Poltergeist, the remake of Tobe Hooper and Steven Speilberg’s 1982 fright-fest, actually, surprisingly, starts off promising. Taking the original film’s most famous image of a young girl talking to spirits through the white noise of a television, this updated version expands that idea, using modern day gadgetry such as smart phones – a neccasity, not a luxury – and even a camera mounted toy drone, to communicate with the dead.
Other welcome changes include the reasoning behind the family having to move into this haunted house – an unfortunate but compulsory move, after the father in the family loses his job – as well as an extended sub-plot for the brother character, who has to overcomes his fear of everything, after he’s racked with guilt when his younger sister goes missing.
What director Gil Kenan does with the modern day setting, at the very least justifies the remake – but with that setting comes a use of rubbish CGI ghouls, which look like they were stolen from Stephen Sommers’ 1999 remake of The Mummy. When compared to the use of practical effects in the 1982 original – for which it won a BAFTA – this version lacks grime and squelch – especially in its final third which sees the dead rise from the grave only briefly, whilst Hooper and Speilberg went all out with their finale.
It is the final act which lets this Poltergeist down. For the most part, it’s actually a solidily made update which captures the sense of wonder and fun of the original. It isn’t scary, but then I never found the original to be particularly scary either. For me, the 1982 version is darkly comical and gross-out more than anything else and there are times where this hits those notes rather well.
It’s just a shame that the final half hour feels rushed and decides to play it safe, wasting the opportunity of taking us through the portal – something which the original never did – by relying on those dreadful visual effects. Gone is the mud-filled horror of the original – this just simply ends, abruptly and pathetically.
Poltergeist isn’t the disaster I was expecting. There’s some new invention in the narrative, with added moments of tension, that mean it isn’t a carbon copy of the original – and Sam Rockwell, who plays the father, is as fantastic as usual. There’s a lot to like about this update, but it’s let down considerably by a poor ending – made even worse by the apparent setting up of a franchise – and an overreliance on loud BANG scares. If you’re a fan of the original, this will disappoint, but will never the less go down well on a late Saturday night in front of the television, if only to laugh at.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com