If you wanted any proof that the horror genre was running out of ideas, another remake is now set for release in the form of Gil Kenan’s Poltergeist – a retelling on the Steven Spielberg written feature, initially released back in 1982 with Tobe Hooper at the helm. However, being a genre that struggles with its original, ingenious narratives, the other way of looking at this seemingly superfluous production, is that it’s based on a film that came equipped with a strong story, and one that is tried, tested, and triumphant. Which, in contemporary horror, is a rarity.
When Eric (Sam Rockwell) and Amy Bowen (Rosemarie DeWitt) downsize and move home with their three children, Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and Madison (Kennedi Clements), they’re chilled upon learning that their new abode is based where an old graveyard used to be. They’re further perturbed when it transpires that the dead are not happy about it, as a series of supernatural happenings occur that terrorise them in an unforgiving fashion – which could lead to the family calling on the assistance of the renowned television personality and ghost hunter, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris).
Poltergeist offers few scares to the audience, and instead thrives in the more intimate, emotional sequences. As a family drama this title is absorbing, because when the youngest of the three children Madison is taken by the vicious spirits, the way we witness the parents react is moving and surprisingly profound. That’s mostly down to the credentials of Rockwell and DeWitt, who tackle their respective roles with a sincerity, playing both Eric and Amy as you would expect them to, had this been a drama – not overstating their performances to adhere to the usual tropes of the horror genre. They aren’t the only actors who stand out – with the young Catlett continuing on from his turn in The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet as an actor to certainly keep an eye out for.
With a handful of compelling moments and entertaining scenes – not to mention watching a family feel so vulnerable and helpless in their own home; the one place we’re supposed to feel most safe – Poltergeist just about validates the decision to step back on hallowed ground. Just.