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Poltergeist (3 stars)

Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt head up this so-so update of the 80s horror classic

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Poltergeist

A nice family move into a blighted house, things go bump in the night and the youngest child is kidnapped by vengeful spirits, necessitating a psychic showdown with the help of some paranormal experts. Whether or not you know the influential 1982 Poltergeist (co-written and produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Tobe Hooper), you will have seen the immortal scene of the little girl turning from a static-filled TV screen with which she is communing and announcing: 'They’re he-ere'. It’s one of the iconic moments of 80s cinema and one of the great goose-bump lines in horror history. So, a tough act to follow?

More than 30 years on a remake, re-boot, re-imagining or what you will seems fair enough, and director Gil Kenan (Monster House, City of Ember) grounds this nicely in reality with indie aces Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt as Eric and Amy Bowen, a likeably plausible couple with three children and credible problems and anxieties. It's the typical American movie family in the typical American movie suburb (apart from the bit about the housing development having been built over a cemetery). But that’s not as bright and sweet and affluent as it once was. In contemporising the story – phones, tablets and a camera drone toy all feature to capture images of the haunting afoot – it feels a little subdued. The family’s real world financial and psychological woes take some of the chutzpah out of their subsequent ordeal which, even in 3D, curiously, is never particularly terrifying or thrilling – not even the ever-popular killer clown doll.

There is some nice visual invention here and the performances are pleasing (including Jared Harris as a ghostbuster TV personality who comes to the rescue). But you won’t lose any sleep over it.

General release from Fri 22 May.

Poltergeist

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 93 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Gil Kenan
  • Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements
  • UK release: 22 May 2015

Eric (Rockwell) and Amy (DeWitt), three kids in tow, move into a new house in a typical American movie suburb, and strange things start happening. Likeable performances (including Harris as a TV ghostbuster) can't rescue this remake of the Spielberg/Hooper 1982 original from being not very terrifying or thrilling.

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