Poltergeist (2015)

Absolute shit.  Not even worth forming thoughts into paragraphs or grabbing pics . . .

  • 1982 version: adorable family.  2015 version: immediately unlikable.
  • Welcome to the new breed of filmmakers:  characters must be unlikable, a purely visual medium must be corrupted with sepia tones or bleached out color, and plot must be looked at as a cheap trope.
  • As the 1982 Freelings, Craig T. Nelson was great as a dad working hard for his family — protective, a little distracted by work but with a regular-joe sense of humor.  Sorry to be crude, but JoBeth Williams was one of the first MILFs even before it was a word.  She had great chemistry with her husband, and put her life on the line (literally a rope line) for her kids.  As the 2014 Bowens: I have never liked Sam Rockwell, and have no idea who the mother is.
  • The older daughter Kendra (porn-star name) is upset that they are moving near huge powerlines.  The title is then shown as a shadow on the grass near the powerlines. There is absolutely no reason to accentuate the powerlines; they are in a couple of later shots but play no further role.  The audience has seen the original and knows they have nothing to do with the story, and the Bowens never mention them later.
  • And it was a complete botch at it’s fundamental purpose of merely presenting the title; I didn’t even notice the letters the first time around.
  • Whereas Carol Anne Freeling was a radient blonde in the original, signifying her innocence and the light the demons wanted to attain, Madison (porn-star name) Bowen is a brunette.  And sorry to say, nowhere near as cute.  Even in the commercials, this was a hint the filmmakers had no idea what they were doing.
  • They are driving to their new house in a neighborhood reminiscent of the one in the original — very well manicured.  But this one is very gloomy from the outset. Unlike the original which was sunny, had kids playing outside, cool remote control cars zipping around, a drunk on a bike getting safety barred in the nugs . . . this one is just blah.  It’s like having Nicholson being  crazy from his first scene in The Shining — there’s no where for the movie to go; no counterpoint to the darkness to follow.
  • The real estate agent shows them through the house.  The staircase, a curvy iconic centerpiece of the original house is an absolute architectural nothing here.
  • The Bowens are both unemployed and short on cash, so naturally they are buying a house.
  • The clown in the original was just a goofy toy.  The clown here looks dirty and menacing.  Again, the filmmakers lack the most basic understanding of what made the original work.
  • One night, the son Griffin (if porn-dudes have names, this seems like one) sees Madison in front of the TV with her hands on the screen. Sweet Jesus did they screw this up.  Everyone knows the iconic “They’re here” line from the original.  Here we get an incredibly underwhelming “They’re coming.”  This is egregious on 2 levels (3 if you count that it made me use the word egregious).
  • A few seconds later as I was still marveling at the incompetence of the script, Madison then delivers the “They’re here” line with less emotion than Joe Friday.  I was stunned twice by their ineptitude in delivering the line once.  It is so perfectly screwed up that I have to think they were trying for something.  Maybe they expected people to react to the slightly askew “They’re coming” just so they could then dazzle them with the real zinger “They’re here.”  Set-up . . . Spike!  Except, there was zero zing in the delivery, and most people were probably still stunned by the awfulness of “They’re coming.”  Maybe I’m making too much of this, but it was the most famous line in the original and they just pissed it away.
  • Kendra is a bitch, but so was the daughter in the original as I recall.
  • Griffin digs a hole in the front yard and finds something I can’t identify.  It seems to be a big deal, but it is never mentioned again.
  • Dad has his credit cards refused at the hardware store.  In the car, his frustration boils over and he punches the steering wheel.  Then we get the weirdest shot.  He looks in the side mirror.  He looks away.  He does a double-take back to the mirror.  He scrunches his brow.  We get his POV of the reflection in the mirror.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out WTF this is about.  We see a sign for the mall, which is naturally reversed in the mirror, but there is no REDRUM action.
  • Griffin goes upstairs.  A baseball rolls down the hall and bumps against his closed bedroom door.  OK, not the most original (The Changling, The Shining, Tales From the Crypt, etc) but a classic horror trope, and I always like it.
  • Griffin sets down a box of comic books and picks up the ball.  He goes to Madison’s room to see if she rolled the ball. When he turns around, his comic books are stacked six feet tall like a house of cards.  Jesus Christ did they blow this homage also.  This is a callback to the chairs being stacked on the kitchen table in the original.  The critical difference is that the chairs were on the floor, then stacked, in one continuous panning camera shot.  Here, there are multiple cuts and 20 seconds in between.  Also, you can actually stack chairs; comic books lack the structural integrity to build even the most modest one-story ranch-house-of-cards.  This is especially true when, as we see, the foundation is the spine of one comic resting on the floor as an inverted pyramid.
  • For some reason, after Dad has his credit cards refused he goes on a shopping spree buying his bitchy daughter a new iPhone, pizza for dinner, a Drone with a camera for Griffin, and fancy earrings for Mom.
  • They are an iPhone, not an Android family.
  • Sensible Mom says the phone is going to be returned, but bitchy Kendra says she is going to put a passcode on the phone so they can’t get to it.  Nice try sunshine, but how does that stop them from taking it back to the store?  And WTF says “passcode”? Is that the Apple word for password?
  • Mom & Dad go to a dinner party.  The group informs them that their community was built on top of a graveyard.  Really, what adults would give a shit about that? In this world, however, it is the reason the house was cheap, it is kept secret by the realtor, and one of the guests refuses to go to the neighborhood because it “gives her the willies.”
  • OK, pretty good joke about the new neighborhood the cemetery was moved to.
  • Kendra is texting on her phone.  Are we supposed to be able to read it?  Did the filmmakers forget that many more people will see this at home than saw it on a big screen?  The text is large enough so it seems like they intend us to see it, but too small to actually see.
