Be careful what you wish for: director Gil Kenan made a lively debut with the Steven Spielberg-produced Monster House, which lovingly resurrected the PG-horror vibe of the 1980s, but almost a decade later finds himself spinning his wheels with this flavorless remake of one of that era’s genuine classics. Competent but wholly unnecessary, Kenan’s Poltergeist does nothing to distinguish itself from Spielberg and Tobe Hooper’s original, consigning itself to the junkpile of countless cynical remakes in the process.
Opening with a clever-enough spin on its predecessor’s famous intro—the camera pulling back from an iPad instead of a TV—2015’s Poltergeist has potential, with its suburban family now obsessed with flatscreen devices and dad (Sam Rockwell) unemployed due to the economic crisis. But the updates are superficial, and ultimately inferior: the digital glitches aren’t explored with the same bracing intensity of the original’s nightmare analog static, Jared Harris’ reality-TV ghost-hunter is no Zelda Rubenstein, and the advanced CGI is far less convincing—or memorable—than 82’s optical effects spookshow.
From the October 2015 issue of Empire