Poltergeist (2015) Movie Review
Just in time for Memorial Day, the tepid Poltergeist remake is here to show you just how good/perfect the original was in the first place. Not sure where I was originally going with that Memorial Day reference other than my Uncle Daisy was a Soldier in the war and he won a bunch of medals saving underprivileged children from the war torn country of Wartornia until he came back a broken man, suffering from PTSD, RRGO and of course, HURI.
I remember Uncle Daisy specifically in reference to Poltergeist because he was killed by a malevolent clown and got his face ripped off when I was 6, a couple of weeks after I saw the original for the first time.
I hadn’t seen the original in decades, but I’d seen it enough times to recognize the familiar beats as they unfolded. Considering the movie’s oddly highbrow pedigree (the screenplay’s by former Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire from the story by Steven Spielberg and directed by Monster House’s Gil Kenan), you’d expect the film to be a lot scarier, or at least to hold the attention of the half dozen tween girls laughing and looking at their phones for most of the movie.
Normally you’d be annoyed when they won’t STFU, but considering the mild salsa that was onscreen, one could hardly blame them.
The Bowens are arriving at their new home in a substandard neighborhood because that’s all they can afford.
Let’s meet them before they get to the Indian burial ground on which their house was built. Oh, you don’t remember that from the original. You’re the perfect audience for this watered-down remake as it seems ideal for those folks who say they like horror but don’t actually like to be scared.
You still have a chance to see Mad Max or even Pitch Perfect 2 again. I guarantee you’d have a better time…
- Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) - his lone character trait is that he got laid off from John Deere and he used to be good at baseball. Okay, that’s 2 character traits but they’re so paper-thin that they count as one real one. Good thing Eric is played by Sam Rockwell so every line being spoken sounds like authentic.
- Amy Bowen (Rosemarie Dewitt)- her lone character trait is that she doesn’t work so she can write her novel and take care of the 3 kids, even the extraneous one. Good thing she’s played by Rosemarie DeWitt, who’s almost a dead ringer for the original’s JoBeth Williams.
- Kendra Bowen (Saxon Sharbino)- she’s the oldest Bowen child and her lone character trait is that she’s a moody teen. With a phone.
- Madison Bowen (Kennedi Clements)- she’s the youngest and she has a predilection for talking to things that aren’t there and making grave pronouncements as to whether evil supernatural being(s) are “Coming” or are in fact, “here”.
- Griffin (Kyle Catlett)- he’s the middle Bowen boy and his defining characteristic is that he’s a little ginger. He was left in a mall by Amy 3 years ago and is still whining about it. He’s practically afraid of his shadow, being the little bitch that he is. Good thing he didn’t wander into a horror movie. Or at least a good one.
The Bowens are forced to scale down because that’s all they can afford. Because only the 1%-ers get to live in houses that aren’t possessed. They’re making the best of it as Eric tries to get a new job and Amy tries to get the kids in line as they get their lives back to a sense of normalcy.
It doesn’t help that Griffin sees his little sister Maddie talking to closets and there are times when he hears things that sound like the closets are talking back. Griffin and Eric attempt to open said closet, but the handle breaks off and there doesn‘t seem to be any way to get in. We’re guessing that door will be open sometime before the end of the movie.
It also doesn’t help that there’s an ancient tree just outside Griffin’s attic room that’s gnarled just enough that it looks like it’s getting closer by the inch, almost as if it wants to get inside.
Also, Griffin’s attic has random boxes that hold things like creepy looking clowns (no doubt ruined by the overly revealing trailer). Honestly, Griffin should just be killed off early to put the kid out of his misery or else he’ll end up having a heart attack by the time he’s 15.
On the plus side, if Griffin was offed, that would free up some money so the Bowens could afford a better place.
One can hope.
As Griffin is skulking around, he sees Maddie once again talking to an inanimate object. This time it’s the flat screen TV and she’s conversing with a bunch of static. That’s odd, with flat screens nowadays you rarely have to deal with a static-y screen anymore, unless of course it’s haunted. Maddie has her hands on the screen. She could just use the remote to get to the nearest channel, but one can assume that since the Bowens just got there, they might not have had the time to set up their cable just yet.
Maddie pronounces to Griffin, “They’re coming.”
Griffin has just wet his pants.
Maddie says, “They’re heeeeeeere”.
Griffin has just soiled himself. We’re used to this coming from Griffin.
Later that night Amy and Eric go to a dinner party in which Eric can possibly get himself a job.
At this very expositional dinner party the Bowens learn that their house was built over an Indian burial ground. But they’re told not to worry because the graves were moved before the houses were built and everything should be fine and nothing bad will happen.
When they arrive home, they see that the tree has tree-napped Griffin from the attic and is making him cry. Then the tree drops him on his head. Unfortunately, Griffin is still alive.
Meanwhile, Kendra has her hands full in the basement fighting what looks like black oil from the X-Files.
Oh yeah, and now Maddie is gone, presumably taken by whoever’s “Here”.
Darn, if only it was Griffin that was taken, then the Bowens could just move away and get a new house. But because it was Maddie that was stolen, the Bowens actually care.
They’re here indeed.
What Works With Poltergeist 2015
- An unexpectedly thrilling sequence involving a squirrel is the closest you will come to being scared, even though it’s not really that scary and may even garner unintentional laughter. At least it’s not the feeling of apathy that you get from 89 of the movie’s 90 minutes running time.
- Seasoned character actors Sam Rockwell (Charlie’s Angels, Joshua) and Rosemarie DeWitt (The Watch) actually give believable performance as the parents of the 2 good Bowen kids and their useless little boy. You know they’re taking a paycheck part, but at least they’re giving it their all, which is more than you can say for the rest of the production.
What Doesn't Work With Poltergeist 2015
- I’m guessing that the producers knew it would be pointless to try to duplicate Zelda Rubinstein’s performance from the original, so they didn’t even try. But to make her character basically a non-factor by altering it into an Irish Drunk---
Sorry, the character played by Jared Harris (last year’s awful The Quiet Ones) is not a drunk. But his character is so underwritten that you guess Jared Harris was actually drunk just to make the job go by faster.
- No face-ripping scene. Cowards. What you do get is essentially Sam Rockwell washing his face over the sink.
- A CGI-filled climax so cheaply done that you can see the actors squinting as they try not to stare at the green/blue screen. Those in charge must have given up trying to make a decent horror movie. It’s not to be judged too harshly, as the audience gave up long before the climax.
- Everyone in the audience knows (and the movie itself points this out) Hawkeye is completely useless, so why don’t they just kill him off instead of wasting screen time on an irrelevant character and giving some measure of suspense to a franchise where there’s no real sense of anything being at stake.
I’m sorry, that was The Avengers.
A bland PG-13 remake that takes everything you loved about the original (including actual scares) and mutes it down for millennials. If this movie was over-the-top awful, that might at least have been more entertaining instead of just plain mediocre. Just add Poltergeist ‘15 to a long, sad list of feeble vanilla remakes, but you knew that already. This house is not clean.