They know what scares you.
A reboot is a hard thing to impress with. On the one hand, you can try and just shot-for-shot the original, but at that point why bother remaking it? On the other extreme, you can make it have absolutely nothing to do with the original, alienating a good portion of the people you would bank on spending money to watch it. Really, a reboot is rarely ever a win-win situation. Still, for this final part of 3Dtober, I figure we'll put some fresh eyes on something from before reborn. Will a second viewing with an added dimension allow this to become something more, or does it simply not stand a ghost of a chance.
Now, we have to look at this as it's own thing. I know, you are probably calling me crazy at this very moment - but we have to judge a movie on it's own two legs. Yes, in the end we can make comparisons and say which we like better, but the movie itself shouldn't have to worry about being judged on all that excess baggage - which is good in this movie's case. It does a lot to differentiate itself from being a copy-paste of it's originator for better or worse. We'll get into that more later on though - and what a better way to lead off than with the 3D effects? Well, I guess in this case it's a bit puttering to lead off with - there are a scene or two (although I'd argue no more than three) where the 3D can shine and pop out of the screen at you. Largely, as usual, we instead just get an added sense of depth to things - that multiple layer feeling about the film. It's not terrible, but it's another instance of "not enough to merit going out of your way to watch the 3D version" - and in this case, I've seen both versions, so I feel it's a pretty good opinion there.
There are more effects in this movie than just the 3D however, and it's actually nice for the most part. Sure, some of the CG-heavy moments can look relatively game-like (although better than some), but for the most part things all play out very nice looking. A good deal of things will look or are right there in the shot, including creepy little clown dolls. Some of the more interesting moments, however, are certainly the ones after things escalate and we come down to the other-world of writhing bodies and electric light - even if it might not look quite as impressive as the other effects found before it. It does a very good job of creating a nightmarish atmosphere in those scenes, and uses lighting with a combination of not over-complicating the "creatures" to some very nice effect - even though if you were to freeze frame on any given moment you might feel like it's not so good.
Of course, you've got a good mix of things to go off of here as well - moving toys, whether practical or not, are great to see in motion just as much as any furniture. You've got some television static and floating lights (as well as general electrical complexities). You also get some house destruction in a spectacular over-the-top manner. And of course, not to be left out, you've even got the old spooky masked person approach to go along with the more "natural" effects. A lot of these lead into or are the scares of the movie - and the movie's slate isn't clean when it comes to jump scares either - including misdirection ones. There are some decent ones in there - even if you see them from a mile away - but many of them are handled more as moments then directly as jump scares, which helps to make it not feel too annoying about it's approach to horror. Probably the most annoying component is that the movie does show that it could have handled things in a much more "easy to miss" background manner (such as with it's Title displayed as a shadow of power lines), but instead chooses to go full-generic mode with making sure it's nigh impossible to miss most of what it wants to use to scare you (in turn slightly reducing the effectiveness of the scare, although rarely of the effect).
The plot here doesn't waste much time getting anything set up either. We start off looking at the house for purchase, and before they even move in things are starting up with the youngest kid. Things slowly do some escalating, based almost entirely around the youngest and second youngest (whose afraid of everything so nobody puts any weight to his worries) until finally the big balls-to-the-walls haunting mega-vent evolution happens and nearly everything goes mental and the youngest ends up missing - sucked into another world by ghosts. Of course, the family wants their youngest back, so they seek some help from a paranormal group, who investigates and they all find things beyond explanation - so they call in the big guns (who also happens to be a TV show personality) to try and get the kid back.
The story puts a lot of time emphasis on the youngest two members of the family - at least that's the way it feels. Largely, I'd argue the older of the two is the stronger actor, and although neither are necessarily bad I wouldn't claim that neither of them are subverting the normal child-actor expectations. Beyond that, most the acting is pretty well done - not exactly winning awards, but totally competent and in my book acceptable enough to enjoy the movie without constantly hiding your face behind your hand so your television doesn't see your disgust over that last delivery. That said this is as good a point as any to start our comparisons to the original - Jared Harris does a fine job playing up his role of a battle worn ghost exterminator/exorcist/tv personality, but it's hard to live up to the presence of someone like Zelda Rubinstein who always just felt like she was born to be in that kind of roll and oozed that concerned and personal feeling about her.
Beyond that, there's actually a substantial amount changed - despite the fact that at it's core it's still a movie about a family being haunted, and the youngest daughter gets dragged into another dimension for which the family needs to seek help from paranormal experts. The family is given a more "troubled" feel about them - a recently jobless father puts more strain in comparison to the old family who moved into the house pretty much for free because the father worked for the company. This really only comes into play once in an off-hand comment by one of the paranormal assistants however - at least as far as the spooky story is concerned. The updating of technology is a nice and needed touch - one of my biggest concerns about the aging of the old Poltergeist is that there are things that some people won't understand just because they aren't old enough - such as television broadcast stations turning off at midnight. Here, we have an approach aimed more towards the modern audience - with phones and thermal cameras and drones being placed about. One of the largest on-screen differences is probably things not seeming nearly as shock when it comes to the effects and scares - there's nothing quite as extreme as a guy peeling off his own face here, or tons of casket-housed bodies rocketing up out of the pool. Oddly, we also drop the "Native American burial ground" part and leave it as just a cemetery - which I'm sure was in an attempt to not offend anyone, although largely I feel lacks the same approachable horror of a people who were probably terribly treated in life and then in death did.
Overall, as a stand alone movie I'd say this one isn't that bad. It's got some enjoyable moments and effects, and is overall an enjoyable enough experience that I don't regret having to have bought it to finalize 3Dtober. I'd argue that it's probably more of a rental for most people - that sort of one-and-done movie, even if it's not all that bad. When given the option between this and the original, I'd largely rather watch the original for it's charming camp moments and some of the actors, along with that nostalgic attachment - but for a more modern audience I could see where they would prefer this over the original. It's a decent update, even if it looses some of the crazier charms of the original in trade for some more atmospheric crazy of it's own.