15 – 101mins – 2015
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on the screenplay by: Steven Spielberg
Directed by: Gil Keenan
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements, Jared Harris, Jane Harris, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett
THEY’RE HERE… AGAIN!
My name is CR@B Howard and I am afraid of ghosts.
There, I said it. The idea of the dead floating among us has long creeped me out, so much so that I consciously held off viewing the original Poltergeist (1982) while growing up. I know, I know: I’m a wimp.
With news of an imminent remake first surfacing in 2013, I decided I’d best man-up and catch-up with Tobe Hooper’s infamous eighties frightener. So, two years ago, I did.
And I was sorely disappointed.
Maybe it would have affected me more if I had seen it at a more impressionable age? Who knows. But the tone was far lighter than I anticipated; occasionally verging on family-friendly (particularly noticeable in the kitchen furniture reshuffle). I questioned whether the mythical “curse” of the film had influenced public opinion, but what was blatant to me was writer/producer-extraordinaire Steven Spielberg’s heavy influence (if rumours are to believed, he may have provided more than a helping hand behind the camera, too).
The selection of Gil Keenan to take the remake’s reigns was a surprising-yet-obvious choice. Isn’t that a contradiction, you ask? But, no: Surprising because he is – and I mean no disrespect here – hardly a household name to be entrusted with such a renowned property, but obvious when you look at the family-orientated films in his back catalogue. Monster House (2006) and City of Ember (2008) both cater supernatural and fantastical themes for a more susceptible audience.
So, was producer Sam Raimi’s mandate merely to replicate the original’s Spielbergian tone in Poltergeist (2015)? That would seem a thoroughly pointless endeavour (although some could argue that is true of most remakes). But having now watched the new film – I must be getting braver to reduce my delay from 30years to four months! – I do concede that there is a more menacing tone to the haunted house horrors this time around; the poster-dominating clown and the living tree set-pieces the most notably creepier.
With the exception of some modernised bells n’ whistles (HD TV, internet-streaming, GPS locators, a flying drone), things are otherwise pretty much as they were 33years ago: an unsuspecting family find their “perfect” new suburban home was a bad buy when their youngest daughter (Clements) is kidnapped by vengeful, portal-dwelling spirits whose graveyard was disturbed by the building of the property.
Rockwell and the new cast all do an admirable – if unmemorable – job, however Harris was always doomed to fall short of Zelda Rubinstein’s iconic performance. As television personality and occult specialist Carrigan Burke he typifies a “rum ole’ character”, but is nowhere near as eerily kooky as the original’s spiritual medium Tangina. Perhaps this is why they switched gender and didn’t even attempt to replicate her inimitable voice.
The third act arrival of the jocular Paranormal Research department drew worryingly-close comparisons to the bumbling team of nerds from Insidious, a feeling further cemented by a mid-credits coda which wrapped up Carrigan’s potentially sequel-baiting ‘noble sacrifice’ with… lame humour. Groan.
As Poltergeist’s grandiose dimension-ripping, FX-driven conclusion wrapped up all-too-quickly, I checked the time to determine how near the credits I was. Is that it? Surely we were due another twist?! The identikit plot felt slight when rehashed – particularly given how I was watching what boasted itself as an “Extended Cut”. Tellingly appropriate as a summation of this remake, I didn’t outright hate what I saw, but I could have done with more.