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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Poltergeist (3D) | Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino ,Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements, Jared Harris, Jane Adams | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD


Poltergeist 3D

1982's classic haunted house horror tale Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and coproduced by Steven Spielberg, was one of the scariest ever made.  Unfortunately, this updated remake pales in comparison to the original, which begs the question, if you can't do justice to the original or improve on it, then why bother.

Director Gil Kenan (Monster House) and writer David Lindsay-Abaire (The Rise of the Guardians) follow the same basic premise of a family terrorized by sinister forces invading their home, but there are several differences in this retelling.  Characters have been replaced, some modern elements have been added such as employing technological advances including cell phones, computers, tablets and a drone sent to capture what's going on in rooms in the house. Keep in mind, new and different doesn't always mean better.

Recently laid off from his job at John Deere, Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) and his stay at home, writer wife, Amy (Rosemary DeWitt) have been forced to downsize and relocate with their three kids, sulky teen, Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), scaredy cat son Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and their youngest,”gifted” 6 year old cutey, Maddie (Kennedi Clements) to a more affordable home in the suburbs.  What they didn't know and soon come to learn is that their new abode was built on a former cemetery and the dead are an angry lot with an axe to grind for an injustice done to them.

It doesn't take long before Griffin senses that something is not quite right in his new surroundings.  What unfolds is the usual bump in the night scenario with objects appearing to move by themselves.  Soon things escalate to a living nightmare as Griffin is terrorized by clown dolls and a weeping willow tree that crashes through his bedroom window and sweeps him up. Although saved by his parents, things go from bad to worse. Maddie, who her brother first witnesses talking to unseen spirits in her bedroom and then on the flat screen TV, is suddenly lured into her closet which works as a portal leading to a horrifying, dark place somewhere between life and death.

Maddie's parents, who are somehow able to keep their composure, seek help from paranormal expert, Dr. Brooke Powell (Jane Adams) and her assistants, Boyd (Nicholas Braun) and Sophie (Susie Hayward) to investigate the strange, menacing phenomena. When these ghostly forces prove too much for them to handle, a bigger gun, TV Ghost Hunter, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), that Amy refers to as “the Cavalry” is called in (in place of the diminutive, elderly medium, played by Zelda Rubenstein in the original film).

Rather than going into hysterical, panic mode, Rockwell and DeWitt's characters behave in an unrealistic manner, never quite evoking the emotional turmoil, or how out of their mind they would be, like any normal loving parent who discovers their child has been abducted and unsure if they will ever be able to get her back. I have to blame their performances on bad directing by Kenan working from Lindsay-Abaire's problematic script. Rockwell and DeWitt are fine actors, yet they are unable to rise above the clunky dialogue and mediocre material they are given.

There is a glimpse of originality, involving balls of light that pull away from a lamp and float off like a star into the distance, but that element is never explored nor makes sense in relation to the vengeful corpses.

Lacking is a sense of genuine dread.  When the little girl announces “They're here”, in the original film, you knew you were in for very scary ride.  Not so, this time. Some of the best, most horrifying sequences from the original such as the  “swimming pool” scene  (there is no pool in this go around) have been eliminated. Rather than building on the best elements and upping the ante to a new and more frightening level, this reboot of Poltergeist is an inferior imitation.

Too bad, unlike Maddie, it failed to draw me in.


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