Poltergeist 2015 is to Poltergeist '82 what today's shipped-frozen-to-the-store Pizza Hut dough is to the kneaded-on-site pies the chain's stoned cooks tossed in the Reagan era. It's the same kind of thing, with the same shape and some shared ingredients, but the texture's gone limp, and there's no sense of occasion about it, and there's some unpalatable goop stuffed in the crust. In a pinch, it beats pizzalessness -- but just barely.
The corporate strategy is straight-up remake: In this new Poltergeist, a family moves into a suburban development, grooves to some supernatural oddities, loses a kid inside a TV, and then spends too many scenes hollering at lights in a closet. The story's been given a minor tech upgrade -- you know that drone the son gets as a random gift will pay off later -- but don't expect major surprises.
Many of the scares are the same, which means fans of the original will likely be preoccupied comparing them: The scary clown doll is now a full box of scary clown dolls, which is remake-logic distilled to its essence. The body-horror sink grossout is dialed way back, because a '15 PG-13 would run home bawling if it ever saw an '82 PG.
A fitful, amusing Sam Rockwell plays the father, an ex-jock who introduces himself to a realtor by announcing the job from which he's been laid off. Rosemarie DeWitt's character, the family's wife and mother, is less well drawn, but DeWitt and Rockwell share a frisky, vibrant connection. The movie peaks with Mom complaining about her worn-out undies and Dad hopeful she might take them off. It's a shame that the ghosts have to arrive.