DIR: Gil Kenan • WRI: David Lindsay-Abaire • PRO: Nathan Kahane, Roy Lee, Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert • DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe • ED: Jeff Betancourt, Bob Murawski • DES: Kalina Ivanov • MUS: Marc Streitenfeld • CAST: Sam Rockwell, Jared Harris, Rosemarie DeWitt
Having not actually seen the 1982 Poltergeist, I was looking forward to attending the reboot with a pair of fresh eyes and no lingering attachment to the original. There was no umbilical cord to wrap around my neck due to some nostalgic obligation to the Spielberg/Hooper classic if expectations weren’t adequate. It was an early screening so I grabbed my coffee and spare undies in case the supernatural antics got a bit too much for me. Suffice to say, I left clean as a whistle without even breaking a sweat. Not one emasculated jump was given and at the end of the day that is the primary function of any horror movie.
The new Poltergeist is a contemporary take directed by Gil Kenan. It stars Sam Rockwell as the sarcastic, boozy father and Rosmarie DeWitt as the fretting mother, who have toned down a financial notch by moving into downscale house. They have three children. The adorable little girl, Kennedi Clements, the chicken shit son, Kyle Catlett, and the stubborn teen, Saxon Sharbino. This is a disaster already, without the ghouls. As expected, things go bump in the night and the terror begins. Kenan is premature with the suspense, which would be fine if the big scares actually worked.
Sam Raimi produced the film and you can see elements of his technique lending influence, but it lacks any of the spontaneity and speed that Raimi utilises within his own movies. We never feel like we are in any danger. Kenan nurtures the audience too much, forbidding inventive imagination to leave the nest. For instance, the contemporary setting should give way to a huge amount of frightening possibilities. The poltergeist possess the house’s electric utilities in order to intimidate the family, and even though the new technology is haunted, it is never applied to great effect. We only get a glimpse of an iPhone or a flat screen television acting up, and sure my phone does that every single day anyway. Instead, we get stuffed toy pigs and sinister looking clown dolls going on a rampage as if we didn’t see that fifty years ago.
The performance don’t wield our attention either. Rockwell is the only mildly entertaining character, but even the kids don’t make us fear for them. A familiar ensemble of characters come into play in the third act, paranormal investigators and an exorcist (with an atrocious Irish accent), who come to help the family with their electricity problem. This set up was becoming too similar to James Wan’s excellent possession movie The Conjuring, with these ghostbusters bringing their hip new tech gear to try save the day. (Funnily enough, the poltergeist don’t seem to try possess any of those gadgets) The Conjuring depicted how tedious and traumatising the entire process of exorcism really is, whereas Poltergeist makes it seem like a picnic.
Poltergeist is a mild PG-13 rated horror film, which is difficult to pull off for sure. But, it wasn’t gore I was searching for, but rather any form of imagination or creativity with the vast amount of possibilities the filmmakers could have taken advantage of in this modern framework. Why not possess an E-Cigarette, the Wii or a George Foreman Grill? I’d pay to see that.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Poltergeist is released 22nd May 2015