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Poltergeist

Year: 2015
Studio: Fox 2000
Director: Gil Keenan
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, Jane Adams

Even though the script has come straight out of 20th Century Fox's 'why even bother?' file, this movie isn't as bad as the middling box office and critical shrug of disinterest would have you believe. It's certainly not good – Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt give it everything they have – and it doesn't work hard enough to justify existing in the shadow of its predecessor, but it's not an unmitigated disaster. More just a non- event.

The Bowen family (not the Frelings), move into a new house in a new neighbourhood because they've fallen on hard times. Their little girl Madison seems to be talking to someone in her bedroom closet only she can hear, but everyone else from dad Eric, mother Amy, teen daughter Kendra and prepubescent son Griffin are too busy settling in to notice the weird stuff going on.

Like in the first one, the focus on the weird happenings are the TV, the kids' closet and the old, gnarled tree outside. The script even manages to include the clown that ended up front and centre in the marketing, courtesy of a pile of old clown dolls stuck in the chimney flue (for some reason) that end up in Griffin's room.

It follows the same set-up until the halfway mark, the unseemly happenings building to a climactic night that sees the tree and clown attack and Madison disappear into the other realm, and then all the potential terror in the proceedings evaporates.

None of it's that scary until that point, mind you, but when the Bowens reluctantly visit a university psychology department in desperation to get their daughter back, it's more a procedural mystery with a few minor jump scares.

And the character of Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), a ghost hunter with his own TV show bought in by the lead researcher at the university, is perhaps the most obvious parallel with the original movie.

As the stand-in for the immortal Zelda Rubenstein playing Tangina Barrons in the 1982 version, Harris (and the script he's working from) has only a slight shade of personality and quirk. In exactly the same way, the whole movie is a half-baked product when compared to the original, only slightly reverent of the tone – even while it sticks pretty closely to the plot. Screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire knew he needed a quirky spiritualist but didn't try too hard.

You also need to forgive the odd nonsensical clanger to truly stick with it. In one example, it's a quite cool idea to fly a drone through the spirit world after they identify the entrance in the cupboard and the exit on the living room ceiling, and the potential is fulfilled both narratively and visually. But it does happen immediately after the quirky ghost hunter explains how it's different in there because there's no true up or down (so how can you fly a drone through it like normal 3D space)?

If the movie was better overall you might overlook some of the speed bumps. It's a pretty beige coloured retelling of the same story and doesn't have much reason to exist.

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