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The 1982 Poltergeist is a classic and even if it comes off as a bit cheesy, over three decades later, it’s still a roller coaster ride of fun. Gil Kenan’s remake, on the other hand, is a completely by-the-numbers, generic haunted house flick that reminds one more of the awful The Apparition than the Spielberg produced, Tobe Hooper directed fright flick.
Story is basically the same, with couple Eric and Amy Bowen (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) moving with their three children, teen Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), young Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and little Madison (Kennedi Clements), into a housing development…built over a former cemetery, of course…and soon starting to experiencing paranormal activity. The activity seems to be targeting the two youngest, with Maddie in particular being the focus. Soon the little girl is abducted into a spirit realm and a paranormal crew, headed by famous TV ghost hunter Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), arrive to try and save Maddie and rid the house of it’s angry specters.
Completely unnecessary remake is unimaginatively written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed flatly by Gil Kenan, who brings nothing new or special to the tale. There are a few scant effective moments, but that is only when the film deviates slightly or tries to add a new wrinkle, like sending a toy drone, equipped with a camera, into the spirit realm. The film rarely tries anything new, though and basically follows the original story and very blandly at that. Kenan brings none of the fun that he gave his animated Monster House and writer Lindsay-Abaire rarely strays from the path set by the original movie. The flick also gives us very little to be scared of and doesn’t even try to match the original’s bombastic funhouse atmosphere. This flick is actually far more grounded and thus far less interesting and most of the time, it’s outright dull. The characters are all bland and not particularly endearing, like the slightly eccentric Freeling family were in the 1982 original. They also seem to accept the supernatural explanations far too easily to add any tension. If you are going to remake a classic like Poltergeist…and you really shouldn’t…then at least go somewhere new with it and really shake things up. People give Rob Zombie a lot of flack for his Halloween remake, but at least he tried to go in a different direction with it. This is a mediocre at best retread with none of the energy and life that was given the original film by those behind the camera. The look of the film and it’s lack of any real vitality evoked the recent and epically terrible, The Apparition far more than the beloved 1982 classic.
Despite the presence of vets like Rockwell and Harris the cast are also very bland and wooden. Rockwell seems like he is basically on a paycheck job and gives us none of the vitality he usually brings. Anyone could have played the part. Rosemarie DeWitt is equally bland and brings none of the fire Jobeth Williams had in the original. Sharbino is pretty, but a typical bratty teenager and Kennedi Clements is cute as Maddie, but just nowhere near as sympathetic or memorable as Heather O’Rourke. Only Young Kyle Catlett gives his role a little vibrance as Griffin, as does Jared Harris as the TV paranormal expert…but still, Zelda Rubenstein he’s is not.
Simply put, this is a boring and very generic remake whose few effective scenes come only when the film finally tries something new or deviates from the original story…mostly in the last act. Even then, it is only slight and the new elements are minimal. It’s not quite a scene for scene remake, but almost and none of it has the over-the-top energy or fun of the classic original. There are also no real scares either, including the new version of the infamous clown doll and if you can’t make a clown doll scary, than what exactly is the point? Watch the original.
2 epic fail scary clowns.