“Poltergeist” – Fox(NEW YORK) — A few months back, a Poltergeist cast member described the movie to me as a “family adventure film.” That hardly sounded appealing. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I know what the actor meant. It is a family adventure film, kind of, though not a particularly good one. But more telling: it’s Poltergeist. It should be a horror film.
The original Poltergeist from 1982 is a classic. It’s an incredibly creepy film without being graphic or bloody — a good old-fashioned horror thriller and very much a product of its era. This new Poltergeist, however, is a product of a tired Hollywood formula: a remake that lacks creativity, hoping to trade on an established brand.
This time, instead of the Freeling family, we have the Bowen family. Sam Rockwell, simply one of the best film actors on the planet, is father Eric Bowen — out of work but level-headed, funny and extremely likeable. Rosemarie DeWitt plays his wife, Amy, a writer who isn’t writing. Due to their tight money situation, they’re forced to move into a new house in a subpar neighborhood.
That house is haunted by restless spirits who are unhappy because the house — the whole neighborhood, in fact — is built on top of the cemetery in which they’re buried. The spirits express their displeasure by attacking the Bowens’ son with a toy clown, trying to pull their teenage daughter through the garage floor, and kidnapping the Bowens’ youngest daughter.
With such a talented cast, it’s completely confounding how this movie is so low on emotional impact. Their daughter has been kidnapped by a poltergeist, yet mom and dad seem about as concerned as if they’d misplaced the TV remote. Furthermore, this is supposed to be a family with very little money, and yet their house has a nice HD TV in every room, and everybody apparently has a computer, an iPhone or an iPad.
If you scare easily, you’ll probably find at least parts of Poltergeist a bit creepy. But if you’re a real fan of the genre, and of the original Poltergeist, you’ll be extremely disappointed.
Two out of five stars.
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