Saturday, May 23, 2015

Movie Review: Poltergeist (2015)

Let me start off by saying that this was by far the least painful theater-going experience that I've had in a while. Normally for me when there are other people in the theater (and sadly that's pretty much always the case considering we're out in public and all) some douchebag has got to ruin it for me by either making noises or just being in my general vicinity. I realize that makes me sound douchey as well, but seriously. People cannot keep quiet in a movie theater sometimes. But thankfully there were no (big) problems this time so I could relax a bit more. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but I really liked the movie.

But, Michele! Isn't Poltergeist your FAVORITE horror movie ever? Yes, it is. Well, that and Child's Play, of course. I've been having a really hard time not calling that one my favorite too lately so I think I'm just going to have two favorites. ANYWAY. I did not want to be judgmental going into the remake of Poltergeist at all. So I haven't even watched the original in a few months, and I only watched one of the trailers once and avoided all others and all TV spots after that. And overall, though I could tell it was Poltergeist and though some things were obviously changed around and different, I truly think that this remake was very successful and is quite possibly one of the better ones out there. I came out of the theater feeling really good, and that is always a good sign.

At first I was weary. One thing I've always liked about the original film is that it was not like almost all other haunted house movies where it starts off with a family moving into a new house. They were already established in the house and the neighborhood before anything started. Also, the family was well established. The Freelings were just normal people that were suddenly hit out of nowhere with all this crazy supernatural stuff. The new movie has a new family, the Bowens - Eric and Amy, and their three children that mirror the children in the original - Kendra, Griffin, and Maddy. Sadly, no E. Buzz, but there was a line about how they should get a dog. It's not enough that they are moving into a new house, but they also had to give the family some problems, like the dad being laid off recently. However, this ends up being completely unnecessary because you don't need that plot point to sympathize with the family.

Which brings me to one of my favorite elements of the remake, and frankly, the thing that I was most worried about before going to see it. I've always loved that Poltergeist was like your family-friendly ghost movie, and that it was funny and that there was a wonderful family dynamic. Would this new family be just as wonderful as the laid-back, funny, pot-smoking Freelings? Indeed they are! There is no pot-smoking, but Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt are perfect as the parents, as they are so light-hearted, relatable, and absolutely lovable. The new Carol Anne is really amazing, and I loved that she had the same hairstyle, just a different color. Griffin is a bit of a dork like Robbie was but is again played by a wonderful little actor. Sassy Kendra is the annoying teen who thinks a new iPhone is the most important thing in the world - however, when things get bad, she shows a genuine love for her younger siblings. The only place where the remake falters on the family element is at the end when they switch around Maddy's rescuer from the Other Side. Though I get what they were trying to do with the Griffin character, I missed the complete motherly devotion and sacrifice of Diane Freeling that the original gave us.

The new paranormal investigative team is headed up by Dr. Brooke Powell, played by the underrated Jane Adams, and her two assistants that I don't think I ever got the names of. Instead of Tangina, we have Carrigan Burke, a sort of Peter Vincent character, if you will. He's played with a wonderful amount of snark and playboyish charm by Jared Harris, whom I freaking love. It was so refreshing and wonderful to see that these side characters were not forgotten in development, and that I was able to love them just as much as the family members they were trying to save. I was so afraid that this remake was going to shortchange the characters in favor of flashy special effects and jump scares. And I was so elated to find out that this was not the case.

Speaking of the special effects, I was really impressed with those as well. There are a few things that don't work out as well - like the comic book stacking and that weird sequence with the drill - but overall, the remake did enough to honor the original film while still throwing in a lot of its own new stuff. Of course the clown sequence probably got the most attention in the marketing (like I said, I didn't watch any of it but that big clown face on one of the posters was a giveaway) and it was handled really well. There was actually more than one clown doll, if you need me to frighten you more. I really liked the toned-down version of the tree sequence, and the addition of one very cool little scene where all the lights come out of the lightbulbs in Maddy's room and go into the closet. Reminded me of the part in the original where they see all the different spirits on the staircase.

Though in this fan's eyes, the remake was a little bit unnecessary, it certainly was not pointless. They treated the classic story with respect, making totally appropriate changes where they felt it was needed and did a good job at it. I still got the same vibe that I love so much about the original Poltergeist from this remake and, honestly, that's all I was really hoping for.


  1. I'm interested in seeing this in theaters but I imagine I'll end up having to go by myself. I'm a big fan of the original Poltergeist as well and I'm curious to see how the new film is handled. I'm pleased to see that you liked the movie; I know horror movies are pretty subjective from viewer to viewer but considering your love for the original it must mean that the filmmakers did something right.

