I will never bag on a movie "just" for being a remake. There are some fine remakes out there, and doubtless there will be more. This just isn't one of them.
Names have been changed to protect the originals, I guess. Instead of the Freelings, we get the Bowens. Otherwise, same family of five. Same story... except that the family is in the process of moving into the haunted house as we start the film. See, Dad (Sam Rockwell) has been laid off his job and is maxing out his credit cards, but somehow this (formerly) single-income family can afford to (indeed, they "must") buy a suburban house at a steal-deal (and we know why it's a steal). Young son Griffin (Kyle Catlett) is branded a crybaby and has guilt feelings over letting his little sister Madison (Kennedi Clements) get whisked into another dimension, so I guess that gives us a somewhat different family dynamic... I'm sorry, are you as bored reading this as I am typing it out? Try sitting through the actual movie.
There's no buildup or delectation over the "cool" paranormal stuff happening in the house--bad things just start right away, such as when Griffin pulls a cord and causes a small army of creepy clown dolls to cascade into his bedroom. It's the ANNABELLE syndrome all over again. If you'll recall the original POLTERGEIST, you'll remember that (unless you're morbidly afraid of clowns in the first place, and that certainly happens) the clown doll wasn't evil-looking when you first saw him, right? Well, apparently the previous owners of the house just loved to collect extra-scary clowns as a hobby and left them for someone else to find... particularly the one that already looks ready to commit murder before it does the thing you've already seen it do a hundred times in the TV spots.
And that's where we're at and that's why this new POLTERGEIST falls flat on its face. Not JUST because of the clown, but because of... well... everything. It's not that the Hooper/Spielberg original was a sacred cow that should "never" have been touched... it's that since it was such a huge and influential hit, we've been getting non-stop haunted house movies with paranormal team after paranormal team setting up apparatus after apparatus ever since. It may be over thirty years later, but this POLTERGEIST still isn't playing to a fresh audience... anyone who would go see this has already seen it plenty of times and there is simply nothing new, exciting or innovative to be had here (update the special effects and invoke the age of "reality television" all you want in a bid to appear contemporary).
Okay, Jared Harris (THE QUIET ONES) is fun as the TV ghost hunter once he shows up. And the power drill scene wasn't bad (didn't bother with the 3-D, but that would probably be the high point of that version). But when Rockwell chugged a bolt of booze and immediately started barfing up worms in the sink, I was begging for the POLTERGEIST II tequila worm to make a comeback. It didn't.
Everyone's going to remember Hooper's POLTERGEIST even in another thirty years. Nobody's going to remember this one.
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