POLTERGEIST is not so much a horror film as it is about a family of five haunted by the ugly spectre of unemployment and teenage angst.
The scene is fairly typical in these kind of films: a family moves into a house that they don't know is haunted by a poltergeist, a scarier and angrier version of a ghost.
The three kids are one too many but provide the necessary targets for the poltergeist to scare and tamper with. For example, the youngest kid can communicate with the evil spirit, and there are clown dolls that scare the kids.
So far, so good. Viewers expect these things to happen in a haunted house. What fun would it be if the eldest child, a female, didn't get her foot caught in a hole that opens up and spews cement in the laundry room?
What fun would it be if the middle kid, a boy, who is afraid of anything that moves because he got lost in a mall three years ago, didn't get dragged out of the house by a humongous old tree next to the house?
And what fun would it be if the youngest, a precocious girl, didn't walk off into the unknown and end up in a TV set? And does the director have to use a closet to entice the unwitting?
Yes, dear viewers, these are some of the risible things that happen in director Gil Kennan's film. However, I must add that Kennan directs this film with elan and panache. There are even a few humorous moments.
He nicely introduces the five characters and shows them straining under the effects of living in a haunted house, which the husband and wife had bought on the cheap in a depressed economy.
Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) and Amy (Rosemary DeWitt) are the unemployed parents of spoiled brat Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), cowardly Griffin and ghost whisperer Madison (Kennedi Clements).
There's no mention why they left their previous home, but the husband and wife have agreed that Eric will look for a high school sports coach position to let Amy write. However, Amy prefers to keep watch over the kids.
The early part of the film is all about Eric and Amy barely keeping their heads above water.
And in a move that's downright foolish, absurd and weak, Eric goes berserk in a mall, and even with two credit cards maxed out, splurges on presents for his brood. He buys a smartphone for Kendra and a drone for Griffin. Experienced viewers know that these two gifts will make their presence felt later.
Kendra is addicted to watching a TV show in which a ghostbuster, Carrigan (Mad Men's Jared Harris), scares away evil spirits that lounge about in homes. Experienced viewers will also know that Carrigan will make his presence felt later.
The home, meanwhile, is built over a former cemetery. The couple find out that the developer had removed the coffins and transferred them to a "better place". This would make the couple's area dead and deadly.
A scene that will baffle viewers is when the ghostbuster uses the drone in the otherworld to show what's transpiring there. Viewers will see the usual dozens of ghosts, but how the heck does the drone transmit images from the otherworld?
2 1/2 stars out of 5