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Poltergeist saw Steven Spielberg try his hand at "horror" for the first time since Jaws, teaming up with Texas Chainsaw Massacre Director Tobe Hooper. It seems an odd pairing- Hooper's reputation for bleak, shocking films married to Spielberg's wistful all-American nostalgic view of life. Yet, it works thanks to a careful combination of tension, scares and heart.
The film's plot sees an ordinary American family experiencing strange events in their home. At first these are odd, yet innocuous, but become increasingly sinister, resulting in the family's young daughter disappearing, heard only as a distant voice emanating from the TV set.
Poltergeist is a masterpiece in tension building. It starts off light and fluffy. The opening sequences have some amusing vignettes of family life and we see them arguing and bickering together. Even when it becomes clear that something odd is happening (chairs reposition themselves, things move across the room of their own accord) it all seems like a bit of fun. Slowly, though, Hooper and Spielberg ramp up the tension, taking the film a little bit darker a scene at a time before the scares increase as the film reaches its finale.
This is Poltergeist's strength. It doesn't rely on cheap scares and jump moments to qualify as a horror film; it just takes an ordinary family and puts them into a pretty terrifying situation. Whilst there are a few moments that are intended to make the audience jump, these are pretty mild in the overall scheme of things. Indeed, by today's standards, Poltergeist doesn't really warrant its original 18 Certificate. Yet, this blending of low-grade terror with a smattering of scarier moments gives Poltergeist a slightly unsettling atmosphere.
OK, so Poltergeist's plot elements are a little mixed up at times when it comes to ghost lore (poltergeists, benevolent spirits, demons and possession are all thrown into the mix in some ill-defined way), but they hang together well enough to create a satisfying storyline. It might appear a little simplistic by today's standards, but it was pretty original in its day, bringing several new ideas to the ghost story genre. You could argue its influence is still being felt today: No Poltergeist; No Paranormal Activity.
It's also fair to say that the ending becomes a little overwrought. Having spent much of the film establishing a tense atmosphere Tobe Hooper allows things to run away from him a little in the final quarter. It becomes much more dependent on set-pieces and increased action and some of the terror dissipates as you watch a sequence of special effects and people running around screaming. It's a good enough ending; it's just a bit more generic and expected and not quite as good as what has gone before it.
Poltergeist is quite special effects heavy at times and as you might expect from a film made in 1982, some of the effects have dated badly (the sequence where a character peels off his own flesh was much talked about at my school at the time, but now looks rather laughable.) On the other hand, other effects have stood the test of time pretty well. The procession of souls down the stairway and the two demonic guardians, for example, still stand up to anything Hollywood could create today.
The tense atmosphere and interesting storyline are underpinned by some excellent performances. Craig T Nelson and Jobeth Williams are both well cast as the parents. Nelson does a fine job as the father struggling to cope with (and believe) the events that are taking place. Williams, meanwhile, is vulnerable, scared and convincingly feisty when she needs to be.
It's the two young kids who really excel, however. Ok, so both are Spielbergian stereotypes, but that doesn't matter too much. Robbie Freeling (Oliver Robins) is your typical "Gee Whizz" wide-eyed All American boy, yet is highly convincing, particularly when called upon to demonstrate fear. His portrayal of combined fear/shock when Carol Ann is first pulled into the TV is particularly convincing and puts some older, better actors I've seen to shame.
The late Heather O'Rourke (who tragically died at the age of 12 whilst filming Poltergeist III) meanwhile is a typical Spielbergian girl - cute and knowing, someone wise well beyond her years, but with a touching innocence. O'Rourke nails the role effortlessly, portraying all the various emotions the films require of her without apparently breaking sweat.
The main reason the cast works so well is because they convince as an ordinary family facing a terrifying situation, and they react exactly as you would expect: in disbelief, despair, fear and growing horror. It's this that gives the film its real impact. Sure, Poltergeist may appeal as a ghost story, but the reason it works so well is because these events are happening to "ordinary" people like you and I.
For a film which is now 30 years old, Poltergeist has aged surprisingly well. Many horror films from the 80s have dated badly due to an over-reliance on special effects or uninspiring storyline. Poltergeist is an exception. A slow-burning horror with a strong story, excellent acting and appropriate use of special effects, it's as good to watch today as it was when it first came out. Best of all, it can now be picked up really cheap (I got a new, sealed copy for £3), so there's really no excuse not to own it.
Director: Tobe Hooper
Running time: approx. 114 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
Spielberg's venture into horror writing and producing gave us this masterpiece of horror, Poltergeist. This is arguabley one of the best horros of all time, and deserves its place alongside The Shining, The Exorcist and The Omen as one of the 'big four'.
This was written and produced by Spielberg, but in the end it was directed by Tobe Hooper, who brought us the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And there are few directors who could have done it as much justice. This is a fabulous film that just moves and really does have enough thrills in it to make you scared.
A family (The Freelings) live in a small purpose built town in California. The man of the house, Steven, is a real estate man and has sold the majority of the houses in the purpose built town, little knowing that his life is about the change.
