The Poltergeist remake feels like it has a lot to say about technology addiction, or classism, or even gender roles. Or, that is, it feels like it wants to say any of those things. But there’s no time! It’s 2015. Ninety minutes are all we get for horror films these days. Before you can grab a handful of popcorn, a ghost-hand rises from above the garage’s concrete floor. Poltergeist swaps out the fear found in implications and slow-burns for a breathless race to its inevitable end.
But what a race! To watch this remake of Poltergeist is to forget the landmark original. Lines that permeated pop culture from then feel almost hollow in this one—”They’re here.” And it’s completely for lack of trying. The unsettling realization that this house was built on a burial ground is instead a throwaway line, a clue-in to the audience for why any of this is happening, but nothing more.
Instead Poltergeist is concerned with sleekness and wit. When one of the paranormal investigators sets up a time-lapse camera and informs the family of how these ghosts move objects quite slowly, the chair he’s sitting on flies across the room. “Did you get all that on your time-lapse camera, there?” the dad (Sam Rockwell) asks.
Poltergeist is peppered with moments like these. Every “boo!” is a moment to laugh. Every time a character goes into a closet is a moment to try to yell at them by yelling at the screen. Would anyone really classify the original Poltergeist as “sleek?”
In no time, the family is already trying to pull their daughter out of the ghost dimension, coupled with booming portal-defining musical scores and bombastic graphics. It’s all a spectacle, but a marvel to watch.
All that was missing from the race is the famous house implosion scene—which never comes. Instead, the movie switches gears and suggests a line of potential sequels with other characters in the forefront, not unlike The Conjuring.
But where people might be disappointed is wanting this film to be more like that film. Instead, Poltergeist is more like the remake of Fright Night. It won’t keep you up at night. It won’t curl your toes. It’s definitely not going to define a generation’s view on horror films. But it’s a fun—and funny—horror adventure with a few shocks along the way.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.