“Poltergeist” (1982)

MOVIE REVIEW: “Poltergeist” stars JoBeth Williams (The Big Chill, Kramer vs. Kramer), Heather O’Rourke (Happy Days [TV series], Surviving [TV Movie]), Craig T. Nelson (The Incredibles, Coach [TV series]), Oliver Robins (Airplane II: The Sequel, Man Overboard), Dominique Dunne (Breaking Away [TV series], Hart to Hart [TV series]), Beatrice Straight (Network, The Dain Curse), Martin Casella (RoboCop 2, Heart Like a Wheel), Richard Lawson (For Colored Girls, How Stella Got Her Groove Back), Zelda Rubinstein (Sixteen Candles, Southland Tales), Michael McManus (Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, Hot Shots! Part Deux), Virginia Kiser (Dreamscape, Space Raiders), and James Karen (The Pursuit of Happyness, The Return of the Living Dead). It is directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Invaders from Mars), and written by Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goonies), Michael Grais (Marked for Death, Cool World), and Mark Victor (Death Hunt, Secrets of the Unknown [TV Movie]).

A young family is terrorized by ghosts.

It’s about time we get some spooky review content on this site. The family sat down to watch “Poltergeist” the other night, and I’ve got some thoughts…

If you haven’t heard of this one, the plot is fairly basic (as you can tell by my brief synopsis above). Some poltergeists haunt an unsuspecting family. Crazy stuff goes down, ghostbusters are called, and an unsettling resolution is given. It’s a well-rounded, complete feature with plenty of spooks and fun for the whole family to enjoy (if you are into horror).

Set in the early 80’s and written by Steven Spielberg (who also produced, but did not direct?), “Poltergeist” enforces that friendly, wonder-charm that a typical Spielberg flick would. Only with a slight edge. Tobe Hooper of horror features helmed this one, and got to play around with some wild sequences. A kid-eating tree, a closet portal to another dimension, and that iconic static television that sparks whispers from the dead. It’s an iconic story with plenty to chew on, but more importantly, it’s entertaining.

My family enjoyed the experience, taking in the laughs and scares on the right cues. Of course, the movie isn’t as scary as one would think from the poster (not sure if that’s 80’s cheese, outdated-ness, or the fact that I watched it with a group), but it does a good job in creating energetic, frightful scenarios. The characters that inhabit the screen are a solid ensemble, with good performances all around. It was cool to see young Craig T. Nelson play a patriarchal figure (much like his take in “The Incredibles”), and the kids weren’t too shabby. The most peculiar, hilarious turn came from Zelda Rubinstein, who played a demon cleanser. Her look and voice had us all laughing.

For the most part, the movie holds up. The practical effects are effective, and even when they are outdated they play into the vibe that the whole film creates. Really, they give way to the overall fun of this picture, which is the key element. Sure it’s your familiar beat-by-beat horror, but it manages to entertain nonetheless. If I were to have faults for this movie, it would mainly lie in how it ends twice. There’s a false reprieve that threw me for a loop, extending the film by about twenty more minutes. While it upped the ante in spectacle, it didn’t feel necessary. By the end, it’s hard to settle when you aren’t sure if it is really over.

“Poltergeist” is an enjoyable October watch for the whole family. If you like old school thrills and ghost stories, you’ll like this one. FINAL SCORE: 83%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

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