His daughter, Carol Ann, can hear voices coming from the TV. One night while she watches the static, the spirits come out and enter the house, At first they are pleyful, but soon they become a little more scary and angry, before they suck Carol An into the TV. It then becomes a rush as the family along with Ghost Hunters and a spirit guide all try to bring Carol Ann back before 'The Beast' gets her. At the same time, Steven's boss becomes worried that he will leave the company and comes to see him, offering him a larger house elsewhere. It's at this point that Steven realizes all the houses are built on old cemeteries and that this might be the reason for the haunting.
They are then able to bring Carol Ann back, but it's not all over, and the house really does come alive with horror.
This is one hell of a film. Though for shocks and pure evil it's not as good as the three other films I mentioned above, this does have a far more human element in it, and without a doubt some of the effects and moments of horror are handled far more expertly and less clumsily that in most other horror films. The acting is on form, though not some of the best. But again, the action more than makes up for it. You must watch this film, and when you do watch it at night and in the dark.
Poltergeist is a classic horror movie that was originally brought out in 1982 and this 25th Anniversary edition DVD is a great addition to anyone's collection. I have to admit for me I find these sorts of horror films more scary than the slasher type movies as this sort of paranormal activity disturbs me a bit more rather than just gore. Don't know why - it just does.
Anyway, Poltergeist is a more subtle horror movie and doesn't rely on vicitms being butchered and an outright frightening bloodfest.
The story revolves around the Freeling family that live in a pretty new house and Steven, the father works in a job that entails him selling other houses in other sections of their estate. His five-year old daughter Carol-Anne begins to talk to someone or something through the televesion static which is quite creepy. After that weird things start to happen in the house with things moving around for no apparent reason on their own. Before long Carol-Anne's brother Robbie is attacked by a spooky looking tree during a storm as things escalate. However, while all this is going on Carol is pulled through by some force through a portal in the closet. The family then believe they can hear their daughter's voice through the static on the TV.
As you imagine by now the family are pretty terrified so they bring in the help of a group of experts in an attempt to rescue Carol from the other side and the movie focuses it's attentions on this.
I think the plot is not too complicated to understand and it's interesting enough and fascinating to see how the initial things like items moving about and cutlery bending are light hearted but before long these strange goings on turn to real fear, especially when their daughter is sucked into the unknown. I think this very realistic in terms of you sit there thinking how you would react if this was happening...and I think at first you would laugh if you saw something moving on it's own, but then it would get creepy and scary.
Carol Anne is really the main character as the daughter but after she gets sucked through quite early on the plot turns to the attempts to get her back so things revolve around her even though she doesn't appear in the movie too much.
All the cast did a great job on this movie and really make it exciting and terrifying for the viewer through their actions and the way the portray their fear. They are portrayed as a very loving and close family which helps when the weird things start to happen to them as they stick together through the terror.
It is well worth watching if you haven't seen it and buying this DVD. It was only given a PG rating when it was realeased years ago as there are some disturbing parts in the movie that younger children would find upsetting so the new certificate awarded to the DVD is much more like it...For me this is better than the sequels that were made and is pretty scary.
So having resigned myself to the fact that we are snowed in today I made the decision to stay in where its warm and safe and got settled down to a few DVDs that I have been meaning to re-watch for ages but just haven't got round to.
First on my watch list today was the classic 'Poltergeist'; prompted by a review I had read on here the other day I dug out my copy and gave it a long overdue viewing and this is my review of this seminal horror film from 1982.
Film only review
Written by Stephen Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper the storyline follows the Freeling family as they begin to settle into their new home, the family is your stereotypical set up with mum, dad and three kids plus a few pets and they all seem happy in their new surroundings. The youngest child - Carol Anne seems to be unsettled on a night though and begins to sleep-walk and has conversations with the families television set, after a few bizarre occurrences with localised earthquakes and electrical storms Carol Anne tells her family, "They're here"
What at first appears to be a series of practical jokes being played on the family soon turns into something more sinister as Carol Anne goes missing, as the family frantically searches her brother - Robbie - hears his sister's voice coming from the television and the family is plunged into a nightmare.
Desperate for help the family call in a group of paranormal experts who witness the strange things that are happening in the house. The activity is the strongest and more extreme than they have ever seen before and realising that they are out of the depth they call in the help of psychic medium - Tangina.
With Tangina on the scene she explains where Carol Anne is and how the family can get her back but are the spirits going to allow her return without a fight? Watch for yourself and find out.
Opinion & thoughts
Poltergeist was one of the first horror films that I ever saw when I was about 10 years of age, I was probably a bit too young at that time to appreciate the film and I can remember being scared witless at some of the scenes. As I grew older I watched the film on many occasions and grew to love it, now that I'm an adult rewatching the film it still manages to tick all the boxes for what makes a great horror film in my opinion. I have always been open to the idea of the paranormal and even though the film pushed the believability boundaries a bit too far the idea that there are malevolent spirits in the afterlife is one that I find an intriguing concept.
