Saturday, 12 December 2015

Poltergeist

In 1982, Steven Spielberg wrote and produced the iconic supernatural horror film Poltergeist. Directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame, Poltergeist was hugely successful and went on to earn three Academy Award nominations, as well as places on countless ‘Best Horror Films’ lists. It’s a classic. But of course, the money grabbers in Hollywood can’t seem to leave any classic alone these days, and Poltergeist is the latest legendary horror film to be poorly remade for the sake of profit. Directed by Gil Kenan, the man who brought us the children-aimed Monster House and City of Ember, comes Poltergeist, an offensively poor and unnecessary remake that completely fails to justify its own existence. 


Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray, Poltergeist retells the exact same story as the original film. A traditional American family; father Eric (Sam Rockwell), mother Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) and 3 children Kendra, Griffin and Madison, move into a new house in the suburbs, but something is not right. Evil forces haunt the home and get increasingly aggressive, eventually taking youngest daughter Madison captive through the closet, into a never-ending void of darkness. Enough is enough, say the family. They hire paranormal investigator Dr. Powell (Jane Adams) and occult specialist/television personality Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) to help save their daughter. Blah blah blah. Look, it doesn’t matter what it’s about. It shouldn’t have bloody happened. The original Poltergeist is one of the finest paranormal horror films of all time, and one that doesn’t need to be remade! If you’re going to remake Poltergeist, sort out the awful sequels! What has the first film done to offend you that makes you think it deserves this treatment, Hollywood?!


When the first trailer was released, James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly praised the lack of in-your-face modernising, such as ‘the family’s daughter being kidnapped by ghosts in Snapchat’. And granted, that is a positive. It’s arguably the only positive. The main issue here, other than the fact is f***ing exists, is how predictable it is. Ignoring the fact you may know the plot from the original, it’s painfully formulaic. Poltergeist is in no way scary or disturbing in that it doesn’t get under your skin as it should do, as arguably the original did – especially, one imagines, to 1982’s audience. No, like most of today’s horror films, Poltergeist relies completely on cheap jump scares which are so obvious that there may as well be a flashing subtitle that says “jump scare in 3…2…1…”. You know the score; a dark room, a creepy scenario, a few seconds of silence before a creepy face – adding to the cliché, in this instance it is a clown – jumps at you. The writing is poor and the delivery of any horror is too rushed and forced to truly psychologically frighten the viewer. I’ve seen Poltergeist labelled by Empire as ‘My First Scary Movie’ due to its ‘weak PG-level horror’, which is completely accurate.

Sam Rockwell, one of the finest actors working today, delivers the acting highlight of the film. Trying far harder than he should be, he puts in a strong performance as Eric – a role which didn’t exactly require much effort. Most actors wouldn’t even try with a film like this, they’d do the bare minimum, pick up their pay cheque and move on. Rockwell is clearly a professional and commits to this role in a way that someone like Robert De Niro hasn’t committed to any of his films in the past 10 years. He has earned even more of my respect for that. Similarly, the great Jared Harris puts in a solid performance as Carrigan, although nowadays it feels like he needs the work.


But a couple of decent performances aren’t enough to save this piece of shit. To call it the ‘worst remake of all time’ would be a hell of a stretch, especially in a world where Nicolas Cage starred in a updated version of The Wicker Man and Gus Van Sant thought it’d be a good idea to direct a shot-for-shot copy of Hitchcock’s Psycho. But even if it isn’t the worst, it certainly isn’t good. At all. It is a completely unnecessary, poorly directed and terribly written waste of time. You might be thinking “stop comparing it to the original, and judge it on its own merits”. I am. Even if this was an original story, it’d still be a load of wank. It is unbearable. It is everything wrong with cinema. I want nothing more to do with it.

This Poltergeist will haunt me forever. 1/5.

★☆☆☆☆

Sam Love


Poltergeist at CeX


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