I am usually not a big fan of remakes, especially when the original film exhibited traits that would help to redefine its genre. And stand there are certain themes that are so integral to the human experience that each generation deserves to reinterpret them through the filter of their own experiences. What Iím referring to here is when a classic film sufficiently retooled so as to modernize it. The example examined here is a remake of the 1982 classic horror film ĎPoltergeistsí. Not only were various elements of the film changed to reflect the current state of our society but the film was produced in 3-D. Generally filmmakers are still at the stage of trying to understand how to incorporate illusion of depth is an integral part of telling the story. To his credit the director of this film, Gil Kenan, exhibited a better understanding of these new techniques than most, particularly those primarily working in the horror genre. This only his second live-action film with the last one being ĎCity of Emberí released in 2008. It does appear that my rating of this film is significantly more optimistic than the general critical consensus. I see this as being a result of attempting to make too many direct comparisons to the original film. There are sufficient differences in tone, perspective, plot points and character development toward this film be considered on its own apart from the one that shared the same title 33 years ago.
Too many people Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) has fallen victim to the economy and later his job and John Deere. No longer able to afford the house and neighborhood they were living in Eric and his wife Amy(Rosemarie DeWitt) found they had to downsize in order to get by providing for their three children; eldest daughter, Kendra (Saxon Sharbino); their son, Griffin (Kyle Catlett); and youngest daughter, Madison (Kennedi Clements). Eric and Amy feel that it is a stroke of good fortune that they managed to find a house in their price range. Itís in a neighborhood that is been heavily hit by foreclosures which resulted in a lower than market value or for being accepted. Smaller than their previous home to the parents and two girls can get their own rooms but Griffin is given a partially converted attic as his room. The boy is heavily played by a number of phobias including, but certainly not limited to, still needing a nightlight. Kendra is a typical teenager who considers the change in economic status of a father to be a major inconvenience to her personally but her phone is broken to demands new one on the basis of itís an absolute necessity. Maddie is a happy child with a vivid imagination. She is inseparable from her favorite toy stuffed pig with the unicorn horn and superhero cape. She is also prone to creating imaginary playmates so initially are having conversations with a close closet door or television screen showing nothing but static is no cause for concern.
Strange things start happening almost immediately, before the family is even finished moving in. The wooded handrail post for the stairway gives a shock to anyone touching it. Madison shows her brother something strange with her closet door. If you grab onto the door handle static electricity courses are had to stand on end. After demonstrating at the Griffin he is amazed as he replicates the effect. The parents have a dinner engagement that night that hopefully will provide a job for Eric. During the dinner conversation the topics turn to some facts about the development they are living in that the realtor did not mention. The developers constructed the houses on an old graveyard but have stated that they moved the bodies to another site some 10 minutes away. Still, Amy finds this quite disconcerting and as soon as they return home they will be in the middle of a supernatural nightmare charged with babysitting her younger siblings. The concept of discharging these responsibilities sitting on the couch listening to music on her phone while Griffin and Madison a left to their own devices. Electric lights begin turning on and off starting with the power lines adjacent to the properties working its way into the house. Soon every light in electronic device in the home is affected including Kendraís phone. She notices is directionality to the static that is taken over the phone so she uses it to try to locate the source. She is led to the garage or cracked forms in the floor admitting a dark black envelops a foot as hands begin to emerge from the substance pulling at her leg.
Earlier, Griffin had found a box in a storage area located in the wall of the attic. It was filled with a number grotesque clown dolls in a rocking chair suitable for very young child. As the lights flicker and can hear the sound of feet scampering around the room; dolls moving around the room on their own. Yet it has a skylight that looks out on an old tree overhanging the house. As lightning strokes the sky from the shakes the house the tree branches break-in reaching out to apprehend Griffin. He tries to run down the hallway but the hand formed by the branches catches up with him pulling into the window and into the tree. Now that the other two children occupied fighting for their lives Madisonís closet opens up revealing a dark void the poster child into it. As the pastor driving up the street towards the house the see the sun trapped in the tree. As soon as Eric approaches it tree relinquishes its hold on the boy. Inside the house Kendra is hysterical shouting that she canít find Madison. Eric and Amy frantically searched the house to no avail. Amy does however he heard a lost child voice coming from a static filled television set.
With nowhere else to go Amy takes Griffin back to old University to meet with a professor of paranormal research, Dr. Brooke Powell (Jane Addams). She shows up at the home with her assistants; Sophie (Susan Heywood) and Boyd (Nicholas Braun). They wire the home setting up cameras and electronic monitoring devices throughout. The also give everyone a GPS tracking device that shows the location one of the computer monitors. As Boyd explains he once captured a table moving 10 feet across the floor over a period of seven hours. Just then a piece of furniture flies through the air crashing against the wall. Eric requires whether or not Boydís time-lapse camera caught that event. Strange things continue to escalate as Eric sees his face melting away in the reflection of the faucet in the kitchen sink. He also sees an infestation of maggots in the drain that disappears as soon as he looks towards Amy who just entered the room. In the closet of Maddieís room Boyd is trying to fill a hole to place the sensor when something grabs the drill through the wall he reaches into try to retrieve it as something holds his arm pitting his face flat against the wall. The long drill bit begin strolling through the wall coming closer and closer to his face but whatever was holding him letís go at the last second. The consensus made by Dr. Powell is that they are dealing with a poltergeist. It is obvious that they did not move the bodies, just headstones. Now there is a mob of spirits frustrated and the inability to pass over. The plants used up your life force provided by a child Madisonís age to guide them into the light. Unfortunately this would take her with them making it impossible for ever return. They make plans to try to retrieve the child which calls for them to enlist the assistance of Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) who has a popular supernaturally based television show. As it turns out Burke and Powell once married.
The rescue proceeds pretty much as you might expect along with some visually fascinating special-effects. This is great you cannot fully appreciate the film if you remain fixated on comparing it to the original. Although there were similar manifestations of the spirits in both films they are each presented in different ways. For example the original had the spirits stacking the kitchen chairs and possible way while in this film a similar effect was achieved with Griffinís comic books. This is also where to direct his acumen for three-dimensional moviemaking becomes obvious. For the majority of the film that is used only to heighten the realism of the scene. The only time the contrivance of a cylindrical object lunging directly at the audience was to Boyd in the drill back in the closet. Even then it had a contextual justification for the perfect separating it from the usual plot contrivance three-dimensional effects are particularly noteworthy during the scenes that depict the netherworld that traps Madison. See row after row of tortured humanoid spirits reaching out towards the girl. The use of rear speakers with the Ď7.1 DTS Master Audioí sound track significantly enhances this building of depth. I did find that the full surround stage was barely present during the more mundane scenes. More attention to the mixing in these circumstances could have provided a more normal ambient sound field. Overall the film does manage to stand on its own is an entertaining popcorn flick. Understandably there are several details and nuances that refer directly back to the 1982 interpretation of the story, obviously geared towards those of us in the audience old enough to remember the original.