Poltergeist (2015) – Review


The review Axia’s P.A Carly has been waiting for is finally here. Poltergeist is the latest of a series of classic horror movies that have gained re-makes, and let’s face it they haven’t really been successful. Probably there have been some decent ones out there, but I haven’t really found them yet. The most disastrous so far is Rob Zombie’s remakes of Halloween and all the attempts to bring back The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This ones advertising points out that it’s from the producers of Evil Dead, however that’s slightly misleading considering the fact that this film is actually from the people who produced the re-make and not the original and trust me that film was not exactly perfect if I’m honest. Now for the record I did actually see the original Steven Spielberg movie a day prior to seeing this movie and I will say it holds up fairly well in its own way. It had some amazing practical effects, some brilliant performances, some actually half way decent scares and the only issue really is it’s dated quite badly in a couple of places, mainly surrounding the technology. At no point did it suggest it needs a re-make, by the way I haven’t actually seen any of the sequels before you ask. Now let’s check out how the re-make stands up.

Now normally I would give a brief plot synopsis of the film at this point but this version of Poltergeist is so similar in following the plot of the 1982 movie, which most people have seen, so I’m not even going to bother. It’s the same basic, family moves into the house, there are ghosts in the house, they kidnap the little girl, family hire paranormal investigators to bring her back!! One of the big fundamental differences between this version and its predecessor is the fact that this film is 20 minutes shorter than the previous film and if you’re wondering what has been lost in this version, it’s the plot twist. The plot twist that was really good in the original film has been completely lost on this one. It’s in the film, but it’s brought up so quickly and it’s so painfully obvious that newcomers will guess it really quickly. It’s not really there and it will only frustrate fans of the original! I also find the family a lot less likeable in this version than the previous film. They are not incredibly annoying and you don’t want to see them die, like in a lot of horror films, but I would hardly say I enjoyed them as much as the family from the previous film and they do seem a lot more like a cardboard cut out of an American family that you would see advertised in a clothing magazine more than how I would imagine the average American family is really like, which was given off in the original film and I think that’s largely down to the casting of Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt in the roles that were previously occupied by Craig T Nelson and JoBeth Williams. The other major difference this time around is that the Psychic has changed gender. In the original film Zelda Rubinstein played the Psychic in what was her star making role and she was absolutely fantastic in it. Jared Harris takes up the role of the Psychic this time and he’s not as much of a match for her. His character is a lot more hands on in this version than the previous film, but he is also kind of a missed opportunity considering his character is a TV Psychic that works on a Ghost Busting Show, you know, similar to those ones you see on Living TV at 10.00pm and I was kind of hoping he was going to turn out to be a fake Psychic who had gotten out of his depth, but by the end of the film they have pretty much established that he is the real deal, with a slight throw away line to suggest it might be the other way! It makes me wish there were a few more films that took red lights attitude and try to produce a film from the sceptics point of view and really bring into light the sort of manipulative nature that Psychics use in faking paranormal powers in order to deceive the grieving and if you are reading this and genuinely believe in Psychics abilities, I don’t mean to insult you, but I have never seen a single Psychic who has convinced me that they are not faking it in some way or using Psychology and Magician based techniques. If you want further information on what I am talking about, see Penn and Teller’s episode of Bullshit entitled ‘Talking To The Dead’ and Derron Brown investigates ‘The Man Who Can Talk To The Dead’, they establish my points quite well!

Now that I have had my Room 101 moment, back to the review!!

The plot is so blatant in following the original, you just think, why am I not watching the original! It’s almost note for note, the only difference really is that this time we actually get to see the world of the dead people a lot more and see the girl in the television and in the closet. Some of the effects are half way decent, however it doesn’t change the fact that the original film had and excellent attitude of not showing too much to allow our imagination to fill in the blanks. This one doesn’t give you that option, you will see everything. This movie really does not have enough down time. It is full on from the start and it is a lot less subtle than the original was, relying a bit too much on jump scares! It’s not as bad as this year’s ‘Woman in Black 2’, on that factor, but I would definitely say it relied a lot more on jump scares than the original film. Fortunately everything from the original has made it back into this film, with the exception of the face melting scene, which is completely absent. However they are all a lot less good than the original sequences and adds further credence to ‘You should be watching the original film’!!! I will say the clown is still sufficiently scary, but again compared to the original, it’s not as good and that’s what I can really say about all of this film. There’s nothing that much inherently wrong about it, it just borrows so much from the original and in a way that is not as good. It’s almost the Diet Coke equivalent to the original film. Yes it’s all there, but you are getting less than what you had the first time.

