I’ve grown tired of seeing ‘from the makers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious’ emblazed across every wide-release horror of the past few years. I do not revel in the supposed thrills of Paranormal Activity but instead found joy in Poltergeists exclamation of ‘from the makers of Evil Dead and The Grudge’, both excellent films and downright scary. Poltergeist however, really missed the mark this time.
Shot in 3D and a remake of the 1982 classic (classic in a cringey way?), Poltergeist is your standard haunted house movie, threatening ‘real terror’ and a ‘new more powerful poltergeist’, the Bowen family move into a new suburb, to the dismay of their eldest daughter, away from civilisation and the mall. As is standard procedure, the family are white, middle class, they’ve got a nervy child, a naïve child and a teen obsessed with technology. The father hopes to create a better future for his family and give them all the material possessions they desire. AND OF COURSE, how could I forget, the mother is a writer, yadayadayada. Set ourselves up for a real original flick here.
When youngest daughter Madison finds a new ‘friend’ in her closet, brother Griffin begins to get suspicious, passed off as an overly nervous child by his parents, his worries are ignored and Madison continues to pursue her new ‘friend’. The film escalates when Madison communicates with the spirit world through the television; the theme of technology gone wrong being a present theme. Madison becomes trapped in the television and the family seek out a way to save her. Up until this point the film is a snoozing yawn-fest and the scariest part is a shot of a squirrel, hardly knee-trembling content. We really start to pick up when the family employ supernatural investigator and TV personality Carrigan Burke (Jarred Harris), to deal with what he claims is a Poltergeist. A team of supernatural enthusiasts are employed and we cut to the standard ‘team setting up cameras around the house and something creepy happens one time’ shot, as seen in pretty much every supernatural horror of the last 5 years. The chaos builds and 2015’s good old friend CGI makes a heavy appearance, causing most of the havoc and ripping the house apart. The use of CGI in recent years really is distracting from what makes cinema great, practical FX, and in the case of remakes, makes it even more apparent why the originals were so loved in the first place.
However, the area in which CGI succeeds and the spookiest part of the film is when we are finally allowed to get into the dark place or ‘spiritual’ world in which Madison is held. The scene is filled with flashing strobes, dark figures, murkiness and the odd bending of a ghoulish back or hand, reaching out in the darkness. Similar to the dark world of Insidious, this camp and vibrant other-world lifts the film way past it’s restrictions of the mortal realm. Back in the real world, the film is too rushed and seeks to destruct everything in its path within 10-15 minutes, leaving little time for any tension or real scares. Originally being incredibly thrilled by the idea of a 3D horror film and hoping to be caught out from a routine scare-set, I was let down; the most ‘3D’ shot in the film was of some flowers in a garden.
By the end of the film I was completely irritated; I’d suffered from a real case of ‘the trailer sold me something I didn’t see’. Drowning in horror tropes and lacking the campy DIY looking ethic of the original that we all enjoyed, Poltergeist falls incredibly short of the success of 2013’s Evil Dead remake and would have probably done better off as a re-release (or you know, just STOP DOING REMAKES). The promise of ‘terror comes home’ in this case wasn’t a host of spooky goings on and a malevolent spirit, but more likely, my ‘rent is due’ letter.
By Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is 19 and from the north of England (the proper north). She believes Harmony Korine is the future and is pretty sure she coined the term ‘selfie central’. She doesn’t like Pina Coladas or getting caught in the rain but she does like Ezra Miller & Dane DeHaan a whole lot. Her favourite films are The Beach, Lords of Dogtown and Into the Wild. But DON’T talk to her about Paranormal Activity. She rants @kawaiigoff.