Poltergeist (1982) Movie Review
A family, a house, some ghosts… What could possibly go wrong right? Tobe Hooper’s paranormal shocker is still one of the most frightening flicks!
Genre: Horror / Thriller Director: Tobe Hooper Cast: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Oliver Robins, Heather O’Rourke, Dominique Dunne, Beatrice Straight, Richard Lawson, Martin Casella & Zelda Rubinstein. Run Time: 114 min. US Release: 04 June 1982 UK Release: 16 September 1982 German Release: 23 September 1982
As a little taster for the upcoming Poltergeist remake that stars Sam Rockwell, I decided to review the original horror flick from 1982. I haven’t seen it since I was sixteen and was therefore surprised when I threw it into the player. In all sincerity, I didn’t expect the picture to still look as good as it did! Being older now, as well as having more experience in the craft of moviemaking, I found a new appreciation for this paranormal feature.
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
Poltergeist is an eighties American horror feature, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Beatrice Straight and Richard Lawson. This is the movie that inspired the modern supernatural and paranormal horror motion pictures and is one of the most successful horror productions ever.
The plot concerns a family living in the fictional Cuesta Verde, who is visited by Ghosts in their home. At first, they appear harmless, only moving stuff around the house, but when they kidnap the youngest daughter into another dimension, the family seeks professional help. While trying to get back their daughter, the family is being terrorised by something darker than the spirits.
The story for this feature is good, but I did find it lacking some more background. We get thrown straight into the life of a family, who is experiencing a moment of crisis and don’t get any actual information on who these people are. Yes, we get simple things about where the father works and who the neighbours are, but that is it and although it is a horror movie I did wish for a little more information on whom we are dealing with. After all, we are supposed to feel sympathy for this family.
That having been said, I love how the story builds suspense right from the beginning. From the moment the broadcasting on the TV ends, and the white noise appears the movie is a non-stop thrill ride. Another thing I loved about the story is its subtle message. TV did change the dynamic in a family home, and we get to see that in this movie. The members don’t really communicate with each other and the dad mostly hangs out in the living room watching football broadcasts and being unresponsive. All that changes when ghosts take little Carol Anne (the youngest daughter) into their dimension, and the only way to communicate with her is through the Television set.
Now the dialogue was strange at times, but then again it was a family that, although happy, was dysfunctional due to their addiction to television. I really liked how they started growing together during the paranormal events that took place and become a strong collective again. Still there have been moments, like the scene when they talked to the neighbours, where I thought that some of the dialogue was written poorly.
I did like most of the characters, Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams have been great as the leads, and I really enjoyed the presence of Beatrice Straight as Dr. Lesh. But, apart from Heather O’Rourke who played Carol Anne, the other two children were really annoying! Especially Robbie who was a spoiled little brat. Other than that I actually thought the cast was superb.
The camera work is the best part of the film! It was simply brilliant. It contains one of my favourite beginnings of all time. The way we follow the family dog during the night, going through each room in search of food, just to abruptly cut back to the living room where the TV changes to white noise static. All shots throughout its runtime have been great. I won’t go into details to avoid heavy spoilers, but pay attention to the kitchen scene right after breakfast and the children’s bedroom scene at the end. That is great camerawork!
Since this film is from the early eighties some of the effects are a little dated, but most of them still hold up and this really surprised me! Examples of effects that still look good are: The telekinetic pull scene in the kitchen, the portal entrance (white light) and exit still look amazing, and the final scene of the house was great! The Light effects and the stock-motion demon did not age that well, but it doesn’t look bad.
Verdict: Overall, Poltergeist is one of my favourite horror flicks. It has very creepy scenes, a good story that inflicts horror since the opening sequence, solid performances, especially by the young Heather O’Rourke, as well as solid effects and great cinematography! If you have not seen this gem of a shocker, I do recommend you go watch it! Poltergeist gets an 8.0 out of 10.
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