Poltergeist (2015)

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*. This is a remake that was panned by critics and faded quickly at the box office. I think this was mostly because the original Poltergeist had become such a fondly remembered favourite that a remake was seen as at best unnecessary and at worst a kind of sacrilege.
*. Since I thought the original Poltergeist was a godawful piece of garbage, with nothing at all to redeem it, I came to this film without the same bias. In fact, I thought a remake was a project with a lot of potential. If nothing else, the special effects would be improved.
*. Well, the special effects are improved. I particularly liked the simple effect of the hands pressed up against the inside of the TV set. Aside from that, however, this movie is too faithful to the original to be any good. I liked it better, but only because I hated the original so much.
*. I wonder if anyone (writer, director, anyone) thought to ask the obvious question of how two unemployed parents of three children, with maxed-out credit cards, could buy a house. Yes, they’re apparently relocating to a less desirable neighbourhood, but it still looks like it would be out of their range. Meanwhile all the writers had to do was introduce a line about a severance package or inheritance or something like that to clear the matter up. But instead it’s left in the air. A new house is just another expense the family can’t afford, like a cellphone or drone.
*. One hopes they at least had insurance, though I’d like to know what the claim was for. Gas explosion? In any event, it seems to have paid out as the Bowens are house-shopping again right away. Good luck finding a place without a closet though.

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*. Why did they make the creepy clown doll such a big part of the advertising campaign when it only appears for a few seconds, less screen time even than in the original?
*. The paranormal researchers are a little more believable, though I still found myself asking how they knew so much about what was going on. “I’m fairly certain Maddie can hear us better than we can hear her,” Dr. Powell says. Really? Based on what, exactly? Personal experience?
*. I laughed out loud when they attached the rescue rope to a tiny screw stuck into the drywall. Yeah. That’s really going to hold.
*. The DVD comes with the dreaded “alternate ending.” As I’ve said before, if you have more than one ending then you don’t have an ending. Here I’m not sure what was going on with the husband-and-wife team reunited on TV. I guess he survived.
*. Judged on its own this isn’t a bad little movie. It’s not very scary or violent, but this too is in keeping with the spirit of the original, which was a very Disney horror film. Indeed, if anything this movie is gentler. We don’t see anyone tearing their face off or maggots crawling over food.
*. The big problem a movie like this has is something that’s not its fault. The haunted house movie has evolved a lot since the ’80s, mainly as a reaction to the success of Paranormal Activity. In comparison to that franchise (and its clones) Poltergeist seems tame and uninspired. Instead of a remake it’s a throwback, which was unnecessary and, in the event, unwanted.

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