Poltergeist doesn’t live up to its original

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The original movie is better.

I know that is probably not  what you’re wondering about as you go into 2015’s Poltergeist since most of the time remakes don’t hold a candle to their original. Usually, if a movie’s remade, it’s a classic, or at least enough people would call it something worth remaking. But it’s hard to capture that magic twice, and generally the remake just tries to update the original for modern times, with modern filmmaking techniques (CGI, jump scares, etc.), which usually suck away that magic.

I wouldn’t be quite so hard with the new Poltergeist, as it was watchable and decently entertaining — a lot of these remakes like the 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street are just downright awful and annoying. But at the end of the day, this film feels more like a mediocre Insidious ripoff than its 1982 original.

In this version, the Bowen family move into a new house in the suburbs. When the father Eric (Sam Rockwell) is laid off from his job, they have to “settle” for some crappy house the whole family hates — although it’s bigger than any townhouse I’ve ever seen, and even has a decent-sized yard.

The son is scared of everything, the youngest daughter fulfills the typical three- to five-year-old-child who talks to the ghosts as if they’re imaginary friends, there’s the selfish teenage sister., and the mother mothers.

But it turns out the house is built on top of a graveyard, where someone moved the tombstones but not the bodies. Now there are ghosts. The youngest daughter gets lured into the ghost world and communicates through the TV, and the family wants her back.

So they hire university paranormal researchers who then get some British ghost hunter (Jared Harris) who has a TV show that’s a parody of Ghost Hunters to get back their daughter.

That’s the plot. The first thing is, you don’t really care about the characters — they’re a stock horror family. One of the things that was effective about the original is they built up characters that you care about. It wasn’t Oscar-level characterization, but they felt like a real family; when the ghosts took the girl, the pain felt real, relatable. Here, they’re just going through the motions.

Of the actors, the only one doing anything really interesting is Sam Rockwell. Even though he’s just playing the stock dad character, he seems to be doing something interesting for the first half of the movie. Too bad he has nothing to do once the ghosts come.

The whole subplot of the family being poor and maxing out their credit cards seems entirely unnecessary. It doesn’t build toward anything, it doesn’t have any bearing on the plot. Perhaps it’s supposed to make them more relatable, or drive home the theme of family somehow, but overall scenes like the dad maxing out the credit card at the Home Hardware knockoff store just detracted from the film. And the family’s house is not the kind of house you move into if you have no income earners.

Overall the movie isn’t offensive — though there are annoying things like the reality TV angle, the movie ending with some rock song, and the CGI. It’s a decent enough horror movie, especially when comparing it to a lot of the “found footage” movies. But it’s just another one of the pack. You’re probably as well off seeing Insidious 3.

That being said, if you’re like me — the kind of person who’d watch a mediocre but decently entertaining horror movie — then you’ll probably walk out somewhat satisfied.