Poltergeist (2015)

One from the rewatch pile…

Poltergeist (2015)

Film: So as cinema fans we have decided that remakes are something that we will no longer completely argue about as there have been enough good ones and enough bad ones for both sides of the conversation to have ammunition in a non-winnable war, but now, the detractors have a new weapon, a carpet bombing, nuclear, anthrax-filled, DNA bomb that will melt the argument of remake fans.

That weapon is the turd laden, disappointment fuelled crapfest known forever more as the Poltergeist remake.

This hunk o’junk was directed by Gil Kenan, whose previous efforts were the kid’s movies Monster House, which was pretty good, and City of Ember, but essentially we have a kid’s film director remaking one of the great all time horror films. It was written by David Linday-Abaire, who did the screenplay for Robots, Inkheart, Rise of the Guardians and Oz, The Great and Powerful, so again, another family film maker attempting to ‘reboot’, ‘redux’ or ‘reimagine’ a classic.

Sigh.

I assume you all know the story but this has a few tweaks, so I’ll share those with you. The Bowen family have moved into a new, cheaper house as dear old dad, Eric (Sam Rockwell) was made redundant from his job at John Deere. He’s moved with wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt), and three kids, Madison (Kennedi Clements), Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) and Griffin (Kyle Catlett) in a new house. Very quickly though, they find there is something wrong with the house… Something supernatural… And when Carolanne… Sorry, Madison, is stolen by the evil entities living in her closet, the family enlist help of a seemingly useless university paranormal investigation team and a television psychic, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), but will they all be able to retrieve her, or has she, and the entire cast”s acting careers, been lost forever.

Now in the throes of writing for various websites over the last 20 odd years (yep, still plugging away for no financial reward…sigh), I’ve sat through some absolute dire films in the name of cinematic, journalistic integrity, but never have I sat through such a waste of time, talent and resources. I actually should have watched it twice but I decided that seeing as how I’d already sat through the extended cut, there was no reason to poison myself again with a shorter, more incomplete film, I mean, you wouldn’t take half a dump, right?

Honestly, the only thing I can compliment this film on is one element of the production design, specifically the undulating, Croenenberg via Fulci look of the ghost world, as far as the rest of it though, well, my problems with this film lie in three measures, and I shall break them down individually.

First, the cast. I really like Sam Rockwell, and even when he is in dire rubbish like Charlie’s Angels, he stands out as a scene stealer, but here he appears to be collecting a weekly cheque, or his Downers have really kicked in, and he just fades into the background. The others are just terrible, and the director doesn’t seem to know how to get good performances out if any of them, and they all trudge through this mess like they are being forced to be there. Jared Harris normally stands out as well, and does here but it is due to his accent rather than his performance. It seems the director has no idea how to get actors to act and what he has achieved is the very definition of generic characterisations.

Second, the script. A director can perform his craft better if he has a decent script, and here he doesn’t. The story starts quickly and uses a few of the trappings of the original, but then it has jumps in the narrative that are awkward, and characters that change at the drop of a hat, making them nonsensical, not to mention a paranormal team that don’t share every scrap of information that they have experienced with each other. Their equipment is also eye rolling, especially the iPad controlled drone that is sent in to find Madison in the ghost world. At first I thought it was a cool idea, until the controls were handed to Griffin, the ten year old boy, to fly into the void. By the way, if I were watching images sent back from limbo of the tortured souls within, I’d probably react, rather than watch it like a repeat of the most boring of Richard Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries.

A lot if the script just doesn’t ring true, and even in the most fantastic of fantasies, lore and truth of the story must prevail or it becomes hard to swallow, and it happens so frequently in this film that it’s the size of a horse sedative.

Finally, the overall production design. In a post Paranormal Activity/ The Ring world, making a film about hauntings has its own visual language, but guess what: that doesn’t mean you have to adhere to it. This film has a complete lack of a visual originality.  All the flags are raised here: blue tinted imagery, little black haired girls, grabbed by your leg and pulled up the stairs, bubbling black ‘stuff’  from the ground. Even a casual horror fan, who may be suckered in completely by all these modern haunting films, would sit with arms crossed, and be able to identify from where each bit was stolen! Sure, it’s a remake so clearly originality HAS to as issue, but the good remakes generally distance themselves from the original to get a look of its own. This distances itself from the original by using all the looks from the post The Ring ghost films.

I really can’t advise you against this film enough, and have a slew of casual horror friends who have told me not to see it but I didn’t listen to their advice, but I expect that you all should listen to me: do not waste your time watching this film. The only thing wrong with this film is everything.

Just a horrible, horrible waste of a film. Don’t see this, please. I have thrown myself on a grenade for you, don’t make my sacrifice in vain.

Score: *

Format: One positive thing I can say about this disc is how well it is presented. The film is in 2.40:1 with a 5.1 and a 7.1 soundtrack (I reviewed this on the 5.1) and as one would expect from a film of this era, it is perfect. In addition to 2 versions of the film, the disc also features the 3D version of film.

