Starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Kennedi Clements. Rated 14A. Now playing.
The first clue that Poltergeist might suck is the toothy skull presented at the start to signify that it's from Ghost House Pictures. That's the company that gave us such questionable crap as 2004's The Grudge and 2007's The Messengers.
Anyway, Poltergeist is a remake of the overrated 1982 "horror classic" about a suburban tract home haunted by spirits from the cemetary it was built over. Tobe Hooper directed it with an unsure hand, leaving horror fans to wonder if he was any relation to the Tobe Hooper who helmed the terrifying Texas Chain Saw Massacre eight years earlier.
The original Poltergeist focused on a little girl trapped in a sort of electrical netherworld while her family desperately tries to get her out with the help of quirky paranormal experts. The same shit happens in the new version, but this time there's a bigger, flatter TV screen that the stolen kid (Kennedi Clements) communicates through. And instead of just using a rope to try and extract her, the new crew utilizes a drone to fly in and scope out the hellish "other side". They aren't just for bombing anymore.
The main difference between the two films is that the domestic mayhem at its core—whether it be attacks by the front yard willow tree or an array of possessed clown dolls—is delivered at an extreme level of volume. The scariest thing about Poltergeist is the fear that your hearing may be permanently altered by the shreiking sound effects. The soundperson clearly graduated magna cum loud from the Nigel Tufnel Academy of Turning Everything Up to 11.
The writing isn't much to scream about either, as the miscast Sam Rockwell's sad-sack quips get tiresome pretty quick, and his beleaguered dad seems fake. Jared Harris's role as a corny reality TV ghost-hunter/exorcist sinks the film deeper and deeper into lameassness.
Anyone wanting real supernatural scares in 2015 should let this deafening cash-grab slide into oblivion and seek out the truly chilling It Follows instead.