Director: Gil Kenan Stars: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Jared Harris, Kennedi Clements Writers: David Lindsay-Abaire Country: USA
So, as cinema fans we have decided that remakes are something we will no longer argue about ad nauseum, as there have been enough good ones and enough bad ones for both sides of the conversation to have ammunition in a non-winnable war. Now however, the detractors have a new weapon, a carpet bombing, nuclear, anthrax-filled, DNA bomb that will melt the argument of remake fans. That weapon is the turd laden, disappointment fuelled crapfest known forever more as the Poltergeist remake.
This hunk o' junk was directed by Gil Kenan, whose previous efforts were the kid's movies Monster House (which was pretty good) and City of Ember, so essentially we have a family film director remaking one of the great all time horror films. The screenplay was written by David Linday-Abaire, who also wrote Robots, Inkheart, Rise of the Guardians and Oz, The Great and Powerful, so again, a kid's film maker attempting to 'reboot', 'redux' or 'reimagine' a classic.
I assume you all know the story, but this has a few tweaks so I'll share those with you. The Bowen family - Eric (Sam Rockwell), wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) and three kids, Madison (Kennedi Clements), Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) and Griffin (Kyle Catlett) - have moved into a new, cheaper house as dear old dad Eric was made redundant from his job at John Deere. Very quickly though, they find there is something wrong with the house... something supernatural... and when Carolanne... sorry, Madison, is stolen by the evil entities living in her closet, the family enlist the help of a seemingly useless university paranormal investigation team and a television psychic, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris). But will they all be able to retrieve Madison, or has she, and the entire cast's careers, been lost forever?
Now in the throes of writing for Digital Retribution, I've sat through some absolute dire films in the name of journalistic integrity, but never have I sat through such a waste of time, talent and resources. I actually should have watched it twice, but I decided that seeing as how I'd already sat through the extended cut, there was no reason to poison myself again with a shorter, more incomplete film. I mean, you would take half a shit, right?
Honestly, the only thing I can compliment this film on is its production design, specifically the undulating, Croenenberg via Fulci look of the ghost world. As for the rest of it though, well, my problems with this film lie in three measures, and I shall break them down individually.
First, the cast. I really like Sam Rockwell, and even when he is in dire rubbish like Charlie's Angels, he stands out as a scene stealer, but here he appears to be collecting a weekly cheque (or his Downers have really kicked in) and he just fades into the background. The others are just terrible, and they all trudge through this mess like they've been forced to show up everyday. Jared Harris normally stands out as well, and does here, but it is due to his accent rather than his performance. It seems the director has no idea how to get actors to act, and what he has achieved is the very definition of generic characterisations.
Second, the script. A director can perform his craft better if he has a decent script, and here he doesn't. The story starts quickly and uses a few of the trappings of the original, but then it has jumps in the narrative that are awkward, and characters that change at the drop of a hat, making them nonsensical, not to mention a paranormal team that don't share every scrap of information that they have experienced with each other. Their equipment is also eye rolling, especially the iPad controlled drone that is sent in to find Madison in the ghost world. At first I thought it was a cool idea, until the controls were handed to Griffin, the ten year old boy, to fly into the void. By the way, if I were watching images sent back from limbo of the tortured souls within, I'd probably react, rather than watch it like a repeat of the most boring of Richard Attenborough's wildlife documentaries.
A lot of the script just doesn't ring true, and even in the most fantastic of fantasies, lore and truth of the story must prevail or it becomes hard to swallow, and it happens so frequently in this film that it's the size of a horse sedative.
Finally, the overall production design. In a post Paranormal Activity/The Ring world, making a film about hauntings has its own visual language, but guess what: that doesn't mean you have to adhere to it. This film has a complete lack of a visual originality. All the flags are raised here: blue tinted imagery, little black haired girls, grabbed by your leg and pulled up the stairs, bubbling black 'stuff' from the ground. Even my daughter, who is suckered in completely by all these modern haunting films, sat with arms crossed, telling me from where each bit was stolen! Sure, it's a remake, so originality was always going to be an issue, but the good remakes generally distance themselves from the original to get a look of its own. This distances itself from the original by using all the looks from the post The Ring ghost films.
I really can't advise you against this film enough, and have a slew of casual horror friends who had told me not to see it, but I didn't listen to their advice. I expect that you all should listen to me however: do not waste your time watching this film. The only thing wrong with this film is everything.
One positive thing I can say about this disc is how well it is presented. The film is in 2.40:1 with a 5.1 and a 7.1 soundtrack (I reviewed this on the 5.1) and as one would expect from a film of this era, it is flawless. In addition to 2 versions of the film, the disc also features the 3D version of film.
The extras, like the film, are a pile of rubbish. An alternate ending, which is almost as stupid as the original one, a stills gallery, which is an extra that never fails to infuriate me, and 2 trailers, which in their favour make the film look like it is going to be mildly entertaining.
Poltergeist (2015) is just a horrible, horrible waste of a film. Don't see this, please. I have thrown myself on a grenade for you, don't make my sacrifice be in vain.
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About Digital Retribution
Originally born unto this world as Terror Australis.net back in March 2002, Digital Retribution is a proudly Australian website devoted to all things horror, cult, and exploitation that strives to promote Australian films and filmmakers while sharing its questionable taste in ultra-violent smut-laden local and international offerings with the rest of the world.