Directed by Gil Kenan. Starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Jared Harris, Jane Adams, Susan Heyward, Nicholas Braun, Karen Ivany, Patrick Garrow.
THE PLOT: With the Great Recession biting hard, young couple Eric (Rockwell) and Amy (DeWitt) have to downsize if they’re going to provide for their three kids. And that means moving into a slightly ramshackle and rundown old house, right on the abandoned outskirts of Illinois. Not that their youngest daughter, Maddy (Clements), is disappointed – on their very first tour of the house, she manages to make some new invisible friends. When anxious middle child Griffin (Catlett) stumbles upon Maddy talking to the living room TV, he’s not exactly delighted to hear his little sister say, “They’re here”. They being, Maddy informs her brother, “the lost people”. Suddenly, Griffin has plenty of reason to feel paranoid. And so too do the rest of the family, as the lost people make their presence felt…
THE VERDICT: You can tell you’re dealing with at least good intentions on a remake when you see people like Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt toplining. These are solid character actors who really won’t want to besmirch their good name with a lame, half-ass Hollywood rehash. And so it proves here, Rockwell and DeWitt not the only good things about Fox’s reboot of the 1982 haunted house hit.
Back then, POLTERGEIST was just what you might expect when you put Tobe Hooper (the director of the original, and the best, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) with producer Steven Spielberg (the director of pretty much every 40- and 50something’s childhood). A hard double-act to follow, but here, director Gil Kenan – who cut his teeth on MONSTER HOUSE and CITY OF EMBER – manages to take a well-worn classic and find new inroads, new thrills, new twists and a few new taser turns.
This is the godfather of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – and so many other pale imitations – taking its crown back. With style and panic.
Review by Paul Byrne