Tobe Hooper’s 1982 classic Poltergeist is the latest fright-fest to be given the 21st century remake treatment. City of Ember’s Gil Kenan is in the directorial hot seat for the haunted house spectacle, starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jared Harris.
After losing his job, Eric (Rockwell) and the rest of the Bowen clan downsize to an archetypal suburban neighbourhood where there is hope he can find work. With three kids to feed and a refusal to let his wannabe writer wife, Amy (DeWitt), head back to work, Eric’s bad luck continues as creepy goings on begin to affect the new family abode. All hell breaks loose when youngest daughter, Madison (Kennedi Clements), is snatched by the ghostly beings that plague their home – which just so happens to be built on an old graveyard. With the help of veteran TV paranormal investigator, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), and his estranged ex-wife, Dr. Brooke Powell (Jane Adams), the Bowen’s attempt to reclaim their child before she reaches the dreaded ‘light’.
“We’ve ruined your life” declares Rockwell’s Eric to his disgruntled daughter on arrival at their new home – a statement with an ironic sense of truth, as Gil Kenan’s heavy handed remake is yet more proof that some things are best worth leaving alone. Not even The Way Way Back funny man’s famous dry wit could save this lacklustre haunting from falling into the realms of clumpy mediocrity.
This modern day retelling certainly isn’t the worst of its kind. A few bump-in-the-night moments are certainly jump worthy, if not increasingly predictable, but its lazy execution of its modernised storyline is its greatest disappointment. A tiresome attempt at adding some good ol’ heart and soul to proceedings fell flat on its bony face, as painfully obvious long-winded aerial shots of power lines and half-arsed family conundrums smack us firmly in the chops, yet – especially in the formers case – appear non-consequential to the end result.
With a few respectful nods to the 80s classic, any originality surrounding Kenan’s take is drowned out by scream-inducing horror clichés as predictable as the young ginger Bowen boy being scared of the mysterious sinister-looking clown found in his new bedroom. Excitement-lite, a few cheap thrills and a couple of Rockwell one-liners manage to add some life to an otherwise drowsy affair.