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MicroReview: American Poltergeist (2015)

Horrific visions torment Taryn when she, her brother and college pals move into an infamous old house. Then, her bloody hallucinations become all too real.


A film is made of layers. One layer would be the direction, for example. Another the writing, another the acting, and so on. A problem on one layer can destabilize the structure, but not topple it. The more problems in the structure, the wonkier it gets. Rarely does a film fall due to the issues.

American Poltergeist comes close.

Ultra-low budget films do not have to be bad. And this is. Both. And there are many layers causing destabilization. I'll disregard the acting, however. Many actors give a performance drawn out by the director, who, in this case failed. The main cast have some solid performances under their belts (Chasing Ghosts, Entourage, Alien: Resurrection, et al), so we'll place the benefit of the doubt at their feet.

But let's look at writer / director Michael Rutkowski. Working as a Production Assistant on a slew of major movies makes you a writer / director, not. Having a couple of shorts and this under his belt, Rutkowski doesn't do good work here. Camera shot, and such is fine from a directorial pov, there are even some good shots. But he cannot work with people. The cast gangly about with zero direction. They run like children between scenes. Literally. And it's funny. Which is bad.

And, sadly, the writing is worse. The film borders on nonsensical. The arcing plot is fine, if not bland,
but character motivations and choices, the dialogue...sheesh.

Could it have been saved if it were scary? Sure. But it's not. 50 minutes into the 80 minute runtime we have a New Years Eve party (where five people turn up) - and we get the first kill. The kills are off-screen. There is no tension (apart from whether the basement door will be locked in this scene!). It's at Michael Rutkowski's feet.

Poor attempt.

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