Even though the film is over 25 years old now and has started to feel a little dated the strong acting ability of the cast more than makes up for a few dodgy special effects. Craig T Nelson and JoBeth Williams as the parents get their teeth into their roles and act with believability and passion. Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne is brilliant in her part and though real life tragedy ended this young girls potential to eventually blossom into a wonderful adult actress she will always be remembered for the part of Carol Anne. Stealing every scene she appears in is Zelda Rubenstein as Tangina, a small woman with a big heart she gives a passionate performance as the Psychic Medium and outshines everyone around her. Her performance in this film kick started her career and like O'Rourke she will be forever associated with this film and her role of Tangina.
The term "classic" gets bandied around a lot when it comes to film, but in the case of Poltergeist this is a tag that is well deserved. Given the fact it had Stephen Spielberg writing the story and screenplay and with the film being directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame you wouldn't expect anything other than a damn good film that fully satisfies.
There are some excellent scares that still manage to make me jump even today, and I can credit this film with being the one that started my clown phobia, if you haven't seen the film yourself then do watch out for it, the suspense and timing of that scene is particularly memorable.
This is a wonderful film that spawned a couple of sequels which although not as good as this are still watchable in their own right. For me though 'Poltergeist' rates as one of the best horror films of all time and gets a 5/5 Dooyoo star rating, if could only ever recommend one horror film to someone to watch then this would be it.
Available from the usual places, Amazon are currently selling the 25th Anniversary edition from 2007 for just £4.98 which is as good a bargain as you could possibly get.
Thank you for reading.
Directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre Director, Tobe Hooper, this is a horror film which is much more subtle and thoughtful, concentrating on the fear in what you can't see over what you can. Popular myth says that because Steven Spielberg was on the production crew of this film, his influence is absolutely clear in the style and direction of the film and it looks more like a Spielberg than Hooper film, but Spielberg has always denied this and whoever made it, it's a damned good film and one of the best in the genre.
The film begins with a group of ghosts communicating via static on the television with Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O'Rourke), a five year old girl, at first her parents think this is simply an overactive imagination as her conversations seem playful and childish, however things develop and following some form of disruption in the house, Carol Anne informs her family that 'They're here'!. This sets the scene for demonic action with glasses smashing without explanation, it gets worse and worse until a tree attempts to eat Carol Anne's brother Robbie (Oliver Robins), whilst their mum and dad (JoBeth Williams and Craig T Nelson) manage to prise Robbie away from the tree Carol Anne disappears and the family begin to hear her voice coming from the television.
The family call in parapsychologists (Experts in the paranormal) to help them find Carol Anne and return her, the parapsychologists are amazed at what they see with flying toys and spooky voices, they investigate and determine that these are poltergeists caught in a strange place between life and death who have got lost, they are attracted to Carol Anne for reasons which become clear and there is only one way to get rid of them, but will it work, will the family survive and will Carol Anne return?
Craig T. Nelson as Steve Freeling
JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling
Beatrice Straight as Dr. Lesh
Dominique Dunne as Dana Freeling
Oliver Robins as Robbie Freeling
Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne Freeling
Michael McManus as Ben Tuthill
Virginia Kiser as Mrs. Tuthill
Martin Casella as Marty
Richard Lawson as Ryan
Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina
Lou Perryman as Pugsley
Clair E. Leucart as Bulldozer Driver
James Karen as Mr. Teague
Jeff Shaw as Dirt Blocker
This is a creepy film I remember watching it as a child and it put me off watching television for ages, it is thoroughly scary and the explanations for the poltergeists and their behaviour is quite compelling. I watched the 25th Anniversary edition recently which includes interviews and found it a real treat, it has more in common with creepy recent films like the Orphanage than out and out schlock horror films of the period, yes there are salutes to horror such as the evil tree and bodies in the swimming pool but this is much more of a psychological horror than a physical one, the pace builds as the poltergeists turn from fun to nasty and the audience is drawn along with it.
O'Rourke as the little girl deserves a special mention, she is perfect in the role and mixes knowledge and innocence perfectly, her performance is even more interesting when we consider she died young due to strange circumstances.
The special edition has been digitally remastered and looks great and includes "They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists", a two part documentary making sense of the films production. The film has aged and due to this its not as frightening as I remember, but it is a masterclass in building tension and atmosphere and is a snip at £4.98 from Amazon.com.
In a brand new housing development The Freeling family seem like the picture of normality. However, one stormy and windy night their daughter is taken from them by poltergeists. With the help of some ghost hunters, Mr and Mrs Freeling must try their best to combat the evil spirits and try to find their daughter from the depths of the neverworld.
Poltergeist is a film I have strangely never seen before, but have wanted to for a long time. I suppose the fact that the film never had any real stars was the main reason I never gave it a chance, but the star power isn't really what lies behind its success. Craig T, Nelson and JoBeth Williams are excellent in their roles as the concerned parents, but it's the strange child Carole Anne ( Heather O'Rourke ) who is the most affecting.
The special effects are also well worth a mention. For 1982 the effects are excellent and even now look pretty good. The only poor bit of work was the old tree that comes smashing in the through the window, it looked very paper mache like. However, the scene where the ghost hunter pulls all the flesh from his own face was incredibly well done and very realistic.
