Quick Hit: Allow Spielberg and Hooper to show you how to truly haunt a house.
Is it my fault that apparently I’m in an “A” happy mood? No, it’s actually Shannon’s, as she selected all the movies for 80s and 90s weeks. However, I’m getting to watch a lot of good movies, which is fun. And Poltergeist is a great example of a good movie – one that realizes that what scares us is relating to a family and then watching bad things happen to them.
That’s a key point that a lot of modern horror films forget when they open with a slaying. If you don’t have time to become bonded to a character, you care less about their plight. I think Poltergeist gave a true masterclass in the art of making you care for a family. Part of that is Spielberg’s obvious influence on the script and film, but I think a lot of credit has to go towards Hooper’s direction. The way the film focuses on its characters builds a lot of spirit in the small town suburban family – which is why it’s all the more terrifying to watch them be torn apart.
I think a lot of people forget that this movie was full of brand new special effects at the time, because they look a bit hokey now. But credit needs to come, particularly when the bodies start to fly for the realism that is affected by them. Those bodies rising out of the ground are scary, and will make you think twice about digging a pool. The influence that the spinning room full of objects and the haunted closet had on hour was immediately apparent.
This is also a good example of good casting. Sure, Oliver Robins drives me bonkers in this movie, but no one can deny that his character of Robbie has some very relatable scenes – who hasn’t been scared of a tree at some point or another? Couple that with Heather O’Rourke’s Carol Anne, who is just cute enough to be a misnomer. When she looks around and says “They’re here….” Who doesn’t get a little bit creeped out? I especially like the fact that the two parents go through the entire gamut here – first the mother wants to experiment, going as far as using her child as an experimental piece in the kitchen – before, you know, she’s sucked into the closet. But my favorite character is that little lady played by Zelda Rubinstein. Just this side of camp, her performance is one of my favorite side characters in all of horror – and I’ve watched quite a bit of it.
So in the end, watch this one, and enjoy the 80s and Spielberg and Hooper at the top of their games. You won’t be disappointed. “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"