It feels like a Poltergeist remake was being talked about for years and any time the idea was brought up, it was met with ridiculous amounts of contempt. People seemed to feel that Poltergeist was one of those untouchable movies that could not be touched by the filthy hands of the remake machine. Of course the same thing was said about movies like The Karate Kid and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and in both of those cases the remake machine proved it listens to no one and does what it pleases.
Then the Poltergeist remake actually came out. And nobody gave a shit.
I’ve always enjoyed the Tobe Hooper’s original movie but I never really got upset at the idea of a remake. I felt confused why they needed to remake it as it doesn’t feel particularly dated or in need of an update. Yes again that has never stopped anyone before but in this case it feels even more befuddling than usual.
Plot synopsis feels a little unnecessary. A family moves into a house. Ghosts happen. You know the drill. If you’ve seen the original, this takes almost zero detours from the main story. The one key exception is the revelation of the poltergeists’ origin, which does differ slightly from the original movie. What bothered me here though is that they take an unnecessary stab at the plot device from that movie. Remakes poking fun at the original is a tricky balance as it can work when done right, but when done poorly, especially when done poorly in a mediocre remake, it can be particularly insulting. “Hey fans of the original movie! Remember that dumb shit that happened in that movie you like? That was real dumb huh? That thing you like? It’s dumb. This is the new hotness here. Thank you for coming to our movie dummies! Ya big dummies!”
If you’re going to remake a movie, you better have some new ideas or tweaks or something to bring to the table. Something to show why this update needed to happen. Poltergeist has none of that. It goes through the exact motions you would expect it to. There’s creepy stuff happening in TV static, a clown doll, a crazy ass tree, all the major beats from the Hooper movie are present and accounted for. The problem is all of it isn’t done as effectively as before. There’s no build-up with any of it, it just happens. Granted I haven’t seen the original in a while but didn’t the tree tapping on the window and the creepy clown doll all get some screen time prior to their attack? Here some clown dolls just literally happen to be in the house when they move in. They didn’t even attempt to justify it. “Ok so wait….why is there a crazy clown doll? It doesn’t make sense.” “Because fuck you that’s why! Action!” It all feels like they are ticking boxes off a checklist. Perhaps the worst is having Jared Harris play a TV host/ghost hunter dude whose slogan is of course, “This house is clean”, complete with hashtag and everything. Ugh.
I guess the one big change is that they made the ghosts themselves less scary? So that’s something? Here they make the crucial mistake of believing that less isn’t more, way more is more! As a result, the ghosts are not only shown, but shown quite frequently. I mean I think they were glimpsed in the original, but not for long periods of time. It doesn’t help that they are the most generic, CG looking creature things you have ever seen. CGI existing isn’t a reason to remake a movie people!
I should note that I was watching the Extended Cut which proclaims to have “more scares”. I counted two scares so that doesn’t bode well for the regular cut.
That’s a lot of negative so I should say that I didn’t hate the movie. It does have a couple of creepy moments and Sam Rockwell is great as always. It’s just that it’s so thoroughly ok that it has no real reason to exist. It’s a perfectly serviceable horror movie that will provide you with a decent but forgettable time. Just watch the original.