Certainly there is a lot of the film that will be scary to a lot of people - especially those with an unnatural fear of clowns or things that go bump in the night - so you have been warned!
It was also apparent watching the film how much this film felt like a Spielberg directed film, rather than one he just produced. After researching the film a bit more it turned out this was actually what did happen. Spielberg took over the reigns from Tobe Hooper on many occasions throughout the film's production giving the film much more of a 'Spielberg' feel about it. There are some genuinely scary moments in the film which feel less like Spielberg and much more like the Texas Chainsaw Massacres' directorship on it. Hooper obviously had much more of a say in these sections and they are certainly the most memorable.
Although quite cheesy and 80's in parts, the film still holds up today as a decent horror film. Poltergeist still has the shocks and thrills of a good old-fashioned horror - very similar to that of The Exorcist, but with that Spielberg suburban shine. Highly recommended.
This is one of those films that does not seem to age; many films released at the same time used a lot of special effects which are now very outdated and can turn a serious film into an unintentional comedy. Poltergeist relies on a great story line and even better acting, especially from the children.
The film centres around a little girl, Carole Anne (Heather O'Rourke) and her family. Carole Anne has special psychic powers that first come to light after the death of her grandmother. However soon afterwards, spirits in the house kidnap Carole Anne much to the dismay and panic of the family. Carole Anne can still communicate with her family but only through the 'snow' channel on the television.
Specialists are called in to help but it soon turns out that much more help is needed!
Poltergeist is a film that you can watch again and again and never get tired of; it is well thought out and very well acted. The combination of Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Steven Spielburg as directors result in a fantastic film.
The Freeling family are initially pleased when they realise that their house has been taken over by poltergeists, who move furniture around for the family's amusement. Then the poltergeists begin to turn nasty, picking on the smallest member of the household, Carol Ann, whom they spirit away. The Freelings only contact with her thereafter is through the television, which seems to be a channel into another world. Desperately wanting to save her, the Freelings are forced to invite experts into their house to deal with the disturbances and reach into the other world. Will Carol Ann be safely returned to them?
Heather O'Rourke is generally thought to have been an excellent choice to play Carol Ann, and there is no doubt that visually, she is utterly adorable, all blonde hair and vivid blue eyes. Perhaps strangely though, she doesn't appear on-screen all that much - most of the time, all we hear is her voice as she tries to make contact with her mother via the television. Considering she was only about seven at the time of filming though, she does give a good performance, really connecting with the viewer. Tragically, Poltergeist and its sequels are pretty much all that the world is left of Heather now - she died of an unexpected illness not long after making Poltergeist 3. This is not the only death to beset the Poltergeist acting team - according to imdb.com, Dominique Dunne, who plays Carol Ann's older sister, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend when she was in her early twenties.
The Freelings are played by Craig T Nelson and JoBeth Williams. As a mother separated from her daughter, Williams is particularly good - I really believed her pain and she helps to make this film something special. As does her on-screen son, played by Oliver Robins, who isn't much older than Heather O'Rourke. Craig T Nelson gives a good enough performance, but it could have been played by more or less anyone - there is nothing outstanding about the performance, but because the focus is all on Mrs Freeling, he doesn't have much scope to do anything outstanding.
Two other characters are worth a mention. Dr Lesh, the Freelings' first contact with supernatural experts, is played by Beatrice Straight. She is an oldish woman with glasses so dodgy that it ought to be hard to take her seriously. Somehow though there is something appealing about her and her own fear of the happenings in the Freelings' home is infectious. Then there is Tangina, played by Zelda Rubinstein. She is an incredibly tiny woman with a high-pitched voice, and again, it should be hard to take her seriously, yet she is really convincing in the role. She would make a great film baddie, although she is on the side of the good here.
Based on a story by Steven Spielberg, this film is a ghost story with a difference - it is genuinely scary, and although directed by Tobe Hooper, it always feels like something created by Steven Spielberg. Made in 1982, the special effects are obviously not as good as they would be today, which, when coupled with the late seventies fashion of the main actors, does date the film. The ghostly apparitions, for example, look like something out of a cartoon, there is a lot of mad flashing lights that hurts the eyes, and way too much red coloured goo towards the end of the film. Nevertheless, this hardly matters because the story is so compelling that little faults like these are barely noticeable - to me at least.
The pacing of the film is great - there is never a chance to become bored, because no sooner has one event happened, there is another thread added to the story - and it is never entirely clear where the film is going. And just as you think it is over...it isn't. There is a rating of PG on the film, which I think is about right - although there is not much that is visually distressing for children, I can imagine that the concept of a little girl going to another world away from her parents and siblings, could be deeply disturbing for young children.
I really enjoyed watching this film again, and am pleasantly surprised to find that it is not so dated that it is unwatchable. I have seen it several times now, but seem to see something different in it each time - even better, it still makes me jump even though I know what is going to happen. Recommended, especially for late at night with a bottle of wine.
The 25th anniversary version of this DVD is available for £4.99, and comes complete with a documentary on poltergeists.
Diane: Sweetheart, do you remember last night when you woke up, and you said "They're here.'?
Carol Anne: Uh huh
Diane: Well, who did you mean?