Acting wise, there is nothing really i inherently wrong with it. Most of the Actors do a pretty decent job. I would especially say that Kyle Catlett and Kennedi Clements do pretty good jobs for child actors, at least in the first half of the film. Their performances seem to dip towards the latter half of the film. They also deliver their lines very well and I think most of the issues are with the writing and I can say that’s the problem with a lot of the cast. Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, as I mentioned, are not as good as Craig T Nelson and JoBeth Williams, but again I think it’s largely down to writing and direction, which is definitely not one of this film’s strength. The other thought goes to most of the Psychic Investigators, who just aren’t as interesting in this film. Again, it’s not down to the Actors, they do half decent performances. Jared Harris is pretty good in his role, but he doesn’t seem to fully get into his role and I almost thought he had a slight contempt towards the writing. I will say I enjoyed the performances of Jane Adams, Susan Heyward and Nicholas Braun, but I wouldn’t have minded them getting more screen time, however they do deliver pretty decent performances and I think Saxon Sharbino as the teenager daughter in this version, is actually one of the things that is actually slightly better than the previous films casting and I am glad the writers actually gave her more to do in this version. Overall, this cast was actually pretty good, but they needed a better Director to get good performances out of them but there’s nothing on the level of Zelda Rubenstien or Heather O Rourke’s performance.

The Effects. Now the original was a champion for practical effects. This one is an example of how CGI does not improve a film when you are re-making it, or at least, it’s not automatically better. The film is way too reliant on its CGI and it can actually take you out of the experience. There are some decent effects here, even though there were a few technology gaffes and a couple of continuity errors, but for the most part they are alright. They just pale in comparison to the original when they are just trying to almost copy the scene shot for shot. Yes the tree in this version looks a lot more like an actual tree, but I still think the original sequence was better and a lot more terrifying in terms of us caring about the character making it out alive. I was looking forward to seeing the face melting sequence updated, but it’s completely absent from this movie and it’s been replaced by a drill sequence, which was actually quite a good sequence, but I would hardly say it matches up! Again there is nothing inherently wrong with the special effects, but they don’t leave as much to the imagination and they are a bit too hard nosed, which takes us out of the experience, which a horror film really shouldn’t do and I would say a large amount of that is down to the films well thought out cinematography.

I saw the film in 3D and if by the time this review gets out, your area is still offering 3D screenings I would say, you can either take it or leave it. There are some decent 3D in this movie and it feels like the film was actually shot for that format and was shot pretty well and when it’s good, it’s very good. The downside is that it can also really not work and there were times I forgot I was seeing it a 3D movie. It also ignores the one rule of 3D which is to avoid dark areas and dark environments as much as possible, especially for Cinema viewings, in which case the 3D glasses have a darkening effect, and the film is harder to see. I know this is a horror film, but they really should have considered that a bit more and to be fair, there are quite a few well lit sequences which show off the 3D pretty well. In other words, I have seen better 3D, but I have also seen worse, and I would say you can take it or leave it, though I would recommend you save your money and see it in 2D. Though I suspect by the time this review goes out most Cinemas will only be offering 2D screenings.

Is Poltergeist bad? Not incredibly, which means it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I would hardly call it good and it’s fairly obvious when you are watching it that you could save your money and just stay at home and watch the original. I would refrain from calling it a disastrous re-make, but I would hardly call it a good one! Everything just feels a lot like you are watching the first film, but with a lot less! What this film really needed was a better screenplay writer and a better director, because I think there was every possibility that this film could have been better. As it stands, just see the original, there is really no need to see this one. The effects are less good, the actors are less good, the plot’s less good, everything is just less good!! That just shows the futility of this film and fans of the original need not apply.

So what are your thoughts guys? Did I get this right or wrong, was there more to this version of Poltergeist than I thought or did I get it completely right? Is it basically a Diet Coke version of the original?

Leave your comments below if you have any and also the answer to my question this week which is:

“What is the worst horror re-make to date??”

Remember if you want to submit your own content to our site, go the ‘how to submit’ section and you can now follow me on twitter.

Well after my absence I am going back to reviewing. Join me again on 12 June where I will be reviewing Paul Feig’s latest comedy “Spy”.

Thanks for reading my review, I hope you have a good weekend.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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One comment on “Poltergeist (2015) – Review
  1. Carly Bailey says:

    Thank you for doing this review! After reading it (and absolutely loving the first one which indeed still terrifies me every time I watch it despite the technology and its advances now in movies) I won’t be visiting the cinema to watch this. I will watch it when it comes out on DVD though.

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