This movie was really disappointing. I was really hoping I’d like it more, especially with Sam Raimi’s name attached to it, but the original is better in almost every way. I say “almost” because there were a couple things this movie did well: the special effects and the stupid old tree. So many of the scenes were much more believable in this movie than in the original, in appearance if nothing else.
To be fair, if I’d never seen the original I probably would have rated this one higher. It’s creepy and well paced and the underlying story is the same. But since the original is just so damn good, my opinion of this one suffers a bit.
From the very beginning, it’s clear that these kids aren’t nearly as adorable or endearing as the Freelings. It’s not the actors themselves, though — everyone delivers a great performance, but they don’t have the chemistry or charisma of the Freelings. Sadly they also don’t have the sense of humor of the Freelings either, which makes the film a bit boring at times. A couple lines from the original made it to this script as well but didn’t land in the same way.
I could go on about how Sam Rockwell’s character didn’t project the same sense of worry and shock and exhaustion that Craig T. Nelson’s did, or how Madison didn’t exude the same “life force” that drew the spirits to Carol Anne, but rather than discussing all the poor casting choices I’ll focus on the few good ones. Jane Adams as Dr. Claire Powell and her two crew members were great choices. Of course, that could be because their characters were the least interesting in the original script and the least interesting in this one — and I can’t think of anyone better than Jane Adams to play the least interesting character in a script. Which isn’t to say she’s not talented, because she absolutely is…just maybe a bit pigeonholed.
I also didn’t understand the change to the family’s financial situation. In the original, there were no money troubles — the spirits were apparently stirred by construction of an in-ground swimming pool, not by the family moving to a new house. In fact, it was the father’s success in selling houses on the grounds that allowed them to afford the pool, a fact which didn’t seem to escape him at all. And I didn’t understand the change of scenery to Moline, one of the most boring cities in Illinois. Or how the family decided that when the dad lost his job, it was time to pack up and move to a new house? Maybe that’s what the change of scenery was meant to explain?
Anyway, if you’ve never seen either film and you’re interested in both, I suggest watching this remake before the original rather than the other way around. And if you only watch one, don’t make it this one.