Carol Anne: The TV People.
(Quote care off the Imdb.com quote alphabet)
After yet another unexpected wet Saturday night wash in I found myself without the will to go out and rent a movie in that unseasonable and now regular downpour, which means it was Dads Army repeats on BBC2 first and then delving into my special DVD collection (no, not that special DVD collection!) for the primetime, draw the curtains 9pm slot! The days of drawing the curtains for anything else seem a distant memory. Like that myth that's called man-made global warming!
The first hour of Poltergeist (translation from the German word "rumbling spirit") is really really scary, up there with the Exorcist, for me. And that's why it's in my movie cabinet. The last half-hour does get a little silly but still a great film in spite of that bit when the ghosts come into the real world. I'm a huge fan of Spielberg and although Tobe Hooper is supposed to have officially directed this on his behalf this has Spielberg's behind the lens eye all over it and that's why it's so good. Let's face it, we have all heard of Stephen Spielberg today but few know who Tobe Hooper is. That's why we know Spielberg probably directed it. When Variety Magazine later asked Stephen what his contribution was on the film he replied...
"Tobe isn't... a take-charge sort of guy. If a question was asked and an answer wasn't immediately forthcoming, I'd jump in and say what we could do. Tobe would nod agreement, and that become the process of collaboration."
(Variety Magazine, 1984...)
Spielberg was actually making the equally mesmeric E.T alongside the Poltergeist production and edit and its generally accepted Spielberg directed both, Poltergeist by de facto. Both movies were released around American Independence Day in 1982.
Craig T. Nelson ... Steve Freeling
JoBeth Williams ... Diane Freeling
Beatrice Straight ... Dr. Lesh
Dominique Dunne ... Dana Freeling
Oliver Robins ... Robbie Freeling
Heather O'Rourke ... Carol Anne Freeling
Michael McManus ... Ben Tuthill
Virginia Kiser ... Mrs. Tuthill
Martin Casella ... Marty (as Marty Casella)
Richard Lawson ... Ryan
Zelda Rubinstein ... Tangina
The Feelings are living a nice comfortable middle-class life in a cozy California suburb, dad Steve (Craig T Nelson) a successful realtor, mum (JoBeth Williams) a successful mom! But that's all about to change when strange things starts to happen in their family home. While dad is at work, mom and their smallest daughter Carol-Anne (the impossibly cute Heather O'Rourke), are witness to extraordinary paranormal goings on inside those four walls. But, rather refreshingly, they are not cowering in the corner and don't see this invasion as a threat, but reveling in their newly discovered playful phenomenon. Chairs are stacking themselves, lights are flickering on and off to the music, the girls are having a wale of a time.
Dad is soon in on the discovery and equally shocked and bamboozled in equal measure on what the hell is going on, the parents keeping it from their other two kids for now, Dan (Dominique Dunne) and Robbie (Oliver Robins). But things really get freaky when the extremely scary TV people turn up and little Carol-Anne is no longer on this particular spiritual plain.
Going to the cops and filing a missing persons report isn't quite the solution here so dad literally calls in the Ghostbusters. Mum and dad know roughly where Carol-Anne is so let's keep it in the family. The paranormal scientists, of course, have never seen anything like it, also scared witless and amazed at the same time at what's happening to this family and them, but in seriously short supply of solutions. That is, until, the queen Ghostbuster herself, Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein), is called in.
-The curse of Poltergeist-
All big movies that lose someone on set are usually awarded a curse to help hype the later DVD release, the recent Batman film currently going through the same hype. Heath Ledger topped himself during post-production and they lost a stuntman and a lighting technician during filming, Morgan Freeman's recent near death experience in the car smash pumping the myth. Well with Poltergeist there is some chicken on the bone when it comes to that curse as far as its actors bad luck goes. Heather O'Rourke, who played Carol-Anne, died of intestinal stenosis some six years later at just 12 years young, just after the third and awful sequel, and Dominique Dunn, who played her older sister, was strangled into brain death by her then ex-boyfriend just three months after filming finished from the first film. The reason the curse had legs was because director Tobe Hooper used real skeletons for the final swimming pool scene, something the actors didn't know about until the scene was shot and in the can. Heather and Dominique are buried in the same cemetery in Westwood near Beverley Hills. To further the myth the 1994 Northridge earthquake fault line ran directly under the actual house used in the film, duplicating the final scene, just failing to bring it down during the 6.8 Los Angeles quake.
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(C/O Imdb.com trivia alphabet)
The hands which pull the flesh off the investigator's face in the bathroom mirror are Steven Spielberg's.
The shot of the chairs that position themselves in the amazing balancing act on the table was all done in one take. As the camera panned along with JoBeth Williams, who was getting some cleaning materials, several crew members quickly set an already organized pyramid of chairs on the table, then took the single chairs away before the camera scrolled back.
Both of the terrors that plague young Robbie in the film came from Steven Spielberg's own fears as a child - a fear of clowns and a tree outside his window.
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- - -More quotes from the movie- - -
(Again C/O of the IMDB.com quote aphabet)
Tangina: Help me tie this around my waist.
