A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.
Amelia: Some things that need to be said right away. First, yes, we are truly gluttons for pain because instead of the original Poltergeist, we’ve gone with the 2015 remake. Second, Sam Raimi is attached to this movie and yet Ted Raimi is nowhere to be seen? That makes me worried, okay? Have Sam and Ted had some kind of falling out and the brothers aren’t on speaking terms anymore? Are they ignoring each other? Are they tearing their Raimi family apart?! Am I reading too much into this? No, because where Sam Raimi goes, Ted is sure to follow!
Billy: I’m generally hesitant to get my hopes up too high for horror remakes, but I knew from the moment I saw Sam Rockwell on screen that I was in good hands. Rockwell is one of those instantly likeable presences that a film can offer, and I knew then and there that even if this version of Poltergeist didn’t live up to the original, I’d at least have a couple good scenes of endearing charm to get me through. Then Jared Harris came on screen and I didn’t give the fact that this was a remake a second thought. I will watch Lady in the Water for Jared Harris. And generally, I have to say the cast here are generally having a good time. Rockwell in particular gives plenty to enjoy, offering the demonologists sandwiches as they inspect the house or completely obviously begging for a job during the dinner party. His charm is effortless. Are those good elements to have in a horror movie? Oh, um, no. I guess not. Maybe not. But I didn’t care.
Amelia: The creepiest bit in this movie is the eyeless, fish-like thing that Sam Rockwell touches in the closet. That sounds more sexual than I meant, but I’m on a schedule here and can surely not go back to reword it! Was the eyeless fish thing in the original? My memory is a little foggy here since I saw it fairly early on in life. Gotta love how Spielberg slapped a PG-13 rating on it to get everyone in his audience!
Billy: Looking at it critically, Poltergeist doesn’t really seem to take many risks. Like the original, Poltergeist is a family friendly horror movie. It provides enough tension to still fit the genre, but nothing really leaves a scar on you to the point of keeping you awake at night. There’s not even a body count to speak of, though Carrigan Burke’s final ‘sacrifice’ arguably should have had a more permanent repercussion. Instead, the scares in this movie come at you at a child’s level. An unknown presence in a closet, scary toys, and trees tapping on the window pane are the worst you get. These fears are brought to their natural conclusions, but it all seems generally toned down from where it could have gone, and while the CGI is definitely used to up the ante visually, you never really get anything that scares you to the core.
Amelia: Billy is also going touch on this in his bit, but I have to ask why they thought it was a good idea to do what they did with the eldest daughter’s cell phone? It goes wonky like a television with bunny ears would do if you moved them around to find a different signal, but that’s not how that technology works. As technology progresses, I think new tropes need to be added to the ghosts themselves. That’s what it always comes down to, yeah? Spirits can communicate with technology before humans. As the tech changes, the ways the ghosts interact with it should change too. The girl shouldn’t have used her phone as a ghostly listening device, having it go staticy in high energy level areas. If you need to have shit like that happen, have her on Snapchat and she starts seeing shadows, or have Siri start answering disturbing questions that no one can hear but her because the technology can pick up the spirits but not humans.
Billy: The 2015 version of Poltergeist has a noticeably hard time updating some of the iconic moments of the film, and its means of ‘updating’ certain elements don’t really bring anything to the table that justify actually making this film. I liked the inversion of expectations at the beginning, zooming out from a screen that turns out to be an iPad. But, I mean, modern TVs don’t have static, and neither do cell phones. Giving both of those ‘modern’ devices ancient CRT effects just seemed out of place. You could also bring up the questionable decision to actually show the other dimension. The Stranger Things fan in me again pokes its head in to see this dimension as the Upside Down, but I prefer the original’s vision of leaving it to your imagination.
On a similar note, presenting Jared Harris’ Carrigan Burke as a TV “Ghost Hunting” personality is a big change from Tangina from the original. Making the psychic character into a TV star had the potential to make this remake of Poltergeist feel more like Fright Night, but due to the fact that he has, apparently, dealt with actual spirits before, this reality-show spin doesn’t diminish his character. This may just be the Jared Harris fan in me talking, but this was one update I was actually okay with, especially because it meant they could shoehorn in “this house is clean” in a way that acknowledged how shoehorned it really, truly was.
Amelia: Four and a half sentient trees out of ten
There’s entertainment to be had here but if you’re a fan of the original, or have even just seen the original, the 2015 remake is going to feel a little lifeless to you. Sam Rockwell is a charming motherfucker, the effects are nice and flashy, and there are a few tense moments at the PG-13 level, but there’s nothing here that will keep you coming back for more.
Billy: Six sentient trees out of ten
As a remake, it took a soft approach, but actually totally nailed it for me in that regard. It’ll never be considered as classic as the original, but I had a good time watching it, which I didn’t expect to have going in blind. It’s light horror, light entertainment. In the end it’s sort of themeless, but the performances make it worth a watch if you want a horror movie you can put on while the kids are still around and it’s not bad by remake standards.