The Bowen family recently moved into a house in a beautiful, wealthy neighborhood. Parents Eric and Amy treat themselves out for a night and leave their older daughter to watch the other two little children, when suddenly the tree outside starts to smack into the house and the floor oozes black slime and a box of clown dolls pops up everywhere. Youngest daughter Madison walks towards her closet before arms grasp her and she becomes entrapped in the spirit of the house, and it all happens as fast as I’ve described it. The Bowen family characters are stale and whereas Carol Anne, the child prisoner of 1982’s Poltergeist, was more like a spawn of Satan, Madison is portrayed as just a victim. The family in the original movie were all driven to insanity, slowly becoming used to the flickering lights or talking to the absent Carol Anne through television signal, and this movie loses that craziness entirely. I loved that aspect because it made sense for them to have hallucinations or seem especially nutty even to detectives in the line of paranormal research. This movie still has hallucinations, but they’re more like moments where the movie just wanted to have extra empty jump-scares and the Bowen family seem mostly apathetic to getting their daughter back. There’s even a weird romantic plot between the detectives who come to inspect the house and it’s so strangely unnecessary; why the writers decided this was more mandatory over psychologically deranged family members or better buildup in the beginning… I have no idea.
There are some cool moments in the movie, but it’s all really because of the 3D effects. The shadows of Madison’s hands reaching from the TV and the skeletal arms grabbing me from beyond the screen are creative. The journey through Madison’s otherworldly closet is also interesting because it’s this dark, jungle-like area surrounded by limp skeletons and multiple fake Madisons, and it’s an area that was previously kept unknown from us in the original movie. This should be the scariest part of the movie (it’s an unexplored world of ghosts and spirits!) but it’s unsurprisingly the most boring. The technology of Poltergeist is also upgraded, with each character having GPS locations tracked and their disappearing blip from the tracking device is as scary as the movie gets sometimes. We also travel through the closet in a drone helicopter, so it becomes this wavering expedition on a glitchy screen. The ending is really unsatisfactory, as the family car drives away and it looks more like a car commercial. I’m still questioning why this was remade.
Poltergeist is too quickly done, barely scares beyond a box of clown dolls flying around a room, and features a homage to The Shining that’s just cringe-worthy. It shouldn’t have been remade, but that’s the case for a lot of horror movie remakes these days. The audience around me had a good time laughing, if that’s any indication for how inadequate this movie is, and there are a bunch of actors from Mad Men that pop up so that was fun. I wanted this movie to be decent so I could describe it as “poltergood,” but this movie was….. polterbad.