A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Poltergeist (2015) is the remake of one of the most popular horror films of all time, 1982's Poltergeist. Those familiar with the legendary original know that it's a haunted-house story featuring jump-worthy moments of terror directed toward a family with three kids. The youngest child is abducted by supernatural forces, and the rest of the family is terrorized, but no one dies. Expect some strong language ("s--t," "bitch," etc.) and a couple of adult situations involving parents fooling around and drinking -- the dad a bit too heavily. But as far as horror movies for teens go, at least this one doesn't feature blood and gore ... just lots of scares, tension, and peril. All told, it's a bit less scary than the original, but it's still too frightening for younger kids.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Like the original, the rebooted POLTERGEIST (2015) focuses on a family that has just moved into a new home in a new city. The Bowens are down on their luck: Unemployed dad, Eric (Sam Rockwell), lost his job and has had to relocate, along with his stay-at-home wife, Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt), teenage daughter Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), tween son Griffin (Kyle Catlett), and 6-year-old Maddy (Kennedi Clements). Griffin soon notices Maddy talking to her bedroom closet, but he figures she's just made some imaginary friends. But then strange things start happening in the Bowen house -- electronics go dead or turn on and off, toys move seemingly on their own accord, and a group of clown dolls freaks out Griffin in his new room. One stormy night, the poltergeists arrive ("They're heeeere," Maddy announces) and kidnap Maddy into another dimension, leaving the rest oft he Bowens to seek the help of paranormal specialists and a celebrity ghost hunter (Jared Harris).
Is it any good?
As unnecessary remakes go, Poltergeist isn't the most egregious, but it's also not a particularly inspired take on the brilliantly creepy original. Despite the excellent character actors playing the parents, the movie doesn't elicit viewers' investment in this family or their horrible situation. There are a couple of tiny moments that channel how bad the Bowens have it (Eric has to try three credit cards before he can successfully check out at the store; acquaintances casually inform them about the cemetery on which their development was built), but there's not enough time to really care about any of them.
Yes, there are some legitimately creepy moments, but this remake doesn't actually add value to the original other than throw a lot of updated technology into the mix. Still a safe bet for a "first" horror film, Poltergeist won't traumatize mature tweens or young teens trying out the genre, but it also won't live on in their cinematic memories like the original did for a generation of audiences. Dated elements and all, the original may have a longer running time, but it also has a much longer shelf life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ongoing popularity of remakes and reboots. How well do you think the Poltergeist story holds up? Why do you think the filmmakers chose to remake the story?
How does this remake compare to the original? What are the similarities and differences? Which do you prefer?
Why do you think people enjoy scary movies? How do haunted house movies compare to other kinds of horror films? At what age can teens watch horror movies?
- In theaters: May 22, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: September 29, 2015
- Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris
- Director: Gil Kenan
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense frightening sequences, brief suggestive material, and some language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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