A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.
With ideas seemingly running scarce in Hollywood, 30 years later it’s Poltergeist’s turn for a facelift and with the release being mysteriously brought forward by two months, the film has received a surprisingly low key release campaign.
Choosing not to stray too far from the original storyline, Poltergeist follows an unemployed Sam Rockwell downsizing to a new home out of economic necessity with his wife and three children and it’s not long before the two youngest start noticing that all is not quite right with their home. Their youngest daughter (no longer Carol Anne as per the original but now a more contemporary Madison) is the first to start making conversation with unseen spirits whereas her slightly older brother grows increasingly more scared of the spooky goings on. All comes to a head in a superbly orchestrated sequence where the oldest daughter, a stroppy teenager, annoyed at being moved from her friends, babysits the two younger siblings ending with her young sister being spirited away.
The much loved original was always going to be a hard act to follow but the revamp focuses so much more on the children, especially Kyle Catlett as the middle child, vanquished by guilt for not having saved his sister but scared silly by things that go bump in the night. The film certainly embraces and re-enacts many of the original’s key scenes (the possessed tree, the evil clown and the iconic shot of the TV to name but a few) whilst adding its own imposing moments, notably an excellent sequence with a paranormal expert attaching a monitor in a cupboard. Said set up is also the only scene which really uses the 3D in a comin-at-ya kind of way. It’s also pretty much the only scene that forces the viewer’s imagination to ramp up the scare factor and the film can’t resist creating an almost Hieronymus Bosch portrayal of the spirit world.
Scribe David Lindsay-Abaire has expanded the children’s roles and hints at the implication of the involvement of technology with overhead power cables causing the oldest sister particular concern from the outset, but equally he updates the film with the use of mobile phones, tablets and even drones in pivotal sequences.
The children are all well cast whilst Sam Rockwell as the out of work father and Rosemarie DeWitt as the mother (bearing an uncanny resemblance to squawking, shouty TV presenter Davina McCall) handle their roles with a limited arc.
Unlike the wholly unnecessary shot-for-shot remake of Psycho, this updated version of Poltergeist has more than enough going for it to serve as an entertaining Saturday night date movie and, coming in at a pacy 93 minutes, it’s somewhat shorter than the original. If you are one of those few who are yet to get acquainted with Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece then this is a perfectly acceptable – though perhaps not particularly necessary – remake of an ‘80s classic.
Words: Simon Hooper @anygoodfilms?