Poltergeist Parent Review
Thematically, "Poltergeist" might actually be considered a family film. But remember that the bonding moments are often overshadowed by angry ghosts and electrical static.
Over 30 years ago Director Tobe Hooper did to television sets what Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho did to showers. He made them one of the scariest things in the house. Poltergeist (1982) was frightening enough to inspire two more sequels starring a little blonde actress who held her hands up to the static-filled screen and talked to dead people. Sadly, 12-year-old Heather O’Rourke died shortly after filming for the third Poltergeist wrapped up.
Three decades later the new Poltergeist has lost some of the spine-chilling punch of the original, thanks in part to the plethora of horror movies that have ripped off the film’s scariest moments. But now a dark-haired, freckle-faced Kennedi Clements takes over the lead role, playing a little girl innocent enough not to know she’s communicating with the imprisoned souls of those who can’t find their way to the light.
However, her slightly older brother Griffin (Kyle Catlett), known as the family scaredy-cat, is in tune enough with his new surroundings to sense all is not right—including the fact that the inside and the outside of this suburban home are not an architectural fit.
From the moment this family, made up of an unemployed father (Sam Rockwell), stay-at-home mom (Rosemarie DeWitt) and three kids (Clements, Catlett and Saxon Sharbino) moves into a new neighborhood littered with foreclosure signs, strange things begin happening. Closet doors open and close themselves. The post of the banister at the bottom of the stairs gives off an electrical shock, an ancient tree in the yard scratches repeatedly against the windowpanes and Kennedi’s character, Madison, begins talking to “imaginary” friends.
For audience members who love the goose-bump inducing thrill of a horror movie, Poltergeist has a few good jump scenes, along with the obligatory flickering of lights and the foreboding sense you’re being watched. Yet it also has some odd side stories. Dad has been out of work for an undisclosed amount of time. That leaves one “ghostbuster” wondering if the explanation for the unexplained occurrences might not just be a hoax in order to get a reality show. (Yes the script has been updated to include things like tablets, cell phones and reality TV.) There’s also a love story between secondary characters (Jared Harris and Jane Adams) that feels forced and a little out of place in a plot about disembodied specters.
From a content perspective, Poltergeist is full of the expected grotesque images, character peril, non-graphic violence and things that go bump in the night. There’s also some brief strong language and a dozen or so profanities. Dad turns to alcohol on a few occasions to help deal with his stress and frustration. And, other than a moment of married canoodling in the bedroom, the film is free of sexual depictions.
Thematically, Poltergeist might actually be considered a family film. It’s a story of parents and children pulling together to reclaim their little girl while going through tough financial times. Still, before you haul your own kids off to see this reboot of the franchise, remember those bonding moments are often overshadowed by angry ghosts and electrical static, which likely won’t be appropriate fare for your offspring.Directed by Gil Kenan. Starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris. Running time: 93 minutes. Updated May 13, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Poltergeist here.
Poltergeist Parents Guide
Talk about the movie with your family…
Suburban settings, as opposed to old haunted houses, are becoming more common in horror films. Why do you think this change has happened? Do you think a movie is more frightening if it takes place in an environment we can relate to? Can you recall a movie that was scary even though it took place in a fantastical location, like outer space?
The interior of the home in this movie does not match the exterior views we see of it. What interior elements have been “stretched” to match the typical elements we are used to seeing in a horror movie?
Eric Bowen is, among other things, frustrated that his only son is a bit of a scaredy-cat. Can a parent’s perception of a child influence how he or she interacts with the child? How does Eric respond to Griffen in comparison to how his wife does? What motivates Griffen to push aside his fears?