Friday, May 22, 2015

Poltergeist (2015) - 2 stars

The original 1982 movie was the first movie that really scared me.  I think I was 7 or 8 when I first saw it, and I remember being so freaked out that I couldn’t sleep that night.  One of the things about that movie was that it felt so real to me.  Like other Spielberg movies from the 80s, the characters were so well developed and the suburban setting so realized that it felt like everything happening in the movie could really happen anywhere.  Of course the fact that I was so young could have had something to do with that too …

Anyway, they remade Poltergeist.  After movies like The Conjuring and Insidious, this one feels like a knock-off.  The original does a great job of first establishing the characters and slowly ratcheting up the tension.  This one wastes no time and jumps right into the scary stuff, which doesn’t work as well.

The best thing about this movie is Sam Rockwell.  He’s always interesting to watch, and he has a few really funny scenes.  But once Carol Anne Madison is kidnapped by the ghosts in the TV, Rockwell has nothing interesting to do.  It’s surprising how quickly the parents accept the haunting as normal.  Aside from being confused about what’s going on and what to do, it doesn’t really seem like they’re ever freaked out or amazed that they live in a haunted house, or that spirits have kidnapped their daughter. 

Just like in the first movie, the family first enlists the aid of paranormal researchers from the local college.  And once again, they need help from a spiritual medium to help get Maddie back.  But instead of Zelda Rubenstein, we get Jared Harris playing Carrigan Burke, a celebrity medium who hosts a reality show where he ‘cleans’ haunted houses.  And it’s quite a coincidence that the researcher from the local college just happens to know Carrigan Burke, and is able to get him there on the same day.  It’s even harder to believe that he’s so willing to help them when they tell him that they don’t want this filmed for his show.  He’s got a successful cable reality series – you would think he has a pretty full schedule.

Anyway, there are a few good scares in this movie, but then that’s easy to do.  Just show a character standing there in an empty room, move the camera away for a second, move it back to show a ghost standing there and have a loud boom on the soundtrack, and the audience jumps.  It’s much harder for a movie to create a real sense of dread, and this movie never really does that. 

It also feels too short.  It’s at least twenty minutes shorter than the original, and it feels rushed.  When they get Maddie back from the other side, I looked at my watch because I couldn’t believe how quickly that was resolved.  Once again, another unnecessary remake that will be forgotten in a week.

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