Even in the crowded field of horror remakes, a Poltergeist 2.0 seems particularly unnecessary, given that Stephen Spielberg and Tobe Hooper’s 1982 Suburban Gothic is still perfectly capable of doing wondrous damage to tender young brains. Thankfully, this do-over delivers enough personality alongside the nostalgic creaks and groans to stand mostly on its own. Inverting the original’s Reaganomic glow, the plot finds a downturned family (led by the terrific Sam Rockwell and Rosemary DeWitt) reluctantly moving to a fixer-upper in the suburbs, only to discover the dangers of standing too close to the plasma screen. Director Gil Kenan—whose animated Monster House displayed a healthy Spielbergian aura—shows a similarly deft touch here, quickly laying out the geography while judiciously ladeling out the jump scares; the quick glimpses of The Other Side are downright inspired. By cleverly exploiting the spooky side of today’s gizmos—cell phones, drones—and occasionally hitting a shiver-worthy image wholly of the filmmakers’ own devising, it layers enough changes on the source material to justify its existence. Even if you already believe that clown dolls should be wiped from the earth, a little more confirmation can’t hurt.
Director: Gil Kenan
Producer: Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Roy Lee, J.R. Young, Audrey Chon, John Middleton and Becki Trujillo
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kyle Catlett, Jane Adams, Jared Harris, Nicholas Braun, Kennedi Clements, Susan Heyward and Saxon Sharbino