Journey 151: Poltergeist 


This afternoon my sister Linda, our friend Justin, and I caught a matinee showing of Poltergeist, a remake of the 1982 classic horror film. Although I don’t watch many movies in this genre, I had seen the original and I was interested in comparing that film to this updated version.  And, this was the first time Linda, Justin and I have attended a movie together. I looked forward to a fun afternoon. 

Poltergeist stars Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements, Jared Harris and Jane Adams. This horror/thriller was directed by Gil Kenan. It is rated PG-13 for scary sequences, mild suggestiveness and brief language and has a run time of 1 hour and 33 minutes. 

Eric (Rockwell) and Amy (DeWitt) Bowen move into a new house in an ordinary looking subdivion with their three children: Kendra (Sharbino), Griffin (Catlett), and Madison (Clements). Amy is a stay-at-home mom and Eric is in between jobs, hoping this move will bring fresh career opportunities. The family is dealing with stress involved with the move. Kendra is angry about being uprooted from her friends, Maddie is talking to imaginary friends and Griffin is afraid of everything. 

The anxious boy gets the attic bedroom. Noises are keeping him awake, creepy clowns tumble out of the attic storage room and there’s a live squirrel on the loose. He refuses to stay in his room alone and ends up sleeping with his parents on this first night in the new house. 

Maddie isn’t afraid. But she is talking to unseen friends and Griffin finds her in the middle of the night, her hands on the large flat screen tv, carrying on a conversation with the static flickering across the screen. The house seems to have electrical issues, as lights and devices turn on and off, and stray currents flow, shocking those who touch the stair bannister or rest their hands on the closet doorknob in Maddie’s bedroom. 

Griffin is afraid of that closet, even though the doors won’t open. He watches a baseball roll across the floor on its own and come to rest against those doors. And comic books he was carrying, and had placed on the floor, stack up in an intricate pattern, blocking the bedroom door. 

No one believes Griffin as he tries to tell about his terrifying experiences. But by that night, they all believe as the house unleashes its wrath against the new occupants. The parents discover at a dinner party that the subdivion was built over an old cemetery. The kids, left home with older sister Kendra as the sitter, experience a range of terrors, from an attack of clown dolls to slime oozing up in the basement to the old tree next to the house breaking through the attic window and snatching Griffin. 

In the midst of these alarming activities, Maddie’s closet doors open at last and she is drawn away into a swirling vortex. The focus now becomes getting Madison back…from where and from what, the Bowens aren’t sure. Amy hears her daughter’s voice calling out from the TV. And then nothing more. 

The family turns to paranormal investigator Dr. Brooke Powell (Adams) and her team. They connect the activity in the house to poltergeists and experience phenomenon themselves, but they are unable to retrieve the little girl. Dr. Powell calls in celebrity ghost hunter Carrigan Burke (Harris) who is known for his work clearing houses of unwanted presences. He concludes each job with the line, “This house is clean!” 

The Bowens’ house, however, is not so easy to clear. The poltergeists are trapped and angry that the cemetery was desecrated, the headstones removed, but the bodies left. Their intention, Burke decides, is to use the innocent and pure Maddie to lead them into the light, freeing them. If she does, she will not be able to return to her family. 

Using technology that includes a camera on a drone and a simple rope, the group discovers Maddie’s whereabouts in the other dimension that she’s held in. Griffin finds his courage and goes in after her, bringing them both back to their waiting parents and sister. 

They family tries to leave the house but the poltergeists won’t allow that, dragging their car, with them inside, into the living room and pulling Maddie back toward the closet. Burke comes to the rescue, going into the vortex between dimensions, allowing the Bowens to escape the house. A great light explodes out of the house, flowing upward, as Burke leads the lost souls into the light. He survives, joining Dr. Powell in creating a new ghost hunters TV show. 

This was an okay show. The special effects and use of current technology far outshine the original, although I think the 1982 release carried the story better. Although there were a couple of tense scenes that made me jump, our little group found ourselves laughing more than crying out. 

Linda and I discussed the movie on the way home and came to the conclusion that the problem with most scary films is that they reveal too much and end up going over the top on special effects. They go more for the shock factor rather than the fright factor. It  would be much more spooky if subtle but realistically possible events were portrayed without going into the preposterous. Hearing noises, seeing things moved out of place, catching shadowy figures out of the corner of the eye, electrical devices going on and off are all more frightening, yet intriguing too. 

We decided that perhaps we need to write a screenplay for a really good ghost story, for this was not the case in this film. It was interesting to watch, having seen the original movie. However the best part of the afternoon was hanging out with Linda and Justin. Let’s do another movie guys!