Diane: What do you think you're doing?
Tangina: I'm going in after her.
Diane: She won't come to you. Let me go.
Tangina: You've never done this before.
Diane: Neither have you.
Tangina: You're right. You go.
Watching this again reminded me very much of the Kate and Gerry McCann case. You know your beautfiul daughter is missing but you cant touch or hold them where they are right now, yet the child is crying out for their mommy somehwere unknown. If you tell the cops where your think your kid might be they aint going to believe you and find you the chief suspect because your kid is not where it should be and now were you when she was abducted, in both cases the parents enjoying their favourite vice more than that relentless responsibility of a child. Kate and Gerry were supping a good wine in a Portuguese Tapz bar with friends, the Freelings were toking a good joint in the movie. But as parents knowif you take your eye of the kids for one minute your world can collapse. Whether the McCanns did what nine out of ten parents do when a child dissapears without trace in their parental home is neither here nor there but that helpless emotion of a child not with her mother when she really needs her really comes through here. That is the core emotion of the film as the helpess father looks on unable to change that situation. Craig T Nelson absoltely nails that moment when the father knows the maternal link is stronger then the paternal one and has to step aside and so be distanced from events.
Im not a huge fan of horror/ghost movies but theres a lot more to that simplistic genre in this film, a genunie scary mood piece that affects you when you are least expecting it. At the time it came it was geninuly creepy to be aprt of and even today it makes the hairs stand out on the back of your neck when the kid goes towards the TV. Coupled with the fact this is tradtional Spielberg family fanasty project combined with the guy who directed the original Texas Chansaw Masasacre, you really do end up with a scary cocktail here. If you feed in that visceral fear we all have of dying young then it really is something unique and still after all these years earns the dooyoo five stars. If you havent seen this film then it's the Goodfellas of supernatural horror flicks. Quite simply awesome.
- Special Features-
The re-release has digitally remastered picture and sound, and a two-part documentary: "They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists." It makes extensive use of clips from the film. For a premium priced rereleased DVD theres not much extra features here to justify this disc, again an excerise in vanity by the director (who ever that maybe) to touch up his masterpice and make yet more royalties.
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RuN-TiMe 114 minutes
Imdb.com scores it 7.4 out of 10.0 (23,546 votes)
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Im finding it very difficult to find the time these days to do pretty much anything that I want to do and tend to get it in the neck for being on the PC when I get a chance.
However, I have been looking forward to writing this review for quite a while now and therefore I am bloody well determined to write it!!! What review is worth the heartache (and more earache) of the other half moaning at me?
Drum roll please!
POLTERGEIST - 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION DVD
Ive always loved this movie. The fact that it was written and produced by Spielberg (though not directed by him as he was prevented from doing so as he was directing E.T. The Extra Terrestrial at the time) instantly made me like it as Im a fan of most things hes directed.
The directorial role went to Tobe Hooper who was most well known for having directed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Quite an appropriate director for a Spielberg penned scare-fest right? The thing is it was always disputed that Hooper had full control of the direction of Poltergeist as Spielberg would head straight over to the Poltergeist set when he was done for the day on the set of E.T.
Ive always thought that the entire film feels like a Spielberg movie right to its very core. Its hard to believe that Spielberg didnt actually direct the movie in any shape way or form. Its said that Spielberg would make a lot of the creative decisions and that Hooper would go along with them. I dont know if we will ever know exactly who directed what on Poltergeist BUT I will say that if Spielberg stepped aside and all of the directing was done by Hooper, then Poltergeist is without a doubt the best Spielberg movie he NEVER directed.
*** DID YOU KNOW? ***
Though the film was initially released with an R certificate in America, the film makers and studio managed to convince the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) to make it a PG.
Following initial outcry after Poltergeist was given the PG rating, the MPAA decided to create a new rating the PG-13.
The story of Poltergeist is actually a fairly simple, good old-fashioned ghost story.
When Steven and Diane Freeling move into their new home with their children Dana, Robbie and Carol Anne everything seems perfect. Steven works the company that built the neighbourhood and things couldnt be better.
However, their calm and tranquil lifestyle is turned on its head when a series of unexplainable events start to happen around the house. It all starts when Carol Anne sits in front of the TV that is displaying only static noise after all programmes have finished for the day. She appears to be conversing with someone but nothing can be heard by the rest of the family who are roused from their sleep upon hearing Carol Anne and witnessing the bizarre event.
When the programmes end on TV the following night and the static fills the screen Carol Anne (who is sleeping in her parents bed alongside Robbie following a very violent thunderstorm) awakens and moves toward the TV screen. This time, we can hear very faint whisperings as there are some faint orbs of light seen through the static. Carol Anne reaches slowly out to touch the screen but before she gets a chance to do so, a misty, spectral arm jolts out from the TV and quickly dissipates floating around her briefly before heading in a straight line through the wall above the headboard of Steven and Dianes bed.
