Poltergeist (2015)

You probably remember the tragic fire at the MGM archives, where every single copy of the 1982 horror classic “Poltergeist” was destroyed, including, somehow, all the DVD and digital versions. I don’t recall the event myself, but it must have happened, because now there’s a “Poltergeist” remake, and why else would it exist? What other possible justification could there be?

How disappointing is this movie? It features the line “Where’d all these clowns come from?” yet is still useless. Dutifully following the same plot as the original, only now with bland CGI and slipshod characterization, it’s the story of a suburban family that moves into a house that is haunted because it was built on a cemetery. The little girl (Kennedi Clements) talks to invisible people; the scaredy-cat boy (Kyle Catlett) is traumatized by a box of clown dolls left in the attic; the bratty teenage sister (Saxon Sharbino) gets stuck in black sludge that rises from the basement.

At the film’s halfway point, the parents (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) become convinced that the supernatural terrors their children report are real (once the little one goes into the TV), and they bring in a team of paranormal investigators. (These investigators are much more frightened by the house’s spooky activities than the family is, by the way. The family just seems flustered.)

Director Gil Kenan’s first film was the animated junior scare-flick “Monster House,” which would seem to be good practice for “Poltergeist.” But his remake, written with vanilla-flavored disinterest by David Lindsay-Abaire, rushes through all the story beats — scary tree, clown doll, maggot hallucination, etc. — with no sense of proportion, let alone suspense, as if he’s ticking them off a checklist. The movie has the same form as the original, but none of the substance. Cinematically speaking, they kept the headstones but got rid of the bodies.

URGENT UPDATE: I just checked, the original “Poltergeist” is readily available in all popular video formats, including digital rentals through iTunes and Amazon! The need for a remake that improves upon the original in no discernible way is thus obviated, and it will, I assume, be withdrawn from circulation.

C (1 hr., 33 min.; PG-13, a little mild profanity and some suggestive dialogue; a lot of intense, supposedly scary stuff.)