Remakes are always going to be tough terrain for any filmmaker. Furthermore, anyone who regards themselves as a fan of a classic that is about to have the reboot treatment, something that we seen so frequently in film these days, will confess that it makes one a little uneasy. Having seen the original Poltergeist films from a young age and many times over the years, this was the feeling I had going into the cinema to see the latest in a long line of 2015 reboots and remakes.
Much like the original Steven Spielberg classic, Poltergeist centres in on a fun loving family of five who relocate to a suburban small town after the man of the house gets laid off. From their first visit the family begin to experience an inclining number of paranormal experiences that begin to worsen as the film progresses.
When mum Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) and dad Eric (Sam Rockwell) go out for the night, leaving their two young children, Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and daughter Madison (Kennedi Clements) in the care of teen daughter Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), the action really starts to kick off. Unaware of the activities in their home during the night, their parents arrive home to find the kids being attacked by demonic clowns and spirits – and their son at the top of a tree. The plot thickens when they discover that youngest daughter Madison has been taken by an aggressive Poltergeist when they start seeing and hearing Madison calling to them from within their television set.
Again, like the original, the family decide to enlist the help of a poltergeist specialist and TV personality (Mad Men’s Jared Harris) who, along with his investigator ex-wife Dr. Brooke Powell (played by Jane Adams), take matters in their own hands and try to get Maddy back from the evil spirits that have taken her and who have taken over their home.
The film is a bit more tongue-in-cheek this time around and Sam Rockwell leads the way with some of the films more comedic moments but does have restraint when the scene requires the audience to have empathy for the dark nature of the storyline and the fact that young Madison has been abducted by the eerie spirit that has moved into their home.
The problem with remakes is that most of them fall flat in comparison to the originals and while hitting the peaks of the original Poltergeist was always going to be a pretty gruelling mission, director Gil Kenan, who has previously leant his directorial expertise to previous feature films like 2006 animated hit Monster House, has worked a bit of modern magic with the reboot of one of horror’s biggest flicks and it’s safe to say he has done fans fairly proud but that’s not to say the film doesn’t comes with its fair share of limitations.
While the film offers new generations of cinema goers a chance to enjoy the Poltergeist story, one does have to question its relevance in cinema in general. The original is regarded as quite an iconic piece of film history and despite its release way back in 1982, contained some pretty impressive special effects for its time and an original storyline. It was also more heavy-footed within the horror genre than this latest reboot which at times had the audience laughing along during scenes that would usually have been regarded as scary. Being a reboot of such a classic franchise, the filmmakers couldn’t really expand too much beyond the original storyline so rather than attempt to do so, it simply buckles to the ‘if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it’ approach to filmmaking when it comes to a remake. One of the key characters in the original film, Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein), who played the key role of the spiritual medium, was also not sufficiently replaced in this latest effort and despite Jared Harris performing well in the equivalent role here; stepping into such big shoes was never going to be easy.
While this latest remake of Poltergiest may highlight the lack of originality in cinema these days, its still an enjoyable watch. It’s a nice ice-breaker for those who don’t know the brilliance of the original and offers a sense of nostalgia to those who are fans of the classic trio. Either way, it’s still well worth the watch.
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