You couldn’t be blamed for wondering exactly why the time was ripe for a remake of Poltergeist.
Tobe Hooper’s 1982 horror classic is a beloved hit, but it is also very much of its time, anchored in the Eighties by its unmistakably Spielbergian motifs of childhood under attack and fear of the unknown. Does Gil Kenan’s update offer anything more than a shiny new sheen?
A little, as it turns out, but not by much. Besides a technological upgrade (the TV sets of old are replaced by flat-screens, smartphones and tablets), a new sub-plot focusing on the growing pains of youngest son Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and a wholesale renaming of the rest of the cast, this is essentially the same movie, mostly shorn of the former’s shock value.
It’s strange really, as initially things look promising. Taking place in a post-recession America, the Bowen family are still trying to find their feet, relocated and alienated in an unfamiliar environment after a house move. Coupled with game performances (most notably from parents Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt), there’s definitely grounds for optimism.
However, once the titular paranormal presence starts making itself known, all this character development is jettisoned (and barely mentioned thereafter) in favour of by-the-numbers hokum.
More pivotally, it gets all the classic scenes wrong. The tree-abduction and ghost wormhole sequences are less scary this time around, and there’s nothing to match the face-clawing, ceiling-crawling carnage of the original.
Even the normally reliable Jared Harris seems strangely stilted, delivering his lines with all the conviction of his utterly appalling Irish accent (at least we think it was meant to be Irish) and ultimately not being a patch on Zelda Rubinstein’s Tangina Barrons.
Other than a vaguely defined subplot about overcoming your fears, there is very little here to separate – or indeed, elevate – it above the classic original.
You won’t go to bed fretting about this one; you’re more likely to either forget about it, or just pass it off as a bad dream.