I’ve never hated the idea of remakes in general, but I hate the way that Hollywood has flooded the market with them these past few years. Some remakes work very well and seem to be a good idea for one reason or another. On the other hand, the majority of modern remakes seem to be done for no reason at all except to make money without having to use any creativity. Poltergeist was definitely one of those movies. The gripe that most people, myself included, had with this going in was that there seemed to be no reason to remake this film in the first place. That being said, it’s still fair to judge this movie on its own merit.
This premise is pretty much exactly the same as the original. A down on their luck family moves into a new house in a mediocre subdivision. Pretty soon they discover that their house is occupied by an evil force known as a poltergeist, which takes a special interest in the family’s youngest daughter, Madison.
This movie is directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House) and is, for the most part, a well- constructed film. The first extended scare sequence is particularly well-shot. The movie is paced well. It stays interesting all the way through and starts fast, which is a good thing since most people already know the story anyway.
In my opinion, the strength of the film is not the scares but the characters. There was real effort put into making these characters feel like real people, and for the most part, they do. Sam Rockwell is really good in this movie, as he is in most everything he is in. Rosemarie DeWitt, who plays the mom, is also very good. It bothered me that there was no Carol Anne in this movie. The character is the same, but they changed her name to Madison for some reason. How can you have Poltergeist without Carol Anne? On a positive note, the kid that played Madison (Kennedi Clements) did a very good job. My favorite character in the film was the son. He has a slightly expanded role in this film, and his character arc is written very well, complete with an enormous payoff in the film’s final act. This was my favorite thing about the movie. Unfortunately, the actor who played this role (Kyle Catlett) was the weakest actor in the film and nowhere near good enough to pull off what they were asking of him. His constant, and obviously phony, loud breathing whenever something scary happened was very annoying. What they did with the Jared Harris character was borderline brilliant. There is no way they could have recaptured the magic created by Zelda Rubinstein in the original film, so it was smart to go in a completely different direction. I only wish they had done more with this character, as I feel there was a lot of untapped potential there.
One of the things I was concerned about with this film was how they were going to integrate more modern technology into it. Electronics was such a big aspect of the first movie, I was interested to see how that was going to translate. I thought they did a good job with that aspect. Unfortunately, the climax of the film falls into the bad CGI trap a little bit. Most of this film was built on atmosphere, successfully I might add, so I was disappointed to see that they decided to go with all the CGI effects at the end.
The ending of the film is a little bit of a mess. Aside from the CGI problem, there is a very questionable decision that is made concerning Jared Harris’s character that I didn’t really like. Also, the film ends way too abruptly for me. It doesn’t have anywhere near the impact that it should have.
This movie was a nice surprise for me. The thing I liked about it was that I felt like there was genuine effort put into it from a filmmaking perspective. They deviated from the original just enough, and actually improved upon it in at least one area. The original is obviously the better film, but this one is a perfectly adequate remake and generally a well-made, enjoyable horror film. The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars.
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