There's been a glut of remakes across all genres of mainstream cinema of late and horror has been no exception. The quality, unfortunately, has ranged from poor (Amityville Horror's 2005 remake) to p***-poor (looking at you, Rob Zombie's Halloween). However, with Poltergeist, there's something in it that manages to capture the original's unique charm and likeability.
Replacing Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams from the 1982 classic is Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, who play the Bowens, a struggling middle-class American family who've moved to an unassuming neighbourhood to rebuild their lives following Dad's job loss. Following the original's plot, they begin to notice spooky bumps in the night which quickly escalate when the youngest daughter, a well-cast Kennedi Clements, is taken by the evil spirits to a netherworld. Enter Jared Harris and Jane Adams, two ghosthunters who are tasked with driving out said evil spirits.
Director Gil Kenan has worked with 'family-friendly' horror in the past, having previously helmed 2006's very well-received Monster House. However, he followed that with the largely-forgotten City of Ember with Bill Murray and Saorise Ronan. Since then, much like the characters in this film, he's been drifting along in a netherworld. By all accounts, Poltergeist should work for him perfectly. It's a well-known horror franchise, reimagined for today's audiences and it's not particularly disturbing and frightening.
For the most part, Poltergeist works reasonably well. The cinematography is lush and inviting and there are subtle nods to the original's director, Steven Spielberg Tobe Hooper. Rosemarie DeWitt and Sam Rockwell both have excellent on-screen chemistry and the children, Kennedi Clements, Kyle Catlett and Saxon Sharbino, all work well with what they're given. Jared Harris, channelling Quint from Jaws with his Oirish accent and war-stories from ghost hunts previous.
While all it's all entertaining and glossily-made, there is a feeling that it's all a little bit redundant. The original still looms over this remake like a shadow and comparisons between the two are plentiful. That said, if you haven't seen the original, this is worth a watch.