As the energy passes through the wall, the entire room shakes as if caused by a very powerful earthquake. As Steven, Diane and Robbie sit bolt-upright in bed with fright, Carol Anne slowly turns around before declaring with a smile:
Indeed they are The events that follow start out innocently enough with the stacking of chairs in the kitchen and furniture being moved around seemingly of its own accord. However, things dont stay so light-hearted for long. A tree that is outside in the garden (that we are already aware that Robbie is scared of) smashes a huge arm-like branch through the window of the childrens bedroom and snatches Robbie and then goes on to try to eat him!
Steven and Diane run outside to try to rescue Robbie leaving Carol Anne alone and terrified in the bedroom. Sadly, this is exactly what the supernatural presence in the house wants. We find out that the tree with Robbie is simply a diversion from its true focus: Carol Anne.
Carol Anne looks on helplessly as the closet door swings open of its own accord. A bright, other-worldly light pours from the closet space and everything in the room begins to get sucked in through this portal to the other side. Carol Anne puts up a fight holding onto the bed headboard rail for as long as possible before she loses her grip and is sucked through to the other dimension.
Having rescued Robbie from the possessed tree, Steven and Diane are distraught when they realise that Carol Anne cannot be found any where. Amid all of the chaos of the search for Carol Anne, Steven and Diane are interrupted by Robbie who having just narrowly avoided being eaten by a tree is even more hysterical. When his parents go to him to try to calm him down, they hear Carol Annes voice.
Relief turns almost instantly to horror when they realise that Carol Annes voice is in fact coming from the speaker of their TV! There is nothing on the screen but static but Carol Anne can be heard calling for her parents and seems to be able to hear them.
As Steven and Diane realise that there is no sign of their daughter and realise that they are the victims of a power far beyond their comprehension, they decide to call in paranormal investigators.
WHO THEY GONNA CALL?
NOT Ghost Busters! Instead they call in Dr. Lesh and her two assistants Ryan and Marty to try to help them end their supernatural torment and to get their missing daughter back.
The acting in Poltergeist is just brilliant. Its one of those rarities where the group of actors and actresses (of all ages) have been brought together to play a family and do so with such conviction that you dont doubt for a second that they are a real family. This also makes it one of those films that doesnt come along very often where you not only care for the characters but also fear for their safety.
The cast chosen for Poltergeist just work so well together. However, a fair amount of the original cast members have died since the release of the film. This of course is mostly down to the fact that these things happen but with the deaths of the two actresses who played the Freeling daughters, it didnt take long for the media to speculate that there was now a Poltergeist Curse which was hanging over the cast and crew of the production. Whether there is actually a curse associated with the film we may never know but it does highlight real misfortunes of some involved with the film.
Steven Freeling is played by Craig T. Nelson and is very convincing in the role of a very loving father and husband. Craig T. Nelson has been in a huge amount of movies and television series. One of his biggest outings recently was a voice casting only but as Mr Incredible in the Pixar animation The Incredibles.
Diane Freeling is played by JoBeth Williams was a fantastic bit of casting as the mother who goes to any lengths to get back her missing child. JoBeth Williams has mainly appeared in television series including successful programmes such as 24 (Day 5 5pm 6pm).
Carol Anne Freeling is played by Heather ORourke. Heather appeared in some very successful TV series before landing the role of Carol Anne in Poltergeist including CHiPs and Happy Days. She went on to appear in both Poltergeist II: The Other Side and in Poltergeist III which was to be her final movie. Heather died at only 12 years of age from cardiopulmonary arrest and intestinal stenosis.
Robbie Freeling is played by Oliver Robins who has made only a few TV and movie appearances outside of the Poltergeist franchise. He also starred in Airplane II: The Sequel and an episode of the Twilight Zone in 1986. His last screen appearance was in Poltergeist II: The Other Side. He is still alive and hasnt yet fallen foul of the Poltergeist Curse. He has written and directed some projects within the last few years.
Dana Freeling is played by Dominique Dunne. Dominique had roles in many very successful TV series of the 1980s including Hart To Hart, Fame, CHiPs, St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues. She was also due to star in the sci-fi series V as the character Robin Maxwell but had only filmed a few little scenes before she was murdered by her then (ex-)boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney. During a rehearsal of lines at her house with fellow V co-star, David Packer, Sweeney showed up as Dominique had ended their turbulent relationship earlier that evening. Sweeney dragged Dominique outside where he strangled her until she was brain dead. Five days later, her life-support system was switched off and a very promising acting career was ended at the young age of 22. At the time of her murder, Sweeney was 26. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison for assault and unintentional manslaughter but was freed after only two and a half years.
Dr. Lesh is played by Beatrice Straight. She starred in a lot of television series including Wonder Woman and St. Elsewhere among others. Her acting brings a great deal of warmth to the film. She plays Dr. Lesh as someone who despite being very professional, cares a lot for the family she is trying to help. Beatrice straight died of pneumonia in 2001 at the age of 86. Its probably safe to assume that old age complications were the cause of her passing and not any curses.
The boss of Steven Freeling is Mr. Teague and is played by the well known and recognisable James Karen. He has starred in far too many hugely popular TV series and films to list here. He is a superb actor and has the honour of being the character that reveals the awful secret as to why the Freeling home is being haunted by angry spirits.
