Poltergeist: Film Review
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie Dewitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Jared Harris, Jane Adams
Director: Gil Kenan
It was 1982's Poltergeist and director Tobe Hooper which turned the TV set into something to be feared, turning the image of a small girl with her hands on a set spewing static into an icon.
Now, over 33 years later, the remake is upon us, in a time where digital devices have overwhelmed us and homes are swamped with screen-based technology. (A fact only partially acknowledged during the flick)
Rockwell stars as Eric Bowen, laid off from his role within John Deere and relocating with his family to a suburban sprawl. With financial tensions nibbling at the parents, the kids aren't faring much better, with teen Kendra hating the move, youngster Madison continuing to talk to herself and son Griffin one terrified breath away from a full-on asthma attack thanks to his inner fears.
But it turns out that Griffin's worries may have some merit, when Madison is apparently abducted during a storm that affects all the electrical equipment in the house - soon, the Bowens are dealing with a cod TV psychic (an Irish accented Jared Harris) and a group of paranormal experts as they try to get their daughter back.
Effective and creepy for the first 45 minutes at least, the new Poltergeist certainly knows how to get under your skin.
Bundling the under-deliverance of the American dream and the fears that haunt you when you relocate, Kenan's done a solid job of dialling up the suspense and tension by allowing scenes space to breathe and employing some effective jump scares early on thanks to cameras which glide and pan slowly across the screen.
The malevolent atmospherics carry on well thanks to the innate likeability and realism of Rockwell and Dewitt as a couple, giving you the empathy you need for their escalating plight (even if they - like their kids - are underwritten once the spooks set in). And the set-piece where the storm kicks in terrifying and haunting the home alone kids works chillingly, working on the fears thanks to creepy clowns, split-second digital FX and a sense of dread.
However, when the paranormal team and psychic ghostbuster show up, it's really where Poltergeist starts to lose its freaky mojo; lapses in logic and flow jar the 2015 Poltergeist movie and Kenan relies more on the humour and silliness to propel the movie toward the end point within the supernatural realm.
Granted, the malevolent spirits are well-realised but echoes of Insidious and a smarter FX employment nag the second half of Poltergeist with a horrible feeling of deja vu.
Solid, rather than re-visionary, the Poltergeist remake proffers up an entertaining if uneven film; its first 45 minutes are nothing short of unsettling, but its second half derails the work done early on.
Potentially, for more savvy horror audiences these days, it could have used a bit more of an edge, but keeping it in the realm of family friendly, if unsettling, fare means this supernatural fright-flick is nowhere near as effective as it could be and it certainly won't scare up enough cash to kick this franchise back from the afterlife.