This remake of the 1982 Tobe Hooper classic won’t make you forget its famed predecessor, but it probably also won’t elicit any outrage at the audacity of trying to improve on greatness. In other words, it’s a satisfying horror movie as long as one doesn’t hold it to the original’s high standards.
If you haven’t seen the original, here’s how it breaks down. Family moves into a new house in suburbia, a mom (Rosemarie DeWitt), a dad (Sam Rockwell), teenage daughter, younger daughter, young son. Strange things begin to happen, as they do in these movies. The young daughter disappears, but she seems to be trapped in the television by malevolent spirits. The family contacts a specialist (the great Zelda Rubenstein in the original, Jared Harris here) to help them out.
This is not a shot-for-shot remake, and for that we should all be thankful. The parents aren’t pot-smoking ne’er-do-wells; dad’s just been laid off, and mom’s a writer. (Which makes me wonder how they can afford the new house, but hey, I think maybe the fact that there are malevolent spirits has something to do with it.) Gone are scenes like the medium’s assistant tearing his face off in the bathroom or all of the kitchen chairs suddenly appearing on top of the kitchen table. There’s other, new stuff. It’s kind of fun.
The movie doesn’t break any new ground, though. 35 years have gone by here in the real world, and the effects – though frightening at times – aren’t going to bowl you over. The acting is actually pretty good here, particularly by DeWitt, Harris, and Jane Adams. Even the kids are good, and of course the little darlin’ who gets sucked into the other world is adorable as can be. Only Rockwell seems miscast. He’s best at quirky, offbeat roles, not man-of-the-house roles. This was more of a role for a Greg Kinnear.
So while this Poltergeist remake didn’t enthrall me, I found it tolerable for a rental. Kind of glad I did not see it in the theater, and the effects still looked good on my TV at home.