Cinema, Eric Bowen, Film, Ghosts, Horror, Jesse Eisenberg, Kennedi Clements, Kyle Catlett, Moon, Movie Review, Nicholas Braun, Nicolas Cage, Poltergeist, Razzie Awards, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell, Scary Movie, The Cabin in the Woods
“Poltergeist”, (the original “Poltergeist”), was a fun and genuinely scary film. It’s a horror movie classic, so from a financial perspective I’m sure that remaking it sounded like a wonderful idea. However, in reality this remake is a flop in every area – it isn’t entertaining, it isn’t frightening, and it definitely isn’t well made. “Poltergeist” is a film with absolutely no personality or identity, it simply rehashes jump scares and plot points from the original movie and throws in terrible CGI, making for a dull and uninteresting experience.
(SPOILER ALERT) If you’ve seen the original then you’ll be well aware of what the story entails; a suburban family (in this case the Bowens) is terrorized by the poltergeist, the daughter is abducted by said poltergeist, and then they get her back. It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad. There was ample opportunity to make this movie inventive and exciting, because the house is creepy and filled with objects that the poltergeist could manipulate, and the characters have personalities that could be interesting if properly explored. This film could easily have been compelling if its characters were developed, because how a family reacts to moving into a new home and also to losing a child can both be fascinating. However, what isn’t interesting, which hampers this film greatly, are artificial situations clearly set up to facilitate jump scares.
The start of this film was completely stupid and also slightly offensive, as the family downsized, moving into a wonderful suburban home, yet they acted as though they were going to be living in the slums! I personally felt insulted by the fact that the characters in this film acted as though their lives would be unliveable if they moved into their new home (before they knew about their unwanted guests) because it was both bigger and probably nicer than any house I’ve ever lived in! It would’ve been understandable if we’d seen the area which the family used to live in, because if we’d seen them living in a mansion then it would’ve at least made a bit of sense, but intelligence of any sort was far beyond this film.
The performances in “Poltergeist” were pretty awful, and at times they verged upon laughable. All the characters were stereotypes, they were completely clichéd and underdeveloped – the angsty teenage girl, the scared young boy, the creepy little girl. We’ve seen these characters before in a number of similar films and they’re always the same.
Kyle Catlett (Griffin Bowen, the scared young boy) looked like Jesse Eisenberg, but sadly he had none of his charm or acting chops. At times his delivery was ridiculous, and there were other times at which he was meant to look scared or concerned yet seemed completely passive. He just didn’t offer much to the role and at no point did I feel immersed when he was on screen.
Sam Rockwell often felt as though he was playing a parody of his character, and he didn’t display any range whatsoever; he’s a good actor and has had some fantastic roles in the past, but here he’s absolutely terrible. His performance was so strange, because at times he seemed tired and genuinely bored, mumbling through his lines as though he was half asleep, but at other times he overacted so excessively that he looked like Nicolas Cage on acid! I don’t know what he was thinking, or if he was thinking at all, but this is a Razzie worthy performance.
Because the performances in “Poltergeist” were so bad and the characters were so unoriginal, I wasn’t able to connect with any of them, and as such I was completely uninterested in Madison’s (the creepy little girl, played by Kennedi Clements) plight once she was taken by the poltergeist. I had absolutely no interest in what happened to her, or anyone else for that matter, and I was desperately hoping the movie would end after about twenty minutes.
(SPOILER ALERT) The way that the film was written dictated that the family should take everything in their stride, immediately believing that the poltergeist existed and had their daughter. The fact that the family witnessed the paranormal activity straight away once Maddy disappeared necessitated that they ignored rationality and worked towards getting her back, because although they might not want to believe what had happened, they couldn’t ignore the facts that were presented to them. This felt like lazy writing, because if Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) and Amy Bowen (Rosemarie DeWitt) were unsure what to believe and didn’t believe their other children, there would’ve been the opportunity for much more character development and substance.
Having the parents believe that their eldest daughter was a terrible babysitter who had seen a kidnapper, not a ghost, would’ve been far more interesting and made for a better narrative than them coming home to find their child stuck in the television! This kind of story would’ve allowed Sam Rockwell to engage with his character more and showcase his acting ability, which would’ve also elevated the movie as a whole.
Rockwell’s character was a blasé, passive, boring individual, but in the background he seemed to have a multitude of issues that would’ve been intriguing to see play out. He appeared to have an alcohol problem, yet this wasn’t allowed to take the floor despite the fact that he had recently lost his job. The writers could’ve used this as a way of enhancing the character, especially given that his problem would only have escalated following the disappearance of his daughter.
If the writers had had any guts they would’ve made something of the source material and made changes so that this new movie at least had substance despite its notable flaws – they could’ve made Eric Bowen an abusive father, giving Maddy a reason to seek out imaginary friends and escape her life, and even try to make it unclear whether or not she’d want to return to the real world. Something along these lines would’ve at least made this movie more entertaining.
The plot and the performances weren’t the only issues with “Poltergeist”, it also suffered from terrible CGI and numerous plot holes. The dead in the other world looked like dementors, belonging more in a children’s fantasy movie than in a horror film, and the vortex in the closet looked about as real as it would’ve if it had been done back in the 1980’s.
The plot holes were clear and numerous:
- Why was Griffin the only person in the house to wake up in the parent’s room when the first electrical mishaps were happening? I don’t think anyone could’ve slept through that!
- Continuing with picking apart that scene; why wasn’t Griffin more scared? He was scared of his own shadow at the beginning, so he should’ve been scared of the house when everything was alive for no apparent reason – it’s not as if he was old enough or clever enough to rationalise such a thing!
- Why could no one hear Boyd (Nicholas Braun) screaming when the drill was coming through the wall? He was screaming at the top of his lungs, and the house was full of people! Now, I know what you’re thinking, the poltergeists make the rules, the hole was gone once Boyd stepped away from the wall! But no, that wasn’t acceptable in itself! The rules were so unclear in this film that I don’t even think the writers knew how things were supposed to work.
- How long was the tree dangling Griffin in mid-air? If we take Maddy’s abduction as a device by which to evaluate the duration of his torment then it lasted for minutes, so what was the tree’s goal in capturing him? Did it just want to scare him? It seems like it had achieved that before it had a hold of him!
There’s plenty more issues, but I should probably stop listing them or we’ll be here all day! Nothing about this film was new or inventive; since the original movie came out there have been technological advancements, which a film like this should look to thrive on because one of its main plot devices are the electronic interferences!
(SPOILER ALERT) Finally, I really could’ve done without the second ending. The film wasn’t long, but it would’ve been better if it was even shorter because all I wanted was for it to end. When the writers pulled the rug out from under us and had the family’s torment continue, I rolled my eyes, let out a sigh, and wished for a “Cabin in the Woods” fist to smash the Bowens out of existence. It could be argued that the reason behind this was to have the house be destroyed, but why should we care about that? The family had already decided that they would be leaving it behind anyway!
This is a terrible movie. It’s filled with faults, feels like a cash-grab, and frankly there’s nothing creepy about it! “Poltergeist” is one of many remakes to sully the horror movie genre in recent times, but while most are bad, this one is disgusting. In keeping with past reviews, when I see a film that I believe to have no positive aspects I don’t waste time trying to place it on some arbitrary scale, whereby it attains a value higher than another film simply because its issues aren’t as appalling. If a film only has negative aspects then it doesn’t deserve to be placed above any other, rather, I place these films together in a category of movies that I never wish to see again.