What’s great about the movies is that every genre can be cross generational. With every Matrix movie for the adults, there is a Lego Movie that kids and families can enjoy together. There’s plenty of options; for fantasy, there’s Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, for westerns, there’s True Grit and An American Tail: Fievel Goes West and even for the romance, there’s Love Story and Little Manhattan. There’s no reason for the kids to get left out of a fantastic story without feeling like you simply talking down on them. The one genre that seems to have more trouble is the horror genre.
What funny is that with horror, movies like Monster House and The Witches are not just good, but are even scarier then most horror movies reserved for adults. These prove that you can work in the little ones into the horror genre without giving them something too grotesque or over the line. The best example is the 1982 classic, Poltergeist. Produced by Steven Spielberg, it centered around a family buying a house that was intruded by an evil entity that could communicate with a girl through the TV. It was scary, entertaining, and was a constant repeat at the slumber parties I attended in elementary school. So why remake Poltergeist?
Eric (played by Sam Rockwell) and Amy Bowen (played by Rosemarie DeWitt) move to find more opportunities after their laid off from their jobs. They manage to find an older home within their price range and immediately move in with their three children, teenager Kendra, middle boy Griffin, and their youngest daughter, Madison. The two younger ones sense another force in the home when they discover that their hair sticks up when they touch a closet doorknob. Madison gets an invisible friend that communicates with her through the families LED television.
Eric later discovers that tract of homes was built on an old graveyard. Like most horror movies, the adults don’t sense anything wrong and play off their kid’s fears as having a wild imagination. During a ghost experience when Kendra’s phone acts up and Griffins clown toy attacks him, Madison is taken away via closet to the spirit world. The parents decide to get in contact with officials at a local university to study the phenomenon. The crew is spooked, but do everything they can to get Madison back, even calling in Carrigan Burke, a ghost specialist who has his own reality show.
The purpose of a remake is to take the problems of the previous film and fix them to make the product even better. And there’s the immediate problem with Poltergeist; the original film was fantastic enough that there is nothing to improve on. This 2015 update seems to know this and sticks close, playing the same story and the same spooks. Taking the original out of the picture, Poltergeist doesn’t even manage to stick out enough to take itself away from some of the other recent ghost movies like The Conjuring and Insidious.
The best thing I can say about this is that the acting’s good. Sam Rockwell is always fun to watch and he seems to be having fun with this ghost story. Even some of the scares got a jolt out of me (the new ones at least), but when you see past scares like the clown and trees, your only saying, “we know it’s coming. Just happen already!”.
While it is a close remake, the film does try to change it up (letting some other family members go through the paranormal events and a different ending), but the changes fail to justify the need to make something that can acquired on Netflix.
I’ll give this two and a half ghost detection kits out of five. The biggest crime this movie pulls is going for a PG-13 rating. The previous PG rating allowed kids to feel like they were getting a genuine scary movie without going against their parents. The PG-13 pretty much tells families that the kids should probably stay home. Maybe you should avoid this ghost and stay home as well.