Written By: Lois Kennedy
Director: Gil Kenan
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements, Jane Adams, Jared Harris, Susan Heyward
The Bowen family—father Eric, mother Amy, and kids Kendra, Griffin, and Madison—have just moved into a new house that unfortunately has been built on a cemetery, corpses and all. The ghosts (or “lost people,” as they prefer to be called nowadays) take a shine to little Maddy’s innocence and decide they want her to lead them into the light. So they snatch her into their ghostly realm, leaving the Bowens to contact paranormal researcher Dr. Powell, her proteges Sophie and Boyd, and reality show star Carrigan in order to get her back.
First off, I have to admit that I’m biased by being a big fan of the original movie; it was one of my very first horror movies, and besides being very evocative for me, it’s just a damn good movie. How innovative and influential it still is is clear in how much the remake borrows from it: the disembodied voice in the T.V., the killer tree, the portal to the ghost realm, right down to the creepy clown doll. Adding things like even more creepy clown dolls, an evil squirrel, and more annoying teenage girl does not an improvement make. Not to mention the efforts to modernize the movie with cell phones, GPS trackers, a drone with a camera, reality T.V., and pretentious names like Griffin and Madison—yes, it’s not the early ’80s, we get it! There is absolutely nothing suspenseful about watching ghosts on a drone camera, let me tell you.
If you expected the millennial upgrade to include more adult situations and gore, you would be mistaken. Actually, there’s more of a downgrade in that department. There isn’t any casual drug use or faces falling off; a character hallucinates a ghost trying to get him with a drill. It’s very PG-13, and doesn’t even utilize its privilege of one use of the f-word. Which is all fine, if the movie bothered to be scary in these parameters. But it doesn’t.
Also, I’m eternally annoyed by movie attempts to show a middle-class family struggling financially while they’re buying a big-ass house. Even after getting two credit cards declined, Eric is still able to buy a pair of fancy earrings, a new iPhone, and a drone with a camera. These people are obviously on the verge of poverty. This is the house they buy after Eric is laid off and Amy is supposed to be working on a new book and meanwhile not earning any actual money:
As much as I love to gripe, I didn’t hate the movie. I enjoyed the cast; they make the characters likable and easy to empathize with. I grudgingly liked the comic relief. The movie is predictable, but still pretty entertaining. Give it a look if you’ve never seen Tobe Hooper’s version, because then this one just looks like an above-average haunted house movie.