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Film Review: Poltergeist (2015)

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Title: Poltergeist
Director: Gil Kenan
Screenwriter: David Lindsay-Abaire, Steven Spielberg
Stars: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements
Release Date: Out Now
Review by David Griffiths

Ahhhh nothing quite says that Hollywood has run out of ideas like the good old Hollywood horror remake. Somehow the concept of the reboot has managed to warm itself onto cinema audiences but the ‘modern remake’ idea still seems to manage to get fans of cult fans quite frustrated. Now you can see the appeal of remaking Poltergeist, the original is one of those films that fledging horror fans normally gravitate first and it universally normally makes any critics ‘Best Of’ list when it comes to the horror genre. Yes Poltergeist was ripe for the remake picking and finally a studio and producer have gone and picked that exact forbidden fruit.

This version of Poltergeist is set in modern times and has Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell – Moon) being retrenched from his job. The loss of income means that he has to move his family, which includes wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt – Cinderella Man) and children Kendra (Saxon Sharbino – I Spit On Your Grave), Griffin (Kyle Catlett – The Young & Prodigious T.S. Spivet) and Madison Bowen (Kennedi Clements – Jingle All The Way 2) to a new smaller house in a matchbox modern housing estate.

For the children the paranormal activity starts not long after moving in and soon this leads to a disappearance that has the family calling in experts like university professor Dr. Brooke Powell (Jane Adams – Little Children) and TV host Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris – Lincoln).

As far as modern day remakes go Poltergeist isn’t exactly a failure of a film. The story at heart fits well into the modern surroundings and the use of the paranormal’s effects on modern day devices like iPads and iPhones is actually pretty well done by director Gil Kenan who has previously stepped up to the helm on supernatural films aimed at kids like Monster House and City Of Embers. Of course the storylines revolving around a family being affected by corporation retrenchment and the problems associated by greedy housing estate developers also resonate well with the modern day audience and that is one of the reasons why Poltergeist shouldn’t be written off completely.

When it comes to the actual horror effects in Poltergeist the film holds its own but just don’t expect to jump or shiver a lot because the scares themselves are pretty pedestrian. While the modern CGI do lend themselves very well to making the ‘paranormal’ more modern they almost seem too sleek and seemed to be aimed at the market who will most likely go and see the film… teenagers who never had the awesome experience of being terrified by the first film while watching it on VHS.

Like is the case with most horror films the actors don’t exactly get a chance to shine too many times throughout the film. Rosemarie DeWitt and the child actors all just seem to breeze through their roles, although the kids all do enough to suggest that they could all have rosy Hollywood careers ahead of them. Perhaps the most surprising performances here are that of Jared Harris, who seems to be channeling one of the Skarsgard’s with his great portrayal of television’s paranormal expert Carrigan Burke, and Sam Rockwell who for some reason decides that despite being a father figure Eric Bowen really needs to be an unlikable character with a bit of an attitude. The characterization works and is easily explained as Eric becoming jaded with life after being retrenched. It’s something a little different by Rockwell but seems to really work and bring something else to role.

Poltergeist is well worth a look just don’t expect anything more than your pedestrian popcorn horror flick. This isn’t the kind of film that does anything as edgy as what the Soska sisters may be doing but it also isn’t boring enough to put it’s audience asleep either. Worth a look if nothing else is showing.

 

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