(to purchase on Amazon.com click the title above)
Directed by Gil Kenan
Starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Jared Harris
In a nutshell: This disappointing remake of the 1982 original masterpiece once again sees a family threatened by a series of unexplained occurrences in their new home.
The 2015 remake of POLTERGEIST is basically the same format as the original with a few marked differences. Instead of the Freelings, this time we’re introduced to the Bowens – dad Eric, mom Amy, and children Kendra, Griffin, and Madison. The family has just moved to a new home as dad just lost his job and mom is a stay-at-home writer. (It always amuses me how unemployed people in the movies are still able to afford three-story suburban homes bigger than the block on which I live.) Once again, we are introduced to an odd series of occurrences that eventually lead to creepy trees and clown dolls coming to life and wreaking all kinds of havoc. In both movies, it is discovered that the homes have been built on ancient burial grounds – the grave markers were moved but not the bodies. And the dead are none too pleased!
I was honestly optimistic for the remake of POLTERGEIST. The original did a great job giving a very subtle commentary about the dangers of technology as it was entering its infant stages. And now seemed the perfect time to revitalize that conceit, as every day seems to provide a brand new step toward technology taking over society as a whole. Unfortunately, the filmmakers weren’t interested in doing anything more than a stock horror film. It’s amazing to watch these movies back to back – basically same plot, same family structure, same series of unfortunate events – and witness how one can succeed so brilliantly while the other disappoint so banally.
While I deeply cared for the characters and the family unit in the original film, this remake gives us a totally dysfunctional family at the outset who seemingly hate each other from the very first scene. The Freelings laughed a lot, and when they fought, there was always that core sense of family. The Bowens are miserable the moment the opening credits end. I felt no connection to them as individual characters or as a family. In fact, I was amazed that not once in the remake did I feel that the parents or older siblings of the missing Madison felt anything other than a vague sense of inconvenience during the whole ordeal. Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, the parents of the remake, are both solid actors, but I felt nothing from them in this film – a total paycheck movie!
Sadly, gotta chalk this one up to another lost opportunity. As I alluded to earlier, the remake had the potential to say something special and important, but the laziness and lack of originality of the filmmaking ruined any chance at that happening. Such a shame! In taking itself too seriously, the remake of POLTERGEIST fails to engage us, and when we don’t care about the characters involved, we ultimately don’t care about the movie they inhabit.
Rating: ** out of *****