Poltergeist (Movie Review)

Poltergeist (Movie Review)

Everybody has heard of the supposed curse of the original Poltergeist franchise that began thirty-three years ago in 1982.  So, why revisit it?  Nostalgia?  Creativity vision? Or, the most likely reason, money.  The fact is, 1982’s Poltergeist practically set the standard for that generation’s scare with two haunting words…”They’re he-re.”  “They’re here” is back in 2015, heralding in a new generation to the Poltergeist mythology. To many’s surprise, Poltergeist has returned in the updated edition released via 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on May 22nd. Striking interesting immediately, the film is directed by Gil Kenan (The Lark 2004, Monster House 2006) and produced by Roy Lee (The Ring franchise, The Grudge franchise), Sam Raimi (Within the Woods 1978, Drag Me to Hell 2009), and Robert G. Tapert (The Evil Dead 1981, The Gift 2000) from a script by David Lindsay-Abraire (Robots 2005, Inkheart 2007) based to Steven Spielberg’s original Poltergeist (1982). Now, fans young and old are given the chance to see how the film holds up to the original, or stands alone as a new telling of the epic story of supernatural.

Still from Poltergeist 2015
Still from Poltergeist 2015

In the latest Poltergeist film, down on his luck Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell: Clownhouse 1989, The Green Mile 1999), his aspiring writer wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt: Cinderella Man 2005, The Odd Life of Timothy Green 2012), and their kids: bratty teen Kendra (Saxon Sharbino: Red, White, and Blue 2010, Trust Me 2013), traumatized Griffin (Kyle Catlett: The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet 2013), and precocious Madison, “Maddie” (Kennedi Clements: Coming Home for Christmas 2013, Jingle All the Way 2 2014), have just moved into a new home. However, like in the original story, this house is not what it seems.  What is with this house? Have the Bowens purchased a money pit?  Most of all, will they survive the terror it brings?

From the start, Poltergeist has an underlying feel of instability as it is learned Griffin is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from an incident that occurred before the relocation to this home. Then, the film moves into a sense of hope; that this is a new beginning, new possibilities, but quickly deteriorates as inexplicable things start happening, turning to dread as the kids get pulled into said occurrences.  When help comes in the form of Dr. Brooke Powell (Jane Adams: Wonder Boys 2000, Hung series), Sophie (Susan Heyward: The Following series, The Power series) Boyd (Nicholas Braun: Sky High 2005, Red State 2011), and eventually Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris: Lincoln 2012, The Quiet Ones 2014), the film gives a sense of tentative hope.

In addition, the set pieces help support the feel as well.  The Bowens’ house is the main set piece throughout the film.  From the beginning, the house, which was shot in Pinewood Toronto Studios for interiors and an old house in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada for exteriors, transforms from a new house with endless possibilities to the gateway to Purgatory, which is its own set piece consisting of writhing grey, decomposed souls interwoven into the walls.

Still from Poltergeist 2015
Still from Poltergeist 2015

The Bowen family dynamic is relatable and believable to today’s family dynamic. First with the depressed, laid-off father that self-medicates with alcohol while lazily trying to find other work to reclaim the pants in the family. Then there is the free-thinking mom that also self-medicates with alcohol while being forced to come up with the book she has wanted to write to bring in money. On top of it all there is the bratty older sibling trying to be her own person and making the parents’ lives hell. There is also the middle kid, that kind of gets lost in the mix, and the precocious innocent youngest sibling.  The standout in this family dynamic is the middle kid, Griffin, with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Not all kids have something happen to them so traumatizing that they cannot function in certain situations.  The paranormal team of the doctor, Sophie, and Boyd are relatable with their well-meaning, quiet, but knowledgeable about their profession demeanor, while Burke seems clichéd as the celebrity paranormal medium, who really is not what he portrays with an unnecessary backstory that ties him and the doctor together.

Still from Poltergeist 2015

Capitalizing on the trending 3D rebirth started in 1915, and made popular in ’50s cinema, Poltergeist lends itself well to be shot in the technique with things flying around, things exploding, or the ghoul/apparition coming out of here or there.  Couple the 3D effects with a Dolby Digital mix, headed by Michael Innanen (Little Men 1998, Kick-Ass 2010), the sounds truly pop off the screen, assaulting the ears. Ultimately, if viewers look at Poltergeist as a standalone film and an extension of the Poltergeist mythology with a different family in a different place and time, it works well despite a couple of hiccups.  If held to the light of its predecessor, the flashy FX, sound, and slight story changes may make it come across as a needless money grab to some viewers. Of course, Horror fans need to be the final judge. CrypticRock gives Poltergeist 4 out of 5 stars.


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Jason Rhode
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Jason, a Horror and Children Story writer and artist specializing in alternative art, was adopted from the Bronx, NY, and currently lives in Midland, TX with his wife, Joey, and their two dogs, Chewy and Hollywood.

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