It’s hard to look at a remake and not compare it to the original film. For those of you who love the original it will be really hard to not compare the remake of Poltergeist (2015) with its predecessor. The story is for the most part the same as the original. Eric and Amy Bowen (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) move their three children into a new home after he is laid off from his job. Before the first day is even done the youngest of the Bowen brood daughter Madison (Kennedi Clements) starts experiencing the haunting as a force in the house is immediately drawn to her innocence. Her brother Griffin (Kyle Catlett) is scared of just about anything while the oldest daughter Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) is more concerned about the fact that she’s been uprooted and moved to the middle of nowhere.
When little Madison is abducted by the spirits inhabiting the house the family realizes that they need help and turn to a trio of paranormal investigators lead by Dr. Brooke Powell (Jane Adams). When she realizes that the situation is unlike anything she’s ever encountered she calls in special favor to Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), a reality TV host known for being able to exorcise ghosts.
The film has no shortage of CGI manifestations as for the first time audiences get a look into the other side of which the spirits inhabit and little Madison finds herself trapped. The ghosts are also more violent in this film but the reliance on CGI downplays the suspense for the most part. There are several really effective scenes that happen early in the film especially Griffin’s encounter with the clown dolls (an homage to the original film) but the family dynamic which grounded the original film is lost in this film especially when it relies on Griffin to save Madison. Rockwell as the patriarch of the family does a fine job as does DeWitt but it is Harris who steals the show (as Zelda Rubinstein did in the original). Harris’ Burke is not nearly as interesting as Rubinstein as a character but Burke has his war stories to tell from his various ghostly encounters and he’s not afraid to tell the stories. Anyone expecting Rockwell to be his usual scene stealing self (because he’s such an accomplished actor) will be sadly disappointed as he really does disappear into the father figure just trying to find a way to support his family.
For many audience members who have never seen the original film this film plays fast with the material and plays up the jump scares which most audiences expect but for those of you who know and love the original film this pales in comparison. It’s a well-produced film for modern audiences that don’t have the history of the original film to fall back on. The only problem is that there are hundreds of ghost and haunted house films being produced every day and it’s hard for this one to be distinguished from the rest.