Studio: MGM . . . . . Length: 93 Mins. . . . . . Rating: PG-13 . . . . . Website
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements, Jared Harris
Directed by: Gil Kenan
Director Tobe Hooper has nothing to do with this latest reboot of his iconic 1982 horror film, but you may appreciate him more after you’ve seen it.
“They” are here, once more.The Bowen family, Amy and Eric (Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell) and their children, Kendra, Griffin and Maddie (Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, and Kennedi Clements) move into a housing development built on a graveyard and the corpses are up in arms (pun intended). The poor “souls” choose youngest member Maddie to lead hem to THE LIGHT, luring her through another dimension in her closet wall
The restless souls start out as floating pods of light themselves before manifesting as zombie-like skeletons with gaping jaws. If they’re looking for THE LIGHT, wouldn’t they appear to deserve it first? If not, heaven is in for a truckload of hooligans
There are some nice chills in the beginning as the kids are terrorized. A tree makes “going green” a horrifying experience for Griffin. Grotesque clown dolls leer and attack while the laundry room floor cracks and oozes black slime while sprouting grasping arms that pull Kendra downward. Whispers and murmurings inside the closet coax six-year-old Maddie far enough in so that she’s hauled off into the darkness. Fun stuff like that.
Maddie’s parents (much too calmly) enlist paranormal expert Claire (Jane Adams) and later, cable TV star and house exorcist Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris) to retrieve her. One of Claire’s assistants has a chillingly close encounter with a hand drill; the other explains that Maddie is “here and not here” by drawing a circle on two different sheets of paper. Everyone understands but the audience.
~Similarly, a lack of parental panic makes Rockwell’s and DeWitt’s characters, who only show real hysteria when something happens to Griffin, seem unrealistic. Your daughter is in danger; please show some emotion. Otherwise, we know you’re reading from a script, and that should never be apparent.
Director Gil Kenan (Monster House) and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole) provide some variations in their new version of the classic film (no swimming pool, no crawling food, no Zelda Rubenstein, 3D effect, good for a scene with a squirrel, etc.) along with elements from the original (rope guide, ceiling portal, ectoplasm, internal whirlwinds, spontaneous inanimate formations) but these only serve to remind us what the original film did so effectively. Here, both the recognizable and the new seem like weak imitations. If only the viewer were grabbed the way Maddie was.
An abrupt resolution and puzzling “Easter egg” tucked midway through the end credits add to the dissatisfaction. This Poltergeist paints by the numbers, but the picture it creates is not even worthy of a fridge magnet.