Director: Gil Kenan
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kyle Catlett
Release Date: 22nd May (Worldwide)
It has been 33 years since Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and Steven Spielberg (anything you’ve heard of) collaborated on the original Oscar nominated Poltergeist. Following in the footsteps of both an Academy favourite and cult classic is hard to do, but Gil Kenan did a pretty solid job bringing it into the twenty first century.
The plot is identical, but this time headed up by Sam Rockwell as father of the Bowen family. Upon moving into their new home, strange phenomena start occurring until youngest daughter Madison is taken by the poltergeists. The family then fight to rescue her, with the help of a recently divorced pair of supernatural experts. A few minor tweaks to the story give the film a currency and relevance that it perhaps needed, but is otherwise a carbon copy of Hooper’s original.
Poltergiest also retains it’s supernatural, special effects angle towards the end as the battle between ghosts and Bowen wreaks havoc on their new home and the surrounding neighborhood, though there is a noticeable lack of attention paid by nearby residents as the house is torn apart and flung across streets. It is in the effects that the film is most markedly brought into the present day, and introducing scenes within the other world was a nice touch, though reminiscent of that weird lake scene in The Half Blood Prince when those creatures come out of the water.
Also, like any competent horror, there are plenty of moments that will make you jump, with a sinister clown doll thrown in for good measure.
Rockwell heads up the cast, and though the only recognisable face it’s the two kids, played by Kyle Catlett and Kennedi Clements, that stole the spotlight. Directing children is not an easy accomplishment, but both delivered strong performances and capably stepped into the lead during the bigger scenes. Catlett perfectly conveyed the anxiety and ingenuity underlining Griffin’s character, giving a believability to his ultimate act of heroism.
For those of you who remember the original, and especially those of you old enough to see it back in 1982, this reimagining of Poltergeist may not do a lot for you. However, the film brings an outdated narrative into the twenty first century, acknowledging the advancement in technology and employing the realities of the present day into a film which is in some ways a commentary on the consumption of technology.
Poltergeist is an enjoyable horror, one that scares within the framework of a family film. That said, it’s scarier than you might expect and, despite what you may think of the original, deserves to be watched and enjoyed in its own right.