At the helm of this ship is Gil Kenan, directing for the first time since the lackluster 2008 film City of Ember. On the other side, he was also the director of the excellent 2006 animated feature Monster House. It is on the strength of the animated feature that made me think he may be a good choice for this redux. On the screenplay side of the coin you have David Lindsay-Abaire, who has written films such as Oz: The Great and Powerful, Rise of the Guardians, and Robots. With this feature they have teamed to update the 1982 original, which was directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and written by Steven Spielberg (Jaws). Yes, that is a pretty tall order.
The movie gets going pretty quick as the Bowen family, led by Eric and Amy (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt), move into a new home after Eric has lost his job. Little do they know what they are in for. Eric is stressed out about not having work, the three kids are a handful off issues ffor Amy, and the youngest, Madison (Kennedi Clements), is starting to talk to closet doors and snow on the television sets. I am actually surprised they didn't try to update the snow look, how often do televisions these days have snow on them?
In any case, Madison is talking to something, the middle child, Griffin (Kyle Catlett), is a ball of fright, and eldest Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) is a typical annoying teenager. Madison eventually disappears into the closet and, if you have seen the original, you know what is going to happen. The technology and some of the lines are updated for a “modern” audience, but it is pretty much the same movie.
Well, 2015 Poltergeist is the same as 1982 Poltergeist if you suck out the atmosphere, scares, creepiness, and all the other good stuff out of it. What you leave is a rather limp husk of a movie. It is a bad cover of a great song. This new take is just not scary. It takes about as much time to get going as the original does, but it does nothing to build up, it all just happens. There is a reliance on CG stuff and attempted jump scares that just fall weakly to the ground. Nothing lands with a bang, there is little weight to anything that happens (think about the reveal of the moved cemetery in the two films, which do you think works better?).
I will admit that while the original is awesome, it has never been a go to movie for me. After watching this new take and revisiting the original, I have an entirely new respect and love for that movie. Something special was accomplished with the 1982 film. It is creepy, unsettling, and works so exceptionally well. When you put it next to this new one, the new version has very little going for it. Where 1982 teased you, creeped you, and showed little, this new one is all about putting it in front of you. I think the use of effects has made some filmmakers lazy. Back in the day the creative team needed to come up with ways of showing things without having the tech to do it. In many case that works better.
Poltergeist 2015 edition is easily skipped without missing anything. I have certainly seen worse, but that is mostly because this is such a non-entity that it does not leave an impact. The cast (mainly Rockwell, DeWitt, and Jared Harris) do what they can with very little which helps lesson the blow, but it is far from enough to save this outing. "They're here" is more like a statement of fact than it is a creepy revelation.