Poltergeist (2015)

A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come
together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take
her captive.

Directed by Gil Kenan
Starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements
Alright, let’s just get this out of the way right now. This is a pointless venture for many of us old enough to remember Craig T Nelson haring about his recently purchased, generously proportioned, suburban, middle-class home, trying to solve the supernatural problems his family face by iron will, ignorance, denial and sheer bloody-mindedness. And why is this therefore such a waste of your time? Does it suck like the latest Hoover with a Dyson inferiority complex and a paranoia brought on by doing too much weed back in its twenties? No, no, not at all. Surprisingly enough, this is really not all bad. Not pointless then? Well, not if you’re under, oh I don’t know, about forty-five?

In 1982, I witnessed the most frightening thing I had ever seen (up until that point). Something that quietly haunted me until only a couple of years ago. It wasn’t a waking-nightmare kind of deal, but if there was one thing I never wanted to witness again, it was this; it involved plasticine (could have  been latex, I guess), a mirror and the original version of this film. Now if you’re of a certain age, you will already know what I’m talking about. I actively sought out the very same scene on YouTube a couple of years ago, just to crush my fears underfoot and of course, it was nowhere near as mortifying as my relatively innocent thirteen-year-old soul suffered from. But nonetheless, as my movie life has matured, a few moments stand out that have genuinely turned my blood cold. That was one of those moments. So, really, what kind of chance did this have?

For all of the horror movies that have been remade or re-imagined, few have avoided the foolish approaches by new directors to tell us the same story one more time, but with less feeling. Up until now, Tobe Hooper’s (or Steven Spielberg’s, depending on what you believe) masterful execution of a happy family psychologically ripped to shreds and left suitably rocking silently in the corner at the demonic forces that have taken a liking to their youngest daughter, had been avoided, potentially sacrosanct. But clearly not for long.

Enter Gil Kenan, Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, adding a level of authenticity to what may otherwise have been a completely foolhardy attempt to create something, that even with the best will in the world, should have been LEFT THE FUCK ALONE.

And as if anticipating this reaction, this version of the story doesn’t really do exactly the same kind of thing. It is a different time, it has a distinct lack of humour that the original enjoyed and here, our family is not affluent, but somewhat on their uppers. Money is tight and the decade of opportunity that ushered the orginal version into our living rooms is noticeable by its absence.

The slow burn has also shrugged its shoulders, packed up its kit bag, smiled and then turned and made a dash for it. Here the leaps in mood and storytelling are evident in a way that tells the more sagely viewer just how short the modern movie-goer’s attention span has shrunk. This leaps from set piece to set piece with little or no tension and the real horror there was seems diluted by a general reduction in pace-setting. The jumps when they come are all well and good, but the mood of the piece never comes close to matching the original that still holds court in the best horror movies of all time department. Perhaps we were just a little less jaded and more innocent back in the day? Perhaps this version, admirable though it may be, lacks a little (dare I say it) soul?

Rockwell and Dewitt are both just likeable enough to stick with here, even if they are performing in a league way below their respective abilities and Kennedi Clements is just as convincing as Heather O’Rourke was the first time around. The rest of the cast are trimmings on a meal that you weren’t really convinced you were hungry enough to eat in the first place, but after consuming it, you can reflect that it was surprisingly tasty if not altogether as satisfying as you might have liked.

Overall, this had some hefty shoes to fill and naturally, came off second best. Still, this is one of the best remakes from a spate of eighties horror titles that you could choose from even if it maybe lacks the tingly tension and melting faces of the original. Safe to say that I won’t be having nightmares about any of the scenes here, a fact that speaks volumes about the difference between 1982 and 2015.

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