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.

Hush (2008)

hush01You know those sitcom jokes you’ve heard many times about some beautiful big-breasted airhead not wanting to read subtitles on an Australian film?  Well this one is English and I had to turn on the subtitles.  So either 1) I’m a real dumb-ass, or 2) there are some serious English accents here.  I retract the question.

Beth and Zakes are on a road trip for  Zakes’ job hanging posters in various locations.  Not billboards, mind you, but just regular-sized posters and advertisements; seemingly mostly in bathrooms.

Is this a real job?  His boss requires him to take pictures of the newly hung posters because he shares Sarah’s opinion that Zakes can be a bit of a slack-ass.  His boss also underestimates the dim view that most people take of cameras in restrooms.

As they cruise along in Zakes’ BMW, his beautiful girlfriend Sarah realizes her state-of-the-art (for 2008) camera has no memory available due to vacation pics they took in Egypt.  Note to self: check out career in lucrative toilet poster hanging business.

They pull into a truck-stop — or is it called a lorry-stop across the pond — to petrol up and hang some posters in the loo.  Zakes even has the nerve to hit Beth up for the petrol money, so clearly posters aren’t the only thing hung around here.  While he is photographing his work, Sarah’s phone gets a call from Leo, who she had a fling with.

hush04Back on the road, Beth is asleep and Zakes is searching for the “flask” which I hope means thermos over there.  He is trying to reach it and nearly runs a white truck off the road. As he lets the truck pass, the back door rolls open for a few seconds and he sees a a naked woman locked in a cage screaming.  I could barely make out the woman and the cage; sadly we have to take his word for the nakedness.  A few more frames would have been helpful; there was never intended to be a mystery of whether there really was a woman trapped in there, so a half hour shot of the naked prisoner wouldn’t have been a spoiler.

They call the police, and describe the truck, but the license is too muddy to read. In a traffic jam, after being nagged and ridiculed by Beth, Zakes sneaks out of the car to try to get a better look at the plates.  When that doesn’t work, he peeks inside a gap where the door isn’t quite down.  Oddly, there are no women screaming, and he doesn’t call, “Hey anyone naked in there?”  He just takes a single picture through the crack and runs back to the car.  Beth nags him more for not getting the plates and the picture is useless.

hush07They see a police car on the highway and Beth wants them to flag them down about the truck.  Zack feels he’s done his part and, despite Beth ranting, takes the next exit to hang some more of his posters.  This turns out to be a poor decision in more than one way — Beth is abducted and hauled away in the white truck.

Zakes, in the standard tradition of such movies is accused of peeping over the stall at a woman in the restroom, stealing a car, stealing another car, killing a cop, etc.

All this is played very well, though.  Most of the movie is a cat and mouse game with a lot of literal hide and seek around trucks trailers and bathrooms.  The cover describes it as Hitchcockian and that is not too much of a reach.  We have the falsely accused man (well, he didn’t kill the cop, anyway) in way over his head and trying to stop something terrible from happening.

hush08After a twist that is too fun to reveal, Zakes makes his way to the kidnapper’s lair.  the place is wired up with stadium lights,so I assumed it was for naked gladiator-style games. Sadly it is just a security system.

The suspense continues to build as Zakes avoids the hooded man and eventually is able to believably steal his keys and use his gadgets against him.

All this plays out to a conclusion — a conclusive conclusion — that is foreshadowed, but none-the-less an absolute joy to watch.  Why such a mechanism would exist, I don’t know, but then I’m not in the sex slave business.  I’m sure there have been advances.

hush10Once you adjust to the accents, this is a great one.


  • Title Analysis:  Well Zakes was shushing Beth while trying to save her, but that is standard movie protocal.   So, no idea.
  • Truck-stop security guard humor:  Woman driver smacks into another car.  Other driver gets out and it’s a dwarf.  He says, “I’m not happy.  The woman says to the dwarf, “Which f***ing one are you, then?”
  • And really, naming the black security Guard Chimponda is just racist.

Human Race (2013)

The Rules:  1) Only one will win, 2) the House, the School, and the Prison are safe, 3) follow the arrows, or you will die, 4) stay on the path, or you will die, 5) sorry ladies, if you are lapped twice, you will die, 6) do not touch the grass or you will die, 5) Race or die.

A girl in a hospital gown gets the news that she has cancer.  She says that is what killed her mother and sister, and walks out.  Why is it always the fat guys who have the gowns that don’t tie all the way shut in the back?

humanrace01She begins taking medicine and going for nightly runs, getting into awesome, glistening hot-body shape.  Feeling quite proud of herself she looks up at the sky and curses God, flipping him off.

The next day she finds that her cancer is in complete remission, so ya can’t say the big guy holds a grudge.  On the other hand, she suddenly finds herself transported in a flash to the titular race, accidentally steps on the grass (breaking Rule 6), and her head explodes in spectacular fashion.  OK, so he’s mercurial at best.

humanrace08In Afghanistan,  soldier Justin Connor drags his 1.5 legged comrade Eddie to safety.  Years later, in the states, Eddie is giving a pep talk to a group of kids with disabilities at a school where Justin is vice-principal.  Like the girl, they suddenly see a flash of light and find themselves in the race.  They see the girl explode.

A pair of deaf people that they had seen just before being transported to the race are there also.  They are amazed that they were able the “hear” the instructions.

All seem to get the basic concept, so most take off running.  One man tries to go over the wall, and is rewarded with an exploding head.  Everyone, even the deaf people hears numbers representing the number of survivors . . . just like in Battle Royale or the cannons in Hunger games.

The race is pretty much LeMans style.  Most of it appears to be running through a neighborhood, pedestrian tunnels, and the house, school, and prison.

