Tuesday, October 7, 2014


The Freelings live in Cuesta Verde, a planned community created by Steve's company. Diane is a housewife who takes care of her children Dana, Robbie, and Carol Anne. One day, objects just start moving by themselves in the family's kitchen. The family is delighted at first until a tree tries to kill their son and their daughter is missing. The Freelings employ the help of parapsychologists to get their daughter back. Who are these spirits and why do they want Carol Anne?

Poltergeist is the haunted house movie that I measure all others against. Very few have reached even close to its achievement, so I'm not a huge fan of most of them. Poltergeist, although made in 1982, isn't as predictable and steeped in tropes as many much newer films like The Conjuring or Insidious. So many of the scares come from out of nowhere: the tree almost eating the little boy, the face scene, and the ending (including that creepy clown and the spreading of the haunting to the entire neighborhood). The suspense is expertly sustained throughout the film and actually has occasional significant scares to justify the high suspense level (again, unlike many recent films). The practical effects have held up well over the years. So many moments are equally creepy to child me and adult me. I still can't believe the film is rated PG because I had so many nightmares as a kid and it is still a very memorable and scary film.

One of the main strengths of the film is the family. They have to be sympathetic or the plot just wouldn't work. The beginning establishes them as a normal, everyday family. They disagree and fight, but ultimately love each other. The happenings at the beginning start out as fun family events. Chairs and children are slid across the floor by some unseen force and it's all fun and games until Carol Anne, the angelic looking 5 year old, goes missing. The family stays united even as they mourn for their lost member. Their pain is poignant and the viewer can't help but feel for them. The scene where the parapsychologists first come to the house is perfectly performed. The family hears Carol Anne running from something and she ends up running through her mother, who breaks down with emotion because it's the first physical contact she's had since her child has been gone. JoBeth Williams is amazing and I can't watch the scene without crying. Heather O'Rourke isn't the best child actor, but her delivery of the line "They're here" will live on in horror movie history forever. Craig T. Nelson as Steve is more skeptical than his wife, but no less caring about his daughter. I like that Poltergeist takes the time to get to know the family because if we don't care about them, the film falls flat.

The ending is wholly unexpected. After rescuing Carol Anne, the house should be clean, but the spirits return with a vengeance, exposing the dead buried under the neighborhood. It's just another example of a corporation making shortcuts in their business and allowing the public to face the repercussions while they reap the profits. The company was surveying another cemetery earlier in the film, showing active planning to build another community without moving the dead. This theme has been in film for a long time and is still quite relevant today.

Poltergeist is the perfect haunted house film. It avoids a lot of common tropes and proves to stand the test of time. I was on the edge of my seat the entire film and it felt that anything could happen at any time. I love this movie and will definitely revisit it for years to come.

My rating: 10/10 fishmuffins

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