Blu-ray Review: Poltergeist (2015)

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Director Gil Kenan seemingly did everything he could with playwright (and sometime-screenwriter) David Lindsay-Abaire's bland screenplay for the recent Poltergeist remake. The horror film, an update of the classic 1982 Steven Spielberg/Tobe Hooper collaboration of the same name, feels intentionally neutral. It's as if the team of filmmakers (which includes Sam Raimi as a producer) deliberately sought to avoid crafting anything truly scary or memorable. At the same time, there's a pretty solid level of general competency maintained throughout that will likely keep viewers moderately engaged. But after the credits roll, they'll be asking themselves, "What exactly was the point of all that?" New to Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and Digital HD via 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Poltergeist boasts an "extended cut" that adds about seven minutes to the running time.

After all the recent haunted house movies, from the on-going Paranormal Activity series to The Conjuring, this latest entry in the sub-genre seems nothing if not redundant. The Bowen family—dad Eric (Sam Rockwell), mom Amy (Rosemarie Dewitt), and kids Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), Griffin (Kyle Catlett), and Madison (Kennedi Clements)—moves into a new home and weird stuff begins happening. Unusual noises are heard, clown dolls appear to move on their own, and a bedroom closet has a strong hold on Madison's attention. Any of this sound familiar? It should, and not because Poltergeist is a remake. We've seen all this supposedly spooky, hair-standing-on-end moments countless times. Eric keeps muttering, "What's going on here?" as if they were simply having trouble with an appliance or something similarly benign.

Besides the closet, Madison is also drawn to the TV, through which she claims to be communicating with the spirits of deceased individuals who are returning from parts unknown ("They're here!"). Meanwhile, we periodically see a TV "reality" ghost hunter, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), who we just know will eventually become involved in assisting the Bowen's predicament. This Poltergeist feels like nothing more than low-intensity build-up to an over-baked (though technically impressive) climax that arrives too abruptly.

Again, tech specs are definitely impressive. Fox's Blu-ray offers a nice transfer of Javier Aguirresarobe's cinematography (he's no stranger to to capturing the atmosphere of horror films, having previously shot The Others, a pair of Twilight films, and the Fright Night remake). The DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround mix is another selling point, with all the expected (for better or worse; again, no points for originality even in the sound design) effects emanating throughout the spectrum. Prometheus composer Marc Streitenfeld also pushes the right buttons in his effective, if not particularly inspired, score.

Probably due to Poltergeist's middling box office numbers ($47 million domestically, with only another $48 million overseas), Fox has skimped on bonus material. The primary draw is the extended cut, but there's also an extended ending (under two minutes), a still gallery, and a pair of trailers. The Blu-ray package also includes a downloadable digital copy. Bottom line on Poltergeist: there are too many stronger haunted house film out there, rendering this film difficult to recommend. Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie Dewitt deserve far better material.

Poltergeist BD cover (320x380).jpg

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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