They Know What Scares You or Do They?: “Poltergeist” (2015) Review


When the Bowen family moves into a welcoming house in the suburbs, they think it’s the start of a new chapter in their lives. Eric (Sam Rockwell) is on a mission to find a new job and his wife Amy (Rosemarie Dewitt) is a stay-at-home mom, who also happens to be a writer. Eric and Amy along with their three children love the house immediately. But it isn’t too long before their paranoid young son Griffin (Kyle Catlett) begins to develop a fear of the house that his parents brush off, thinking it’s just another one of his fears. But it isn’t until their youngest daughter Maddie (Kennedy Clements) starts talking to people that aren’t there and starts making contact with presences through the television, and from her closet. When Maddie is taken by these forces, the family enlists the help of Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), a well-known paranormal investigator with his own t.v. show, to help get her back. They learn that what they are dealing with is no ordinary haunting, and that Maddie’s life is in danger.

Poltergeist is a remake of the 1982 horror film of the same name directed by Tobe Hooper. I admit I am not too crazy about the original film. It had some very good aspects to it, but in the end it didn’t really cut it for me. For me I felt it dragged on a bit too much and lacked any real tension or scares. So going into the remake I wasn’t sure how the result would end up being. During the first portion of the film, I found myself thinking it was going to be a borefest. However, it isn’t until the events begin that it caught my attention. However, unlike the original which took its sweet time to build up, this one jumps into the events much too quickly. The big scene in which the eldest daughter is babysitting, she and the other two children are attacked, was fairly intense and well-constructed, but at the same time, it felt like they were trying to cram too much activity into one scene. The taking of Maddie, not going to lie was rather chilling unlike the scene in the original.

When Harris’ character is brought in, it’s also when it begins to slow down and drag on a bit before it picks back up. That said, when it comes to the final act, it definitely makes up for the slower moments. The final act is actually pretty intense and it also put a new twist into the story making it different from the original, but not much. The final scene involving the poltergeist and the attack on the family actually gave me the chills and made my jaw drop a little bit. Throughout the film I can tell the writers wanted to stay really faithful to the original film and capture some of its key moments, but at the same time wanted to make it fresh. As a result it feels like many things are so crammed together it prevents the viewer from really getting to know the characters. We don’t really know the family too well, on the outside they seem like a typical family, but at the same time, they are certain things revealed about them that they don’t go into much detail with. For example, why Rockwell can afford an expensive house when he’s laid off, and the wife hasn’t been doing much, or really how bad the son’s phobias are. That is one thing the original definitely had on this is that we really get to know the family before things happen. There is also the factor of the Carol Anne character (this time Maddie), this version focuses way to much on the son and not enough on Maddie who is supposed to be the central character. We also don’t get to know the investigator, just brief snippets of his past.

As far as the acting goes, the cast does a fine job with what they have. Kennedy Clements brings cuteness and innocence to the role of Maddie, but takes a bit a too over-the-top, whereas Heather O’Rourke in the original film played Carol Anne with great poise. Rockwell and Dewitt are likable as the parents, but they don’t really shine much. Rockwell only stands out a bit more because of his humorous moments. If anyone in the cast did well with their role it’s Jared Harris, but sadly he doesn’t get a whole lot to work with either, I wanted to see more of his character. As far as effects go, they weren’t that bad. They didn’t get too carried away with the CGI, but used just enough to satisfy the audience and bring on this paranormal world. Although the tree attack scene was MASSIVELY disappointing compared to the original and came of as not scary at all. Another weak aspect is that there was a lot of forced and unnecessary humor that detached me from the mood it was trying to accomplish in those scenes.

With all of this being said, I thought this remake wasn’t bad for what it was. It certainly did everything it could to capture the original film, but with a somewhat lengthier script, they would have accomplished this much more than they did. It’s one that will definitely divide horror audiences. It doesn’t use any cheap scares, but it lacks the atmosphere the original had, as well as the character development. However, the finale packs a much stronger punch and we do get some good acting from our cast. I assume fans of the original won’t be thrilled about this remake, but for those who either didn’t like the original or thought it was okay, they mind something a bit more to like here, but nothing vastly greater. Overall it is at least a remake worth checking out.

–Cody Landman