Monday, May 25, 2015

Jofo @ The Movies: Poltergeist

It certainly made me want to tear my face off...and it not be an illusion
I've made it no secret that Poltergeist (1982) is not only my favorite horror film, but one of my favorite movies of all time. From the haunting musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, the creepy visuals and special effects, and the mysteriously ethereal atmosphere of the house and it's tormenters, along with the feel-good sense of wonder common to movies with Steven Spielberg's touch on them, Poltergeist is a terrifying, yet beautiful experience that made it's mark on both the horror genre and pop-culture. So naturally when a remake was announced it may or may not have cost the structural intergrity of one or two of the breakables in my room, but given that the original's follow-ups were... less than stellar, another installment with a less troubled production may have done the franchise good. Full disclosure, this is as far as I'll go when it comes to comparisons between these two movies of the same name, but I can safely say that this one will not be eclipsing it's predacessor; but lets move on to what is important, how is this movie as a stand-alone experience?

Times are tough for Eric (Sam Rockwell) and Amy Bowen (Rosemarie DeWitt) , between Eric's  recent layoff from his work at JOHN DEERE (BUY OUR TRACTORS AND LAWNMOWERS) and the the difficulties of moving, morale is a bit down. Unsurprisingly things get even worse for them one night while they dine with their friends, their eldest daughter and son are violently attacked by mysterious forces and their youngest daughter Madison has gone missing, Fearing that their problems may be otherworldly, they enlist the help of a team of paranormal investigators to find their missing daughter before it may be too late.

So, where to begin? If I were to attempt to count the amount of dropped plot points in this movie, I would have missed practically the entire movie, Amy is apparently working on a novel...we never see this, Eric is supposedly hunting for a job, and aside from one decent moment of him venting frustration we never see the effects of which, the son is a raging pantophobic for...some reason (who is seen playing zombie games at the beginning) who just kinda gets over it before the end, there's a love interest sub-plot between the medium and one of the investigators that gets pulled from a butt somewhere and contributes ultimately nothing; basically this film is content to tell us all about the supposed character development, but never shows it; perhaps because this movie feels so rushed and insubstantial that it has the reverse problem of most movies today in being too short.

The characters are your typical cliche horror family, the dad, the mom, the bratty older daughter, the son, and the cutesy young daughter and they are all played with just as much substance. The children in particular are laughably bad with the son having the same not-really-scared-because-there-isn't-anything-really-there expression in practically every scene, and the daughters just being their respective stereotypes. Heck, even Sam Rockwell, a man known for giving extremely fun, electrifying performances even in completely wretched movies (Charlie's Angels anyone?) seems eternally stuck in "where's my paycheck" mode this entire movie. But it's hard to blame the actors for this when we all know that the real culprit lies in the writing and direction of the movie, the movie's short length and incompetence at conveying character motivations without flat-out telling them to the audience doesn't allow for Rockwell or anyone else to get heavily involved and play a character instead of a mound of screaming flesh. The only one here who seems to care is the medium (Jared Harris) and that character is so out of place that he feels more like a parody of medium characters in horror movies. There is humor in the movie, which isn't unwelcome, but the way that it's done is incredibly out of place and more than anything makes the characters look incredibly stupid...which they are (I counted not one, but two instances of characters sticking their hands towards something that may or may not be returning said hand afterwards).

But all that aside, what ultimately matters here is the quality of horror on display in this horror movie. Even completely formula movies like The Conjuring managed to achieve greatness on horror tactics alone...this movie does not. Poltergeist's idea of scary is JUMP SCARES, and some of the absolute weakest, unmemorable ones I've yet to see in a big budget horror film. Almost none of them are built up to, they just all happen out of nowhere to try and "scare" the audience, however they all still manage to be incredibly predictable to the point of myself only jumping once (maybe twice), from a squirrel jumpscare (yes a squirrel jumpscare). In short, it's a horror movie with no real teeth or scares to it, in fact if I may be so bold...this feels like a kids movie. And I don't mean that to deride kid's movies, what I mean is that this movie doesn't feel like it's trying to scare, it feels like it's just trying to exist and make money.

And like many bad horror movies this one lives and dies by the CGI. Nothing looks even remotely believable, and what many people fail to realize is that the effects in a horror movie have a direct correlation with the acting. If the actors don't have something physically there to react to, then naturally their reactions are going to look forced and fake, leading to our suspension of disbelief weakening or vanishing outright and thats incredibly true for this movie; from the tree branches, to the zombie-ghosts everything looks incredibly fake and generic.

This movie sucks more than the closet! *rimshot*

Not one original thought went into this movie, and it's very clear from the finished project that this is one of the worst examples of creative bankruptcy. It's only avoiding a total failing grade because I was relieved to see the kidnapped daughter not end up in the internet or appearing on facebook.


  • Sam Rockwell...because we don't see him very often, and despite not having much to work with, it's still nice to see him.

  • Wretched CGI
  • Continous cheap jumpscares
  • Weak writing
  • Bad overall acting
  • Jared Harris is completely out of place
  • Rushed and way too short

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