Just to make it even more like Battle Royale, two Japanese characters are introduced — a teenage girl and her chubby little brother.  This is now Battle Royale with Cheese.  Justin and Eddie are clearly the good guys here, and stop to help the kids, but end up leaving them behind to find help.  They even stop to help an old man in a walker.  They are joined by the deaf couple and take the geezer to the house.

They form a  human roadblock to prevent anyone else from passing through the house and lapping the old man, which would kill him.  One jerk takes off, killing the old man, and also runs past the kids, exploding their heads.  Justin tries to catch him, despite the guy claiming to be a Tour de France winner (and wearing a yellow jersey).  Justin comes within inches of stopping him, but to be fair, the guy had’t had time to dope-up before being put in this race.

Tour de France guy is a killing machine lapping a dozen people and leaving a trail of exploded heads behind him.  He finally stops when he sees a pregnant woman. But just for a chat, before he continues, killing her too.  Just as in Children of Men, the mother is one of the very few blacks in the movie, so he can also be accused of raaaaaccism.

Justin is killed, but one-legged Eddie is able to kill off his murderers using crutch-fu. Things get interesting when the racers realize they can use the arrows as weapons and actually start pro-actively murdering their competition.  Now we are in True Battle Royale territory.

humanrace14Sure, it borrows from a lot of other stories, but guess what — they borrowed from a lot of other stories too.  Am I not entertained?  Yes.  No, wait, No  Or is it Yes?    That’s one of them trick questions.  I was entertained.  Consider, they had to make a movie about people walking in a circle but found a way to make it work.  Now if only NASCAR could only make their driving in a circle the slightest bit interesting.

The finalists aren’t surprising, but how they get there is.  I can imagine people being disappointed by the ending, but I give the producers credit for not taking the easy way out, or blatantly setting themselves up for a sequel.

Good stuff.


  • They determine that everyone in the race was on the same block in the city when the bright light brought them here.  Which makes more sense when you see the final scene.
  • A basic of similarity to The Long Walk novella by Stephen King. Except there is an actual ending; also unlike his novella version of The Mist.  Or the conclusions to most of his early books which was to burn down the school / town / hotel / Las Vegas / or in Firestarter, everything.
  • OK, I’m no liberal automaton, but means “no” means “no” even in ASL. Still, Deaf Girl (as she is credited) couldn’t spare Deaf Guy a comforting kiss knowing that they were almost certainly within minutes of death?  Is that really the time for the “like a friend” spiel?
  • And why is it American Sign Language?  Why wouldn’t all languages use the same set of hand signals?  Turns out there is a lot of overlap, but a lot of difference too.
  • There is a bizarre photographic choice when Eddie pulls his car up to Justin’s school.  It is like tilt-shift pictures where only a small portion of the frame is in focus.  There is no reason for it, it does not recur, and I don’t see that it symbolizes anything. It just seems like something a young director does before they lose their balls.  I just saw Jaws in the theater, and there is no way Stephen Spielberg could make that same picture today.

The Intruders (2015)



On a snowy day, college student (i.e.over 18) Rose moves into a new house with her father Jerry Halshford.  She immediately bitches about the house and furniture.  She at least has the initiative to explore the house to find more to complain about.

She walks across the street and meets her neighbor Leila who asks her how she can live in that house. Rose asks her father what that means and he plays dumb.

That night she hears screams and gets out of the bed to close her bedroom door.  In the next scene, it is morning, but she is wearing different clothes.  The shortie shorts and wife-beater have been replaced by a little spaghetti strap number that we don’t get to see the bottom of.  This movie is turning me into quite the fashion maven.

intruders29While taking a PG-13 shower, she hears creaks and crashes and goes to investigate (wearing a white towel). Turns out to just be a cute young construction guy, Noah.

That night she sees a neighbor throw a large garbage bag and a shovel in the back of his pickup.  So the first thing you would think is that he’s going to bury a body.  She does go out (in her red Stanford hoodie) and finds Leila’s necklace in the snow. Or is it?

That night,in a striped t-shirt and tight jeans, she goes to the basement for the first time. She is trapped in a room but only for a few moments as if the house is playing with her. Running back upstairs, she sees a creepy doll head on the stairs that she had found earlier in a drawer.

intruders24Via a Google-doppelganger called Glide Quest, Rose discovers that her neighbor was a suspect in the disappearance of a girl named Rachel who had lived in the house.

Just as in Mr. Jones, there is a suggestion that meds might have something to do with the bizarre scenes witnesses.  Also as in that movie, this subplot goes nowhere.

The Intruders throws out a few other red herrings (or less charitably, distractions) like that. From his introduction, there is a distance in Noah that suggests that he might only exist only in Rose’s mind.  He does seem to come and go like the wind, and for sometimes dubious reasons.  He also references a construction crew which never seems to materialize.  He does seem to be real in at least one scene with Leila, though. If he is not real, like the meds, there would really be no point.

intruders28The movie would also like you to believe there are supernatural explanations for some events.  Sometimes the movie does not play fair — does that door latch move by itself? For the most part, it places the blame on a reg’lar old killer.  But then the final scene again suggests a supernatural element.  Or is it those darn meds again?

Misdirection and twists are fine, even desirable; they just weren’t handled well here. Also not handled well — Miranda Cosgrove.  She is hot and wears the hell out of her skimpy clothes (and the sweatshirts, too, for that matter), she’s just not effective as an actress.

intruders26Ultimately it is just a PG-13 movie with some cute 20 year old girls that could have aired on Lifetime or starred Ashley Judd 20 years ago. It really is more drama than horror. The mystery for me is how it ended up in my queue.


  • Title Analysis:  Intruderzz — the crazy dude was one, but who was the other?
  • Miranda Cosgrove was the star of iCarly.  Being a grown man, I have never seen the show; or bought the box set.