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

Review by Paul Byrne
4.0Stylish and scary
  • filmbuff2011

    Another month, another pointless horror remake that makes you go scurrying back to the original in predictable disappointment. This month: Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg’s 1982 ghost train spook-fest Poltergeist. The story set-up is essentially the same: an average, likeable American family moves into a new house. There’s Eric (Sam Rockwell), his wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) and their three children: teenager Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and little Madison (Kennedi Clements). Madison takes an immediate liking to the house, perhaps due to the ‘imaginary friend’ who talks to her unseen or unheard by the others. Strange things start to happen around the house… and then Madison disappears into the closet. Or is rather taken by something dark and malevolent. Her family can only communicate with her through the TV. Desperate for answers, they turn to paranormal researchers Brooke (Jane Adams) and reality TV ghost hunter Carrigan (Jared Harris) to find Madison and bring her back before it’s too late… Poltergeist wasn’t really crying out for a remake, so expectations have been predictably low. Sure enough, the remake is nothing to write home about. There’s little to distinguish this new version from the Insidious films, which borrowed liberally from the original. The addition of gimmicky 3D doesn’t help either. The credentials were promising though: director Gil Kenan made the Amblin-inspired, 80s-style animated gem Monster House. He does manage to create some visually arresting sequences, such as the netherworld beyond the closet, which looks like something out of Dante’s vision of hell (but obviously toned down for ratings reasons). But he also blows some sequences that could have been interesting, such as the power drill scene. There’s a slight nod to the infamous kitchen face-rippping scene from the original, but it feels less effective and not at all scary. That’s a big problem with the film: it just isn’t scary and whatever few scares there are muted and signposted in advance. There isn’t even a single stand-out moment, such as the door guardian apparition from the original. At 93 minutes, it’s a good bit shorter than the original and as a result feels like something has been lost. It’s obvious what that is: a sense of fun, like being on a rollercoaster with no ‘off’ button. That’s what the original felt like. This anaemic remake just feels very average and unremarkable. Stick with the original. If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. **

  • Martin

    This is a very lame remake. I really do hate all these remakes that are coming out. It’s no wonder that all the better scripts put there are in television. This movie is tame compared to the original and it lacks any imagination. It’s not scary in the slightest it’s more funny. So if that’s what it was aiming for, then it succeeded. Jared harris and Sam rock well do their best with what they have got but even their performances can’t bring this reboot up to pair. At the end of the day this movie is a horror and there’s not a scare in sight. So in my book it’s a fail.