Following an almost identical plot to the original film, Poltergeist tells the story of a family. They're new in town. They move into what appears to be a decent house, but guess what? It's not. Yep, it's a haunted house. Who could've guessed? The spirits present, the poltergeists, are trapped between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead, and to get to the afterlife, they must be guided by a human. They decide to take 6 year old, Madison (Kennedi Clements), bringing her into the spirit world. Now it's up to her family to bring her back and get rid of the ghosts before they keep Madison there forever.
Even Madison failed to impress. In the original film, the main girl (who's name was Carol Anne) was an adorable, likeable and sweet child who looked up to her family and copied them in day to day situations. In the new film, she's a child who looks up to her family and copies them in day to day situations. She's actually a bit of a brat, demanding things to happen now and insulting the pizza they eat for dinner one night. She's not likeable and hence, when her character is taken away, I didn't really feel emotionally invested. I didn't care for the fact that she's probably going to be emotionally scarred for the rest of her life. It didn't hit home for me.
Director Gil Kenan, who's other two films were Monster House and City of Ember, tries to make this film scary. He tries and I could see what he was going for. His long, smooth and stylised shots don't help to build suspense, which is clearly what he was trying to do, but they do look nice, so that's a plus. The problem is, I don't think Kenan is that familiar with what makes a horror movie suspenseful. He shows everything, which is what the original was so good at not doing. It hid stuff from the audience, not even showing what it looks like in the spirt world. Kenyan does the opposite, showing what's behind every single scare.
When the original movie ended, I was still trembling. Not because it pulls a found footage trick on us and ends with the biggest, most nonsensical scare of all, but because I still didn't know what Carroll Anne experienced. I was still unsure of what it was like in the place she was. There's a feeling of dread and sickness that comes with the fear of the unknown. In Poltergeist, this feeling didn't come once. We see her in this realm. We see her walking around and interacting with spirits and it's more comedic than it is frightening.
To sum up, Poltergeist tries to hit all the same beats and scares as the first film, but really fails with its unlikeable and unsympathetic characters, a severe lack of suspense, clichéd dialogue and plenty of in your face moments. This film is subtlety at its lowest.