Score: *****

Extras: The extras, like the film, are a pile of rubbish. An alternate ending, which is almost as stupid as the original one, a stills gallery, which is an extra that never fails to infuriate me, and 2 trailers, which in their favour make the film look like it is going to be mildly entertaining.

Score: *

WISIA: No, thousand times, no.

The Conjuring 2 (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Conjuring 2 (2016)

The Cover of the Australian Bluray for The Conjuring 2


Film: I don’t deliberately try to be antagonistic when I find things I don’t like that the rest of the general public, and fandom enjoy. It’s put me at the solo end of several arguments: my dislike of The Blair Witch Project, my love of the Holly Valance action film DOA and my absolute apathy towards George Lucas’ fiddling with the original Star Wars saga.

My more recent battles have been regarding my dislike of a lot of these post millennial ghost movies. I am no great fan of ghost stories anyway as I don’t have a great belief in the supernatural, particularly ghosts. Of all these ghost movies that have come out the only one that I really enjoyed was the Ethan Hawke vehicle Sinister, but as far as the Insidious series and these Conjuring films, including Annabelle, well, I’m not a fan.

(I will hold one caveat to the previous statement: I did really dig the initial ghostly j-horror films like Ring and The Grudge when they first came out, but the ‘wet girl’ ghost became old quite quickly)

The Conjuring 2 is another adventure of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), ghost hunter/ psychic investigator/ exorcists who in this instalment travel to rainy Ol’ England in 1977 to help the Hodgson family. 

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in The Conjuring 2


Janet (Madison Wolfe) and Margaret (Lauren Esposito), the two daughters, decide to play, one night, with a witch board and accidentally bring out the horrible spirit of a man named Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) who decides to torture them, their brothers (Benjamin Haigh and Patrick McAuley) and their single mother, Peggy (Frances O’Conner)… or does he not even exist?

The Warrens are recently accused of being charlatans after an investigation of the Amityville house, and can’t be seen, as agents of the church, to be involved in any sort of chicanery… but is the evil in the house even MORE clever than first suspected..?

Straight up I have to compliment Wilson and Farmiga for their excellent performances. They are the rocks in the middle of the entire tale and are just so well cast and perform with so much conviction and they are a pleasure to watch. Add O’Conner to that mix and you have a pretty solid central cast. The kids are mostly all great though one of the young characters is supposed to have a stutter, and rather than be a realistic stutter, it sounds more like lines from Morris Minor and the Major’s Stutter Rap. 

On a personal side note I have to say I was delighted to see Anatomie and Creep’s Franka Potente back. I feel like I haven’t seen her in years!

The spooky nun from The Conjuring 2


James Wan’s direction is quite good, and there are some clever camera tricks, and what felt like an occasional tribute to older horror films… I kept getting a Hammer Horror vibe at times… and in general it had a pretty cool, cold creepy feel to it. 

There were two epic missteps that I found a shame though. One was the realisation of a ‘Crooked Man’ character who seemed too cartoony for the look of the film, and the final reveal, which I won’t explore for spoiler reasons, was just a little generic.

A small shoutout to the soundtrack as well. The ghostly incidental music is perfectly juxtaposed with music of the time, which both set the scares and the period. I’ve no doubt this soundtrack will end up in my collection.

The story was OK and whilst I am still not convinced by ghostly movies, I did quite enjoy this but it was about performance rather than the tale. It was a improvement of the first Conjuring, and a galaxy away from the bursting gall bladder that was Annabelle.

Score: ***


Format: As one would expect a modern film in a modern format looks excellent. The Conjuring 2 review copy is an Australian region B which goes for approximately 134 minutes and is presented in 2.40:1 with a Dolby Atmos 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a pretty good bunch of extras on this, the shame is none of them run for very long.

Crafting the Conjuring as you may guess by the name, is a making-of deal, and is brief, but interesting.

The Enfield Poltergeist: Living the Horror investigates the ‘real’ case of the Enfield Incident, including interviews with the now-adult sisters that the film portrays, and Lorraine Warren herself! 

Creating Crooked explains the invention and execution of the Crooked Man character, which I reckon would have been a cool make up effect and creature, but not in this film. Here he just seems to be a tacked on scare, which suits no purpose other than that,

The Conjuring 2: Hollywood’s Haunted Stage looks at paranormal investigator Johnny Matook and his investigation of one of Warner Bros soundstages which is apparently haunted. It’s pretty stupid and essentially a waste of disc space.

The Sounds of Scary checks out the score. Being a soundtrack nut I was excited to watch this, and was only disappointed by the brevity of it. I mean, horror soundtrack featurettes usually hit the same notes: it’s moody, scary, etc. I guess I might be a frustrated musician.

Deleted scenes are as occasionally correct in their absence from the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: Like I said, I’m not really a fan of ghost movies, so I’ll only watch this again if my family, who love these sorts of movies, want to watch it, otherwise it’s a dust gatherer.