Even after thirty years of technological advancements in cinema, this remake isn’t half as scary as the original.

Ever been told that too much television can be bad for you? Such was the writing on the wall for kids of the 80s. Co-written and produced by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist in 1982 drove that message right into the living room with a terrifying new twist to the horrors of home invasion. Now more than three decades on, the titular remake attempts a similar feat, albeit with the advantage of cinematic progression in as many years. Does it work?

The answer to that question depends on your threshold for fear. Simply put, if you get a kick out of jump scares, there are plenty of hair-raising moments (excuse the pun). But if you are the type of horror fan who has seen it all, then this 2015 remake isn’t for you, and neither does it offer anything to get your heartrate thumping. To be fair, new director Gil Kenan seems to have had his heart in the right place and with horror legend Sam Raimi as producer, Poltergeist, the remake, has all the tick marks of contemporary horror. The problem I see, are also those very tick marks, which as it turns out, appears to be a long checklist of clichés from previous horror films; A stock opening scene of a lovely family buying a new home in the suburbs – check. The realtor makes an impression on the parents, but not the kids – check. The house is below the market value and the realtor doesn’t say why – check. Kids are the first to sense something odd about the house but their parents think little of it – check. Then all hell literally breaks loose, which is exactly what happens when the Bowens (led by Sam Rockwell) and their three kids move into their new suburban home. And before I say ‘check’ again, their youngest and cutest kid, Madison, is abducted by the titular entity, leaving the family to rely on paranormal psychologists to bring her back. Check.

Of the various pitfalls in this remake, the most obvious is how similar this film is to the 1982 original, including but not limited to the way electrical appliances are used as a gateway between the living and the dead. So my biggest qualm is – why remake a classic after thirty years if it doesn’t offer anything new? Also bear in mind the aforementioned checklist when comparing this film to The Conjuring and Insidious, both films with an almost ditto plotline. But unlike those films, Poltergeist leaves more to be desired in its execution. Yes, it is well shot with cool special effects comprising of modern CGI and old fashioned light, shadow and puppeteering. Delivery from actors are acceptable, especially Rockwell (who can do no wrong in my books) and there are several junctures in the film that are actually amusing. So what went wrong? No heebie-jeebies, no build-up and absolutely no atmosphere of dread; this, over and above the paint-by-numbers predictability.

All said, Poltergeist is neither a bad film, nor is it poorly crafted. It’s just unfortunate that the mechanism applied to induce fright is severely underpowered. Perhaps the intensity of scares is limited only by its PG-13 classification. Perhaps the intention was homage to the original. We may never know. What’s certain is for a big budget horror film, this remake is a mere average in the annals of horror films and nowhere near the highly effective and soon-to-be-classic, It Follows.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.