    I really wanted to comment on your introduction about people talking in theaters, though. Seeing a horror movie in a theater at any kind of busy showing is always a risky endeavor. I remember when the Ring came out I saw it with a girlfriend on a late Sunday evening show. There may have been one other person in the theater and that really added to the experience. When the Ring 2 came out I went and saw it with some friends on the opening night. Bad mistake; the audience was filled with kids who wanted to talk and constantly walk in and out of the theater in groups and people who just wanted to crack jokes at inopportune times. It ruined the movie for me. Considering some other movies that I saw in crowded theaters like each of the Paranormal Activity films, Evil Dead, The Conjuring or Cabin in the Woods, crowded theaters added something to the experience. Those were experiences for me where the energy of the audience, whether it was the shared anticipation of a completely full theater in Paranormal Activity 2, hearing other people scream in the Conjuring, or the simultaneous cries of disgust and excited cheers from viewers of Evil Dead, added something to the film.

    Of course, a friend and I still remember a guy shouting in Paranormal Activity 2 "Run! Run! Get out of the house! She demon as hell!"
    I guess sometimes I enjoy the pure emotions of the audience!

    1. Oh, I've no doubt had some great theater-going experiences - it's just all about the right movie with the right audience. Seeing the Maniac remake at a horror convention with a room full of horror fans was freaking amazing. So I definitely agree with you and I didn't mean to sound bitchy or anything. Sometimes I do get a little socially awkward so that's part of it, but mostly it's because I want to have my own experience with watching a movie, and actually remember the movie when I think about it and not all the other people I don't know in the audience. I went to go see It Follows on like a Sunday afternoon or something and it was just me and one other guy in the theater. Literally the entire movie - which is a very moody, atmospheric film - this guy was crinkling the plastic wrap of whatever shit he was eating, and clearing his throat every two minutes and I wanted to kill him. I was still able to enjoy the film, but he ruined the mood of so many scenes and took me out of the movie, and I don't appreciate that.

  2. You did separate reviews for the movie here and at WH? You're dedicated, lol.

    As I said there, I came into this movie as someone who doesn't like the original Poltergeist. I've been told it's because I grew up in the 2000s and 2010s, so I don't have the attention span of it. But, every time I watch the original movie (at least three times), I just see a story being stretch out and horribly paced to make sure that Spielberg and Hooper could cram in every special effects sequences they could come up with. I loved the new version for streamlining the story.

    Giving the most obvious comparison: In the original they got their daughter back and...stayed, so that the spirits could try to snatch her again. In the new version they get her back and immediately run to the car, but the spirits don't let them leave.

    Also, while you didn't mention it I've heard some people complain that the CGI is bad. That's true, but I'm more forgiving of bad CGI when dealing with ghosts, since they're not corporeal entities, so it kind of makes sense for ghosts to look like bad CGI.

    1. Well, I write differently when I write for WH, and I could go into a lot more detail with my review here, so yeah I had to do two different reviews! It actually wasn't that hard because I was so excited about the movie.

      I obviously don't agree with you about the original, so we'll just move on, haha............ I didn't complain about the CGI in the remake because I barely noticed it, save for the whole Other Side sequence at the end, of course. That's where I'm like you and I can forgive it because how else do we expect them to do it? For the rest of the film, the effects were great and I thought they actually held back a lot from what they could have done and I really appreciated that. Like I said, I didn't want them to sacrifice characterization for flashy special effects, and they didn't so I am very, very happy!

  3. Wow, I was expecting something totally different! Good to hear this wasn't horrible. I still say that this was unnecessary though.

  4. So, I'm pretty against the remake for a number of reasons. Firstly, Griff crossing over to rescue Maddy instead of the mother was just daft, and erasing a strong female action. Having Tangina's role played by a male actor is a similar thing.

    Actually, now that I think about it, there isn't really any strong female presence in the film; the older sister cries, is bitchy or apologises for being a bitch, the researcher is not capable enough to deal with the issue herself, and bumbling around her ex. Talk of her divorce is used for comic relief... The mother was watered down, as above. In the original, doesn't she start by playing about with the ghosts, and having fun with them?

    I thought the drill scene was one of the better parts of the film.

    The original wasn't perfect, but it was well done, and deserving of it's iconic status. The remake offers better visuals, but not much more (arguably takes a few steps back), and coasts along on the name. The fact it wasn't terrible isn't necessarily a good thing; it was utterly mediocre, which is pretty inexcusable in a remake.

    1. Yeah, like I said, I didn't like how Griffin was the one that saved Maddy and not the mother, either. I really missed that mother-daughter connection that the original had.