Poltergeist – Remade, Rebooted, Reimagined?

The Bowen family move into a new, perfect, family home, only to find that it’s the source of a paranormal terror.

Poltergeist is one of my favourite horror films.  I first saw it on TV, late at night and it terrified me.  It showed Steven Spielberg’s masterful ability to capture craft a family story, inject it with horror, yet stop short of it being too fantastical.  There was weight to everything, every performance and every moment.

“Without judgement or cynicism.”

In this 2015 remake of the 1982 original, we get the original film seen through modern sensibilities and expands on some of the themes of the original – a loving family, a threat that starts out as fun but slowly becomes darker and a fight against an unthinkable terror.  It goes further, introducing an all-too modern psychological issue for the son and enhancing the fun side of the haunting for Madison contrasting with the more terrifying side through Griffin.

There’s plenty to marvel at in this film as the mundane becomes terrifying, but the use of CGI over physical effects still takes us away from the “realism” of the original.  Yet, there are ample physical effects at which to marvel, it’s the CGI that gets in the way.

Poltergeist has a solid cast led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt.  Kennedi Clements and Jared Harris have the hardest tasks of all as Madison and Carrigan Burke, this film’s Carole Anne and Tangina – she brings the same wonder to the role, whilst Harris is a powerful performer in his own right, bringing a different, modern take on the role of the medium.

Technology plays an extended role in the film, beyond the television.  Streaming technology, GPS, drones, tablets – it’s a modern world, after all.

“This is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.”

The biggest disappointment is one of its newest additions – a look inside the paranormal dimension.  It’s better to not see, to only catch glimpses of what’s beyond, that’s what made the 1982 film so effective – whilst we could be scared by what we saw, it’s the terror of what we can’t that’s truly horrific.

The family in peril, the home invasion, the disbelief turned into belief are all well executed, until the rather slapdash ending.  It’s a great story (because it always was) and a relatively effective update, but this could have been a film in its own right, instead of Poltergeist.