Omens were good for this remake of Tobe Hooper’s beloved 1982 suburban shocker (or was it Steven Spielberg’s?). The cast is terrific: Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt play the hapless parents whose bargain dream home turns out to be a haunted death trap, with strong support from their onscreen offspring, especially Kyle Catlett as nervy middle child Griffin. Director Gil Kenan has a solid track record—his 2006 debut Monster House remains a sorely underrated slice of ’80s throwback kiddie horror—and producer Sam Raimi’s fright-flick credentials are, of course, unimpeachable.
So it’s disappointing to report that Poltergeist, while entertaining, has more in common with slick, audience-goosing spookers like Insidious and Sinister than with the imaginative original. The characters may be new and the effects more sophisticated (though far less inventive), but the plot remains essentially unchanged. When their five-year-old daughter (Kennedi Clements) is sucked into the supernatural realm by unquiet spirits, Rockwell and DeWitt turn to a team of paranormal investigators to get her back.
A series of superb set pieces—a creepy tree springing to ankle-grabbing life, some nail-biting business with a power drill—set a high bar, but Kenan can’t sustain the tension. And when the original movie’s pint-size spirit medium (the unforgettable Zelda Rubenstein) is replaced by Jared Harris’s smirking Irish psychic, the film takes a turn for the tacky, eschewing Hooper’s surreal blowout in favor of pointless overexplanation and a feeble climax.
Cast and crew