  • Kendra sees some sort of zombie in the basement.  That is just completely out of character for both this movie and the original.
  • We see the clown attack Griffin whereas it was much more effective when the unseen clown dragged Robbie under the bed in 1982.
  • There is a killer tree in this one just as in the original.  I’m a little on the fence here. Neither version’s effects were great.  This one was amusing though as it showed Griffin dangling from the top of the tree as his parents arrived home.  On the other hand, in the original, the tree tried to eat Robbie.  So fun to be had in both versions.
  • Madison shows up in the TV just like Carol Anne did.  Dad is immediately on board with the idea that she’s in the TV; no need to call the cops about his missing daughter.  Bear in mind, that the Freelings had witnessed supernatural activity first-hand in the original by this point.  The Bowens, however, have zero reason to think it is anything other than a serial killer.
  • The Bowens go to the parapsychology department of the local college just as the Freelings did.  Again, a team of ghostbusters come to the house.  Dad thinks that Madison was pulled through a portal in the closet even though there is no reason for his to suspect the closet of being anything sinister.
  • In the original, one of the team talks about shooting a film of a toy car rolling across the floor over the space of several hours.  Here, a similar story is told about a piano bench doing the same thing.  Now, what is the point of changing it from a car to a piano bench?  A car is supposed to move, just not by itself.  That incongruity adds to the tension.  A piano bench moving breaks that link to reality.
  • As the same dude goes to sit down, a poltergeist pulls the chair out from under him and flings it against the wall as he falls on his ass.  OK, good gag — botched once again as we don’t even get a good shot of him falling.
  • Then, despite having just witnessed actual supernatural activity, he suggests to a 7 year old kid that maybe his father is faking all this for the money.
  • In the original, one of the team memorably hallucinates clawing his face off.  Here, the equivalent scene is watered down as Dad thinks he he sees blood coming out of his eyes and vomits black shit in the sink.  And do we even get to see it?  No, we see his reflection the chrome faucet.
  • The biggest scare so far is when I thought the ghostbuster was going to drill his finger.
  • It just seems like Mrs. Freeling was a lot more upset at losing her daughter than Mrs. Bowen (but then, Carol Anne was far cuter).  Strangely in the scene where Ma & Pa Bowen speak to Madison through the TV, the actors seem afraid to commit to the material, maybe a little embarrassed.
  • Whereas the original had Tangina the midget ghostbuster, this one calls in the host of a paranormal reality show.  This is actually an interesting idea, and was foreshadowed by Kendra watching his show in an earlier scene (which was also nice as she was caught Skyping with a friends just as Dana had been caught on the phone in 1982).
  • Kendra is giggly and says “This house is not clean.”  OK, that’s a callback to Tangina’s line in the original, but why is it here?  Kendra says it, then give a self-satisfied little snort at her own cleverness.  Did she see the original?  Are they living in a world where Poltergeist was a movie?[1]
  • The host-guy (Jared Harris, because I guess Lin Shaye finally took a f*ing week off) calmly suggests that maybe when this community was built, they didn’t move the bodies, they just moved the headstones.  Compare this to the original where Dad is yelling the accusation at his boss, or when Mom figures it out as she is faced with the reality of a dozen muddy skeletons attacking her in a half-dug pool, and a casket exploding through her front lawn.
  • For some reason, Harris has a giant safety pin on his coat lapel.  I mean like 4 inches long.
  • They wisely put a mattress under the ceiling portal in the living room.  Maybe they did see the original Poltergeist.
  • In this version, Griffin goes into the other dimension to save Madison completely squandering the mother-daughter relationship, mother protecting her young, and rebirth elements of the original.  This is just some lazy shit.
  • Griffin and Madison are in the other dimension surrounded by demons, skeletons, ghosts, lightning and they might as well be in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood for all the emotion they exhibit.  You can’t blame the kids for this.  It is just pure incompetence in the casting and direction.
  • Once everybody is back through the portal, they load up the car.  The poltergeists flip the car and ram it through the wall into the Bowen’s living room.  Rather than exciting or scary, it’s mostly just silly.  The house begins falling apart.
  • They crawl into their other car — a Cooper, the perfect car for a family of five.  As they drive away, we see the house destroying itself, but it is not nearly as interesting as the way the original house folded into itself into the vanishing point. Although, just what happened to the people who lived behind them?
  • The Bowen’s leave their community speeding along the street which is covered in more flying paper than the end of Die Hard.  Seriously, WTF did all this paper come from?  This was a house, not Nakatomi Plaza.
  • Annnnnnd we pan to the powerlines again for no reason.
  • There is a coda where a real estate agent shows them a house.  She mentions the closet space and the trees, which sends Bowens fleeing.  Apparently they are searching for a house with no closets and no trees.  The Freelings only had to live with no TV.  That is sounding better and better.
  • And the score sucks too.

Immediately before this, I had watched Ash vs Evil Dead, which was excellent.  It is shocking that Sam Raimi is listed as a producer on Poltergeist.  He must have just been whoring his name out because he is better than this garbage.

Jared Harris is always a pro, and the lady ghostbuster was OK.  The acting falls off sharply after that.  Sam Rockwell is always annoying, the mother was a non-entity, Kendra was pointlessly bitchy and the younger kids were just miscast or misdirected.

All of them seemed fairly stoic in the face of a hellmouth.  I just didn’t get the sense that the Bowens were all that scared or concerned.  Even though the older daughter was missing for most of the original, the blood-curdling scream, “What is happening!” cannot be forgotten.  Name one thing from this movie that will last until after you go to the refrigerator.


  • [1] OK, this was Harris’ catch-phrase on his TV show.
  • Longest post ever.  For this.

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