Poltergeist (2015)

Posted by Joel Copling on May 22, 2015

As a general rule, when your power drill and the extension cord connected to it disappear into a hole you made in the back wall of a closet suspected of sucking a family's child into a different dimension, sticking not only one's hand but his entire arm into the hole is the opposite of a good idea. This very thing happens to one of the paranormal experts hired to investigate the poltergeist in "Poltergeist," a glossy but mostly brainless updating of Tobe Hooper's fun spookfest of a 1982 original that can't even match the indifferent mediocrity of that film's first sequel (not to mention the underrated pleasures of the second). There is no need for director Gil Kenan's so-called reboot, which is really just a remake given a few tweaks to be more modern.

This time, the parents, Eric and Amy (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt), are a laid-off John Deere contractor and an aspiring author in turmoil due to the aftereffects of the 2008 financial crisis. The elder daughter here is Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), cell-phone-obsessed and mostly inconsequential to everything else. The son is Griffin (Kyle Catlett), to whom the majority of scare tactics occur (including a clever bit with a creepy clown doll that might be the only thing in the movie to best a similar scene in the original). And the youngest daughter is Madison (Kennedi Clements, adorable but no patch on Heather O'Rourke's natural charm in the first film), who ends up being the one with a spiritual connection to the titular entity.

The beats here are largely the same but almost always only half as a effective as they were before: The family hires a crew of dim-bulb paranormal investigators (played by Jane Adams, Susan Heyward, and Nicholas Braun, whose Boyd is the one with the aforementioned power drill problem) and, later, a reality-show host named Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris, trying valiantly but failing spectacularly at attempting to take over for Zelda Rubinstein) to investigate and exorcise their own home. The '82 film's practical effects work was the reason its light-and-sound show was successful almost in spite of itself. Here, the whole thing devolves into showy CGI without any of the emotional weight, despite screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire's efforts to maintain a solid hold on the central family unit, and "Poltergeist" is worse than merely redundant because of this--it's downright tedious.

Film Information

Sam Rockwell (Eric Bowen), Rosemarie DeWitt (Amy Bowen), Kyle Catlett (Griffin Bowen), Saxon Sharbino (Kendra Bowen), Kennedi Clements (Madison Bowen), Jared Harris (Carrigan Burke), Jane Adams (Dr. Brooke Powell), Nicholas Braun (Boyd), Susan Heyward (Sophie).

Directed by Gil Kenan and written by David Lindsay-Abaire.

Rated PG-13 (intense frightening sequences, brief suggestive material, language).

93 minutes.

Released on May 22, 2015.