Poltergeist (2015) centers around a family that moves into a home, only to have the home kidnap their youngest and take her to a deep dark spirit realm. The film has scares but it isn’t particularly scary.
I don’t want to be completely negative right out of the gate, so it should be mentioned that Sam Rockwell makes this movie. You’ve got to commend a guy that doesn’t just show up to collect his cheque. Otherwise, the technical aspects of the film bog it down. From the computer-animated tree, that makes me miss the practical effects of the original. To the computer-animated hell—any hell you drum up for the screen is incomparable to the one in the viewer’s head. Also, poor editing made all the scenes feel like story boarded scares rather than an actual story.
There are plenty of reasons why it isn’t scary, but the strongest is that the fears that anchored the original don’t translate to modern audiences—especially teens looking for the newest scares. Poltergeist (1982), like any classic horror film, made folk tale of the fears of the time. Jaws made the abstract the fears of the deep concrete. While Halloween made you think someone was in your backseat. And Poltergeist came out a year after MTV and had fun with what could happen when a child is left alone with a TV. The metaphor of the TV being a conduit to a “dark realm” was not lost on Tobe Hooper, the original director. There’s a reason the film ends with the father rolling the television outside of the hotel room. He doesn’t want his innocent little girl to get sucked into the TV again.
Like the original, the remake’s stakes are this: The haunting loss of childhood innocence. The child is innocence incarnate: pure and void of cynicism. And the dark spirits feed on that innocence. So the family has to band together to preserve the child’s innocence; they have to literally link hands to keep the monsters in her closet from swallowing her whole. But the remake is never all that haunting.
Probably because we’ve evolved—or devolved, depending on how you look at it—past the fear that the neon glow in our living room will rob us of our innocence. The fear of leaving a child alone with a TV set pales in comparison to leaving a child alone with a computer. Current horror deals with a sort of new age retelling of the death of Narcissus. From the Blair Witch Project…
to Paranormal Activity…
found footage horror centers around snivelling teenagers who drown in their own self-image. So focused on aiming the camera at their face they don’t realize until the last second that the monster is behind them. So amidst all this, Poltergeist‘s narrative of losing childhood innocence to a TV set is lost on an audience that lost it on the Internet.
Now, excuse me while I post this on Facebook.