Poltergeist doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of topping the original. Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic is a terrific horror story with punch lines that stuck with a generation of viewers. Few of us can forget pretty little blonde, blue-eyed Heather O’Rourke’s Carol Anne telling us, “They’re heeerrrree” in the first movie and creeping us out with “They’re baaaackkkk” in the second.
Almost as much fun was the ultra creepy, skeletal-faced Julian Beck freaking us out in the second flick, screeching with ear-splitting volume, “You’re all gonna die in theerrrreeee.”
There is nothing remotely close to that spine shuddering in the redo. And one can only hope Poltergeist the redo won’t spawn two sequels and a TV series unrelated to the movie.
Director Gil Kenan ( Monster House) and David Lindsay-Abaire (the awful Oz the Great and Powerful) change the names of the family members but pretty much follow Steven Spielberg’s 1982 story. The major change is switching out the medium played by Zelda Rubenstein in the original with a TV ghost hunter done by character actor Jared Harris.
She had a blast and like everyone else in the original, had a great time with the premise. No one has fun in the remake. Considering the two leads, that is a surprise. No one plays an odd character better than Sam Rockwell. He takes a couple of shots at livening things up but in a script with so little life, that’s more or less impossible.
Rockwell is joined by the lovely and charismatic Rosemarie DeWitt ( Men, Women & Children). Like Rockwell, she’s always terrific and — like Rockwell — is usually found in very entertaining fringe films that few people see.
They play the happy parents of the three kids who, along with their parents, are terrorized by ghosts who turn lights on and off, move objects around and love hanging out inside TV sets.
In 1982 — and in the hands of Spielberg and horror master Tobe Hooper ( Texas Chain Saw Massacre) — this was a very good, and very well done horror story. Today, this type of movie with its trappings, flappings and ghostly doings has been done to — no pun intended — death. It’s so predictable.
So as the redo of Poltergeist plods forward, you quickly realize the only thing that might come close to being frightening is if Kenan and Lindsay-Abaire stretch it a half-hour from the IMDB-promised 90 minutes to two hours.