By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Even poltergeists have trouble vying for attention these days. We’re not talking about how the ‘remake’ compares to the original Steven Speilberg produced and Tobe Hooper directed film but instead, the Enfield haunting (the basis for the next The Conjuring film) suggests that targeting paranormal enthusiasts to earn box office coin is a good way to manifest dollars. Next year’s ghostly themed product has the potential to do far better than this rehash of a familiar tale.
Instead of the Freeling family, the Bowen family is getting tormented by spirits from the grave. The reason? Because they are lost souls and Madison (Kennedi Clements). She’s a shining beacon of innocence and hope for them. For some unexplainable reason, she can guide them to the light. Unless there’s a chapter from the Book of Shadows explaining how innocense can send wandering spirits to where they need to be, the filmmakers forgot to provide a key to allow for the story to make sense. Unless this film is talking about Taoist philosophies and how going into the light means reincarnation, that’s an ideology that’s never explained in any of the Poltergeist films, past or present.
In third part of the original trilogy, what does get addressed is the fact this world runs parallel to many others. These other dimensions where the undead may lay are accessible through portals. Any holes made in the walls of our universe can potentially be telephone lines to another reality. Thus, these spirits are able to communicate through closet doors, light bulbs or television sets because they represent a means to travel between two different quantum states. Ultimately, where the paranormal world exists relies on having a greater understanding of physics that science has not reached yet.
Sometimes, the five human senses are not always capable of perceiving or quantifying them. When one of them does, what’s experienced can be frightful. Griffin (Kyle Catlett), the middle child, has fears of his own, and Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) is obsessed with social media. This elder sibling is far too removed from her family because of her reliance on technology (a computer and cell phone). When reality comes crashing upon her, she’s not ready to believe it. The funny thing about this older of three siblings is her vague interest in the paranormal. She watches a lame para-reality television program named Haunted House Cleaners because it’s fashionable. When this fake program within a film makes a pointed stab at the paranormal reality shows, an opportunity is missed by not exploring how Carrigan (wonderfully played by Jared Harris) turned into a paranormal pop star. He’s clearly vested into “cleaning” evil spirits away from spooked locations, but not all of them, he admits, that were filmed for the television show were real. When he is called into investigating this real case, there’s a certain morbid fascination for me to seeing how real cases are treated versus facsimiles.
This movie is a throwaway product that not many paranormal enthusiasts will take to. The original film is a classic. It offered genuine scary moments, especially with the fact that real skeletons were used on set, and this movie, which is mostly digitally created, has all the sensibility of borrowing from Insidious and The Conjuring for a good part of the narrative. Parts of the original film’s dialogue were intentionally copied verbatim from the original script and intoned with the skill of a novice performer. Not even a willing suspension of belief can make the last act of this film stand on its own merit.
This movie is unintentionally funny in that regard. Try as writer David Lindsay-Abaire and director Gil Kenan might to reinvent the original story for a new age, the fail here is that none of that matters when family is concerned. They just want to become a happy whole than a fragmented unit again, and that’s the only message this movie manages to impress viewers with. When hauntings often leave an undeniable impression upon its victims, the only hope folks may have is that they come out stronger in their faith. At least in this film’s case, it’s in a lesson that not every film deserves revisiting time and time again. Once is enough.
2 Stars out of 5