Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. "They're here......to empty our wallets!".
Rating- 4 out of 10
Rating- 4 out of 10
Running Time- 93 Minutes
Links and Apps
Follow us on Twitter @mps5150