It's hard out here for a ghost. Always having to think up new ways to scare suburban people in movies. You make the kids' toys come alive and play creepy music, and all the other ghosts hold up signs with straight 1.5s across the board. You're like, "Ok, then, what if I flick the lights on and off a lot?" and your so-called best ghost-friend says, "Paranormal Activity," while yawning right in your face.

The poor malevolent entities of Poltergeist have no such friends to steer them away from the overdone tropes of ghosting. They go about their business in the most rote manner possible, never once deviating from the tactics employed in the original 1982 Poltergeist, much less from all the films that stole from it over the past three decades.

The story is the same. A mom (Rosemarie DeWitt) and a dad (Sam Rockwell) and their three kids move into a house built on an old cemetery. Did the developers move the bodies or just the gravestones? One guess. The TV comes on and talks to the youngest daughter (Kennedi Clements). She says, "They're here." That clown doll does some stuff. The light, it gets gone into.

Throwing a tiny little wrench into the tedium is Jared Harris as a TV ghostbuster with his own hashtag (#thishouseisclean. Seriously.) and Jane Adams, as a paranormal researcher. They were once married, which leads to the only moments of human friction or character interest in the 90-minute running time. There is no other spark of life or death or fear or humor or horror happening in this film.

Poltergeist is a colossal misfire, a barely breathing waste of time from producer Sam Raimi, director Gil Kenan and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire. And it asks a sad old question: besides being a horrible idea in the first place, a film-history-taunting, money-grubbing remake, the very definition of cynicism, how do talented people collaborate and create something this lifeless? And actual ghosts are not allowed as an answer, because there are none.

Anyway, then it's over. Visual cues hint at a sequel. Finally, something to scare you.


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