* ½ out of ****
The remake of the 1982 Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg terror classic Poltergeist is a “why bother?” affair because it's pretty dull and lacks the grand scares, sense of humor and the charming little quirks that made the original so good.
So what do you do when you're recently laid off, your wife is also unemployed and you have three kids to support? You buy a house, naturally, and a haunted one at that. Yes, that is the puzzling set up to this new Poltergeist. Eric and Amy Bowen (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt), along with their three children, move into a house in the 'burbs. Because the area that the house was built on was previously a cemetery, and only the headstones were moved and not the bodies, the home is haunted by angry souls. These spirits kidnap the Bowens youngest daughter, Madison (Kennedi Clements), by pulling her into their netherworld. So, the Bowens must come together as a family, with the help of a group of ghost busters, to rescue the child.
Missing from this remake are Zelda Rubinstein's eccentric medium, Jerry Goldsmith's haunting score and a third act that goes completely hog wild with scares that make you feel like you are lost in a fun house. There are zero scares in this stingy remake. All the classic scenes from the original that are replicated here (They're here!) are delivered in such a defused manner as to render them ineffectual. The same can be said about the editing of the supposed suspense moments. As the ghosts attack the home alone children, we simply see each kid's separate predicament one at a time. The filmmakers don't cut back and forth to ratchet up the tension at all, so the scenes that are supposed to be scary just lay there.
Sure, the special effects in the original are dated (The scene of the paranormal investigator tearing his face off looked bad back then and even worse now.), but so what? The story and characters were engaging. Advances in special effects is no excuse to remake a movie that worked just fine the first time around.