Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 5, 2015)
Today’s Adventure in Horror Remakes brings us to 2015’s Poltergeist, a reworking of the 1982 classic. After Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) gets laid off from his job, he needs to downsize, so he moves his family to a smaller, cheaper house.
This takes him to the suburbs along with wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt), son Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and daughters Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) and Madison (Kennedi Clements). Except for seven-year-old Madison, none of them seem excited about the move.
Matters don’t get better as the family settles into their new home, as strange supernatural shenanigans start to occur. At first, these seem benign – and maybe even fun – but eventually they become more threatening. This results in the disappearance of Madison, an event that prompts the family to bring in professional help.
I probably should’ve hoped for Poltergeist’s failure. While I won’t state that the original is a cherished favorite from my youth, I do maintain very fond memories of seeing it in 1982, and I still think it’s a fun movie.
Despite that history, I really hoped the new version would succeed. I don’t mind most remakes, honestly. At worst, they simply become redundant, but at best, they can provide interesting perspectives on the material.
Alas, that doesn’t prove to be the case. The 2015 Poltergeist comes with some differences, but these tend to be superficial.
Really, beyond the Bowen family’s financial straits, we don’t find a whole lot to alter the first film’s template. The 1982 movie went with a steadier nuclear clan, and I think that made sense for the material. If the decision to put the Bowens more “on edge” than the Freelings exists for any logical narrative reason, I can’t figure out what it is.
A few other change-ups occur – largely oriented toward the relationship between paranormal experts Brooke Powell (Jane Adams) and Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) – but these continue to feel like window-dressing. The 2015 version includes many conscious echoes of the original and it does little to alter the tale’s plot and progression.
Poltergeist 2015 does come with a less playful tone than the original, and that seems like a bad choice. With its mild mockery of suburban life and its sly humor, the 1982 film offered as many laughs as scares; it blended genres in a manner that gave it real personality.
None of this occurs in the 2015 film. It goes for a much more straightforward horror vibe, and that makes it feel generic. As depicted here, the movie lacks personality and could be confused for a variety of other scarefests.
On its own, the 2015 Poltergeist never becomes a bad movie – God knows I’ve seen less interesting horror flicks – but it does feel pointless and forgettable. The 1982 version already told this story in a fun, involving manner, and the 2015 edition fails to live up to its legacy.