One of the most horrific things to beset the United States in the last bunch of years is all the gun violence we've been seeing. This is fertile ground for horror movies, if done respectably, because horror is how we work through such things, both in the writing, the creating, and in the watching.
A number of years ago, there was a shooting in a theatre in Aurora, Colorado, at the premiere of the Dark Knight Rises, and that's where Joker's Poltergeist takes off.
The story centers around a similar shooting for a similar movie, perpetrated by a man in a clown mask. He gets stopped by another man in a clown mask with a gun, who gets haled as a hero for the act.
A year later, the daughter of the theatre owner who died in the massacre, is seeking to finally reopen the theatre, but is running into opposition by people who think it should be demolished to honour the memories of those who died, and who wants to sit in a theatre where people were brutally murdered??
Which is when weird things start happening, as Aurora (Yes, they named her after the city. Stay classy, movie!) is working to get the theatre cleaned up, and hosting a debate on the very subject of her family's theatre being open, and she starts to see strange things. You can shrug off the strange people in clown masks as PTSD, or bad dreams, but when she nearly takes her boyfriend's face off with a gun, she has a lot of healing to still go through. And let me tell ya, LIVING IN THE THEATRE is probably not helping matters!! That might cut back on the chanting nightmare people saying, "YOU SHOULDN'T LIKE GUNS! YOU SHOULDN'T LIKE GUNS! YOU SHOULDN'T LIKE GUNS!" Yeah, the movie's not subtle. (Although, the movie seems to be PRO gun, but the lack of subtlety of the anti-gun types saying that to someone is borderline strawman.)
The plot tosses in the typical gun violence arguments, and especially the "but he was stppped by someone else with a gun!" since we had that guy. And look. I'm not anti-gun. I'm not pro-gun either. If people want 'em, they should be allowed to have them, within reason, and there should also be reasonable means to control who should and should not have them. And I sure don't have those answers. There is a middle ground to be found there, and there is a healthy debate to be had...and this movie is not the place to have it.
Sure, the movie tries throwing in its viewpoints on things, and gives some time to other viewpoints, but it ultimately brushes them aside, gives them no real space to develop beyond the typical sound bites we've all heard, as it rockets towards its freaky supernatural conclusion.
This movie *claims* to star Eric Roberts and Martin Kove, but they might as well have phoned in the performances. They're in this movie as much as someone doing the news on the tv is in a movie. Someone basically went their homes, filmed their scenes addressing the camera, and those scenes get spliced into the movie by being played on the theatre's screen. Which is added hilarity, because they're not ACTUALLY played on the nicely available screen RIGHT THERE, and instead are superimposed onto the movie. And done pretty badly half the time. They couldn't even be bothered to get the framing right half the time, and it creeps over foreground objects! But hey, if the story is good, silly little goofs like that don't ruin a movie.
And the story is not great, so oh well. The main thrust of the idea is that the killer from a year ago, is still haunting the theatre, along with the victims, and they can cross over into the real world and become real again if, um, something. Who knows? Also, they might not be dead, or real, or unreal...the movie kinda plays fuzzy and loose with its own rules, but in general you can get the idea, it's just the details that are a mush. Also, there's someone lying about something involving the massacre, and you can probably even figure it out from what I've said. In short, the liar is revealed, and immediately kills himself to wrap up the plot.
And the quality of writing is highlighted in one scene in particular. At one point, the survivors are trapped in the main theatre room, the doors magically locked (Except when the plot needs them not to be, but ahem...) They figure they can get out if they can just get up to the balcony, which has access to the projectionist booth, but no one can figure a way to get up there.
INCLUDING THE WRITERS OF THE MOVIE.
Because, while being chased by mystical men in clown masks, Aurora manages to someone have a nightmare, and when she wakes up, she is suddenly on the balcony. Because the plot demanded it, and the writers could not come up with a way to get her up there so...SHE JUST SUDDENLY IS. That's astoundingly shoddy writing right there and it blows my mind they did that.
The movie WANTS to be poignant about gun control, it WANTS to have something to say, but it can't be bothered to develop its ideas, and the ideas it does spend time on are more silly and half baked than scary. It's almost borderline insulting and insensitive to actual survivors, by making their survival some sort of mystical plot, but whatever. I can get behind a movie being offensive to tell a story, or to make people think, if it actually bothered t do that.
Eric Roberts gives a typically solid enough performance, as does Martin Kove, IF ONLY THEY WERE WITH EVEN ONE OTHER CAST MEMBER. Their *characters* are in the theatre during the massacre, obviously, but since they're both in clown masks, you just know they're stand ins. Sigh. Why do I keep finding Eric Roberts movies where he almost literally is phoning it in? Which I hate using that phrase, because he's STILL the best part!
The plot is a mess, the selling points on the marquee are only in the movie technically, and the movie gets a bit heavy handed with its message. It's almost worth seeing with a group for fun, but it's not a good movie by any stretch. It had an opportunity to be a serious horror movie with a message, but it instead ends up being silly and a mess of ideas.
But hey, how can you not want to see a movie with such amazingly delivered dialogue like, "You shouldn't thank me, you should THANK THIS KNIFE!!"