I’ve been doing a lot of reviews of recent films, but there’s a reason, and I promise to return to the vintage side of things soon. But, for now, let’s talk about a remake. A tried and true tale of time: The haunted house. Now, I see many reviewers that have panned this movie, but the way I see it is this: A remake is only as good as the way it’s received. You gotta take off the nostalgia goggles, forget the original movie, and enjoy the ride. So let’s ride, folks!
This movie begins like all haunted house stories does: Family moves into a new place, explores it, bad stuff happens. I’m going to try and not make a lot of comparisons to the original, folks, but some must be made. This time around the family is consisted of a middle class family down on their luck. The father is unemployed, the mother is a stay at home mom with hopes of becoming a writer, a bratty teenager, a young son, and an even younger daughter. Now, usually the first mistake that most remakes make is failing to update the material, and I’m happy to say that this movie does that very well. They have modern technology and modern day problems.
The house of haunt that they move in to is wired to the core for high speed internet and security systems galore. The only reason I mention this is because a good writer just gave us a whole lot of background with a quick and simple fact. But, for the family it just means one less expense, and for the viewer it means less montages of unpacking. Shortly after arriving and getting somewhat settled in the new couple is invited to a dinner party with some local folks that spend their time laughing at the poor, it seems. I’m not one to throw stones, but c’mon, the last time I saw this many wasps I was being chased by them because of a water-hose incident. Don’t ask. But, they do reveal that the land is built upon an old graveyard, but the graveyard was moved. Plus we get one of the best lines in the movie regarding an ancient burial ground.
While the parents are away the ghosts will play. Back at casa de haunt bad stuff starts to happen. We got a tree that is very grabby, clawing at the young boys window, wifi that goes haywire and leads the teenage daughter into a garage, and the youngest little girl gets visits from her “imaginary” friends. Unlike other movies, that spend a whole lot of time getting built up, creepy stuff starts happening from the get-go. This first night is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Then it hits the fan. The boy is assaulted by a creepy clown doll, the teenager is grabbed by muddy zombie ghost fingers, and the little girl stares into a vortex that would make Doctor Who jealous. Usually these types of scenes are ones that employ jump scares, but this movie does it with atmosphere, music, and a good buildup.
Another thing I like about this remake is the relate-ability of the characters. The father begins to drink, the wife begs him not to, and FOR ONCE IN HORROR MOVIES he listens, dumping the devil juice down the sink. The teenager is just as bratty as any real one is, and the two younger children are actually tolerable! Why do I mention this? Because they make you want to care about them. So, after a night of debauchery and hauntings, the worst happens: The little girl get sucked into the world of the dead. Or as some people call it: Florida. Just like the original the family decides that going head to head with the specters is a bad idea, so they call in help. First up on the list of characters whose names we aren’t going to remember: Paranormal Investigation Team College Edition.
Short chick, tall guy, and their leader The Librarian go to the house and start to probe, poke, and doubt. There’s even an exchange between tall guy and the young boy where the accusation of the search of fame is the motivation behind the entire thing, inferring it’s a hoax. I know my own choice of words would’ve been much more colorful, but the young man still shuts him down. What’s that, on the horizon? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it five time WCW World Champion Booker T? No! It’s….It’s….KARMA! Oh, sweet, sweet, and cruel karma! Following his callous accusation tall guy is tasked with mounting some piece of tech, whose relevance is inconsequential, in the nightmare closet with a drill. It’s at this point the spooks decide to let him know that they are, indeed, real. He gets up close and personal with a drill bit, inching towards his skull.
Needless to say, the small college team is not enough to deal with our haunters, so they call in the big guns. No, not some “medium” whose voice is so high pitched only certain breeds of dogs and four rodents can hear it, but a sturdy, Irish gentleman with his own ghost show. The kicker, of course, is his catch phrase: “This house is clean!” With no shame, whatsoever, I can admit that I chuckled. With no cameras in tow we find out that he is, as a matter of fact, a real medium. What I love about this character is the way he’s written, not like a superhero, or some paranormal badass, but a man with a gift, and very human. In fact, he and The Librarian are ex husband and wife, leading to some very well written dialogue between the two.
An earlier, irresponsible, purchase has left the young man with a drone camera. So they decide to send that in, after some setup, to try and find the young girl in the world of the dead. This is where the movie takes a cool turn, showing us what’s on the other side of the veil, and let me tell you: It ain’t pretty. Lightning! Chanting! Tables! Ectoplasm! And the final show down between the alive and the dead commences! But. No spoilers, folks.
With all seriousness I can say that this movie is actually really good. Putting aside all forms of nostalgia and preformed criticism, this is a hell of a ride, even giving me the willies once or twice. The material has been successfully updated, the characters and their interactions with the ghosts are much more believable this time around. Though CGI was heavily used, I still wholly approve of this movie. There are still some horror tropes woven in, but it adds to the fact that the filmmakers have not forgotten where they came from. Give this movie a watch, ASAP. And if you end up at the gates of the ooey-gooey, just tell them Deadman sent you. Stay tuned, folks!
Watch the trailer for Poltergeist