American Poltergeist whether it means to or not (I don’t think it does mean to) ends up being more comedy than horror. From the opening scene – which is reminiscent of Scary Movie 3’s opening sequence – the horror of Lilith Ratchet just doesn’t come off very horrory. This is ultimately down to the writing, which delivers an unoriginal premise and bad dialogue (the only thing truly scary in this film). I am reluctant to criticise the acting too much as for the most part it wasn’t actually too bad, and the script they were working with surely didn’t help matters. In fact, the actors were able to make you care about some of the characters…to an extent.
An example of the writing not quite being up to scratch is how they handle the primary threat in American Poltergeist, which is of course the ghost of Lilith Ratchet. The film introduces her face on in the first few minutes of the film, not even trying to tease the audience or draw out any level of suspense. Her back story is then delivered in full quite soon after. Unfortunately, the mystery around the ghost (which is quite often the scariest thing) is completely taken away, which is a shame. This means that when she does start killing off our main characters it just feels blunt and not scary.
Furthermore, technically-wise it doesn’t have much to show. The make-up and effects of Lilith are in particular quite weird (although, being the wimp I am, still managed to creep me out a tad); the music is ok but unfortunately can’t save what’s happening on screen. Perhaps this would have made for a better short film or concept piece because as a feature film it all falls quite short,
I would say however, that despite (or for) the above I did enjoy it, or at least the first half. I can certainly see how this could become a cult it – it 100% fits under the so bad it’s good category. Weird effects, bad dialogue, funny and weird characters who you still care about. I could see this being a fun film to watch with a group of friends, or in a small cinema somewhere.
All in all, American Poltergeist is not a very good film, but it is entertaining, and sometimes that is all you need.