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Film review: Poltergeist - effective remake of 1982 horror classic

New version of Spielberg chiller simply updates the storyline to a contemporary setting, keeping many of the original elements intact

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2015, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 July, 2015, 2:05pm

This remake of the 1982 Steven Spielberg-produced spooker of the same name simply updates the storyline to a contemporary setting. Although mobile phones, various gadgets, and reality TV are introduced into the plot, director Gil Kenan keeps many of the original elements intact; even the television set which acts as a communication channel with a grim supernatural realm remains.

Despite this reverential treatment, Kenan and producer Sam Raimi manage to serve up an effective supernatural horror film that's capable of standing on its own feet. The story has been given a trim reworking and only suffers by comparison because it isn't as scary as the original.

Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) is forced to move his family into a suburb hit by foreclosures when he loses his job. Strange things start to happen immediately, and after a dramatic storm which animates a malicious tree and some toy clowns, Eric's youngest daughter Madison (Kennedi Clements) is transported to a ghoulish parallel universe by some angry spirits. A reality show exorcist is called in to get her back, which means someone has to brave the deathly netherworld to find her.

Swapping the original's spiritual medium for a TV ghost hunter works well, and the excision — or should that be exorcism? — of the 1982 version's big monster makes for a leaner film. Kenan successfully manages to play on the fears that we have for our young children's safety, and the knowledge that we will be unable to protect them from everything that will come their way.

Poltergeist opens on July 9