dir Gil Kenan
scr David Lindsay-Abaire
prd Nathan Kahane, Roy Lee, Sam Raimi, Robert G Tapert
with Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements, Kyle Catlett, Saxon Sharbino, Jared Harris, Jane Adams, Nicholas Braun, Susan Heyward, Soma Bhatia, Karen Ivany, LA Lopes
release US/UK 22.May.15
15/US Fox 1h34
Something goes bang! The cast reacts

rockwell dewitt harris
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Poltergeist Loosely based on the groundbreaking 1982 horror movie by Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper, this remake simply never tries to be original. Filmmakers Kenan and Lindsay-Abaire so force the story into the usual formula that it feels more like a rehash of the scare tactics from Insidious. At least the sharp cast does what it can to liven things up.

When Steve (Rockwell) loses his job, he moves his family into a cheaper house. Wife Amy (DeWitt) is determined to make the best of it, while teen daughter Kendra (Sharbino) whines, preteen son Griffin (Catlett) is frightened of every new noise and 6-year-old daughter Maddy (Clements) finds new imaginary friends. Then strange things start happening, and on one stormy night Maddy vanishes. So Steve brings in a paranormal expert (Adams) and her team (Braun and Heyward) to find Maddy. But they'll need a reality TV star (Harris) to properly confront the angry ghosts.

There's a nagging predictability right from the start, as everything sets up along the usual lines, as the snappy banter gives way to frightened glances. Every supernatural touch is accompanied by a cacophonous blare of discordant music, so it's the noise that jolts rather any any proper suspense or horror. This is a strange lapse for Kenan, whose Monster House was a genuinely unnerving freak-out. But this movie only manages a couple of good scares before it settles into too-familiar routines.

The first-rate cast helps hold our attention. Rockwell and DeWitt add sharp-edged wit to their roles, quickly revealing genuine chemistry among the parents and children. All three of the younger performers are good, with Catlett (of TS Spivet fame) as the standout due to his alert eyes and emotionally resonant presence. In badly underdeveloped roles, Harris and Adams do what they can to inject comedy and just a hint of wide-eyed weirdness, although they seem a bit bored by the chaos that's erupting around them.

Which is kind of how the audience feels. Since the filmmaking approach is so derivative, the movie simply can't hope to generate much in the way of real terror. So while it's just about entertaining enough, it never takes off, ultimately feeling like yet another in the ongoing stream of cheap-gag movies that pass as horror films at the moment. Yes, the genre remains in dire need of a filmmaker like Hooper who isn't afraid to break the rules.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, innuendo 19.May.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall