"Poltergeist" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Haunted house movies are very common in the horror genre, and there's only a select few that standout as being great. It's perhaps no surprise that when the director of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", Tobe Hooper, partnered with the great Steven Spielberg, something great was in store for the eager audiences in 1982. Their horror movie, "Poltergeist", is perhaps one of the greatest haunted house horror films ever made, and has stood the test of time all these years later.
The film is centered around a normal suburban family who seem to have a very good life. The husband, Steve (Craig T. Nelson), is a realtor who has a very successful career in selling the homes around his neighborhood, working for a company that rolls out new homes in phases. Because of that, his wife, Diane (JoBeth Williams) is able to be a stay-at-home mom, caring for their three kids, Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke). They seem like the normal family who has to go to school and work, with weekends reserved for football games and family time.
However, the house they are living in is far from normal. It is unbeknownst to the family that their house was built on an old Native American burial ground, which angers the spirits that linger there. The family is then haunted by the spirits that were relocated, taking Carol Anne captive in the in-between dimension of life and death. Now trying to figure out how to rescue their daughter and get rid of this curse that is plaguing their family, Steve and Diane turn to paranormal activity experts, Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight) and Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein), to help them get rid of the evil spirits that want to hurt their family.
This movie is hands down one of the most classic and spooky horror movies that have ever been released. It garnered a PG rating when first released, making it a more family-friendly horror movie, but still has the aspects present to terrify and thrill audiences, both young and old. However, the movie doesn't have to try too hard to strike fear into the hearts of the viewers, leaving much to the imagination. While it does contain terrifying imagery and supernatural presences in the movie, it is much more terrifying to imagine what little Carol Anne is going through throughout a majority of this movie.
When they do show the ghostly presence and the demonic toys or items around the house, Spielberg and Hooper does an incredible job. Consider the scene where the demonic clown toy attacks young Robbie in their last night at the house. The jump scare isn't too extreme, but it does strike fear into the hearts of the viewer, especially those that are younger. It makes them fear that their toys can attack them at any instance throughout the night. Yet, at the same time, how Hooper shot the movie was by showing and expressing the fear in the young boy as he tries to go to sleep with the clown watching him. It takes the adult audience back to their own childhood and how they have experienced the same fears as the young boy. Not only does it truly spook the children watching this film, but takes their parents back to their own childhood horrors.
The cast features a slew of unknown actors whose careers were jump-started by this film. For example, Nelson went on to star in TV shows like "Coach" and movies like Pixar's "The Incredibles". Every actor in this movie gives an incredible and genuine performance, which is what helped start their careers. Especially Nelson and Williams, who have the most-screen time on film. They are both world-renowned actors and display their talent on the screen. However, the standout role here is O'Rourke's portrayal of the youngest child. Who doesn't get chills down their spine when she says "They're Here!" in such a sweet and innocent voice? She perfectly is able to capture the innocence of this character, as well as the horror of having to deal with these paranormal spirits.
You have to give credit where credit is due, and that is to Spielberg and Hooper. To really get their actors in the right headspace to shoot this movie, they used things such as real skeletons in the pool scene and scared their actors on set to make them realize how terrifying this movie needs to be. Sure, it may sound like an abuse of power in a way, but the actors have all gone on to credit the director and the producer as being a major player behind the success of this film. Spielberg, who wrote, produced, and shadow directed this movie (based off numerous reports), really took this idea of his and turned it into a terrifying reality.