Synopsis of “Poltergeist” via IMDb:
“As a family moves into their new home, they notice strange events that mostly affect their young daughter.”
In anticipation of another (pointless) remake, I was personally asked by Ms Shannon McGrew to review the original “Poltergeist”. It is almost impossible for me to give an unbiased review of this classic movie. Yes, I used the adjective “classic” to describe this film as it is now over 30 years old. 33 years old, to be exact. It was released in the US on June 4, 1982 and while I was not lucky enough to see it in the cinema, I was able to view it countless times on cable. Allow me to reiterate. Countless. Times. More times than I have fingers and toes to count on. So please be prepared for an entirely biased review of a modern horror classic.
“Poltergeist” is a movie that is not only entertaining on a cinematic level, but also rich in urban legends, and steeped in tales of a troubled production. I’m sure most readers have heard of the “Poltergeist Curse”, and if you haven’t I will explain briefly; several of the actors perished in seemingly odd ways after filming, the most famous of them being Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne) who died at age 12 during surgery to repair a bowel obstruction. As for the troubled production, the film was directed by Tobe Hooper (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) and produced by Steven Spielberg (“Jaws”, etc.). The trouble was apparently that Spielberg became heavy-handed while Hooper stood aside. This of course is all hearsay but I will admit that the movie certainly had that Spielberg touch.
Aside from all of the urban legends and production issues, this movie is just plain good. The story centers on a nuclear family living in a newly built sub-division complete with a dog and friendly neighbors. All seems right with the world until young Carol Anne starts talking to the “TV People”. It’s just a child’s imagination gone awry, right? And then, the kitchen chairs piled themselves on the table, duh! That’s just one of the many modern conveniences afforded by living in a brand spanking new home isn’t it? No. The family is actually being haunted by a poltergeist.
I have numerous memories from this film, one being the amazing score by Jerry Goldsmith (“Alien”). It has resonated with me for over 30 years. I still get chills when I hear the children’s voices singing “La, la, la” to the haunting tune. Another memory that has planted itself in my head is the scene in the bathroom mirror. I try my best not to write “spoilers” in my reviews, even for movies that have been out for decades (and shame on you if you haven’t seen “Poltergeist”!), but *spoilers* there is one amazing moment of face-ripping gore.
I could go on, and on, and on but then we’d get into spoiler territory. My objective is to get you to see the movies I review positively, not become so bored you turn to Reality TV. I shall endeavor to conclude here with some final thoughts. The visual effects led by Richard Edlund (“Ghost Busters”) were spectacular for the time and the main actors (Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Dominique Dunne and Oliver Robins) really caused you to care about what was transpiring throughout. The fact that I was practically the same age (we’re both December babies) as young Carol Anne made the film totally relatable. The fact that I used to believe in ghosts certainly helped too. ;)
If you haven’t seen this movie, again shame on you, please do so before going out to see the remake/reboot. It has all of the charm and charisma of an early-80’s horror film that we all love. It has heart, scares, gore and a haunting score. It even has a cool “twist” to the storyline resulting in one of my favorite scenes in any horror film. I guarantee you will not regret it.
Scares: 1 (That clown, though)
Rewatchability: 1 (I’d honestly give this a 10/10 if could, if solely for nostalgic reasons)