There are other lesser roles throughout the film and there is not one example of bad acting. The whole cast pulls together to bring to life a convincing, thrilling and chilling tale.
*** DID YOU KNOW? ***
The role of Carol Anne was almost given to Drew Barrymore. Heather ORourke ended up being cast as Spielberg wanted a child who was more angelic. However, Spielberg cast Barrymore as Gerty the little sister of Elliot in E.T.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS
The special effects remain special despite being 25 years old due to the skill of the people at George Lucas effects company Industrial Light and Magic. As always, ILM come up with the goods in convincing us that the spirits haunting the Freeling home are real.
Some of the effects may have been done differently these days if the film was made now with the age of CGI. However, part of the appeal of these effects is that they are still great despite being from a time when CGI was practically unheard of within movies. ILM created their effects
The effects created by ILM include spectral images that seem mainly composed of light as well as an entire house that is sucked into a vortex presumably through to the limbo where the spirits are.
Its nice to see good old fashioned practical effects created in studios that firstly dont actually look like theyve been created by someone and secondly stand the test of time considerably well like the film itself.
*** DID YOU KNOW? ***
The model of the house sucked in to the other-worldly vortex was about four feet across. It was laid on its back with the front door pointing straight up into a camera mounted above it facing down.
The effect of the house being sucked from our world to another was created by the model being sucked through an industrial strength vacuum beneath the model with the aid of one hundred wires being pulled and being blasted by pump-action shot guns.
The model took about four months to make and only two seconds to destroy. Thankfully, the effect was perfect and the results of this remarkable one-take wonder can be seen in the final film.
The music is especially worthy of mention as it backs the visuals up perfectly. The late, great Jerry Goldsmith composed the score for Poltergeist which has some very serene moments and some loud, heart-pounding points much like the film itself.
Jerry Goldsmith played with our fears and emotions as much as any of the visuals. There are some very playful pieces of music which would fit into any family friendly film but when the spirits let loose with their anger, so Goldsmith let loose with his fantastically dark side. Jerry Goldsmith died in 2004 at the age of 73 following a long battle with cancer. He scored so many TV series and films with incredible music including The Waltons (really!), Gremlins, The Omen, The Twilight Zone, Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (among other Star Trek projects), Rambo: First Blood, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Executive Decision among many, many more.
As a film fan, I have to say I am really grateful to all the music Jerry Goldsmith has left for this and future generations that will watch the films and TV series he scored.
So this is the long-awaited 25th anniversary release of Poltergeist. The question is: Just how special is it?
Upon getting my DVD which Id ordered at a very decent £9.99 from play.com, the first thing that caught my eye was the very shiny and lovely cardboard sleeve that was around the main disc box. Whether this will always be a feature on this title or not remains to be seen.
The cover on both the outer and inner sleeves are the same and feature a new and improved image that has always been on the cover of Poltergeist: Carol Anne kneeling in front of the television screen (with her back to us) with both her hands on the static-filled screen while a discarded teddy bear lies on the floor beside her.
Having owned a bare-bones version of the film that I bought across in Luxembourg when I lived and worked there, I had hoped for an all-singing, all-dancing animated menu. Alas I was to be disappointed. Theres only the image of Carol Anne in front of the TV (as seen on the DVD cover) tinted green as opposed to the usual blue this time accompanied by some of Jerry Goldsmiths great score.
The options are simply: Play Movie, Scene Selections, Special Features and Languages
The special features are somewhat lacklustre for such an eagerly anticipated release of a classic movie such as Poltergeist. There is a documentary titled: THEY ARE HERE: THE REAL WORLD OF POLTERGEISTS which can be played in two separate parts or played as a whole. The two separate segments are:
Part I Science Of The Spirits
This part of the documentary is 15 minutes 30 seconds long and features opinions of ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, psychics and other experts on the subject that help back up the notion that there simply has to be truth behind paranormal occurrences.
This first section also goes into new means that paranormal investigators use from the scientific to other new technologies. It also shows that they have to be sceptical until they find something that dispels the doubt
Part II Communing With The Dead
The second part of the documentary is 15 minutes 32 seconds long.
This concluding part features more interviews with mediums, psychics and others who have the gift (and sometimes the curse) that is being able to communicate with the dead.
It throws open lots of interesting questions about what may or may not happen to the human soul upon death and will probably make you think about it long after you watch it.
The documentary is very nicely edited and is a very polished production but its such a shame that these are the only extras included. It would have been fantastic to have had some making of footage from 1982 and perhaps interviews with the remaining cast members now. However, it may have been too painful for them to go back to their thoughts on this with the sad absence of Heather ORourke and Dominique Dunne.
Widescreen ratio: 2.40:1
The picture quality is fantastic given the age of the film. The picture has been digitally remastered. I used to own the widescreen video of Poltergeist which had a very nice picture transfer on it (as well as the original theatrical trailer and a tiny featurette both of which could have been added in this new DVD release). When I bought the previous vanilla DVD of Poltergeist, I was surprised and more than a little shocked to find that the picture quality was not as good as the VHS! The DVD transfer must have come from a different, slightly worse for wear print.
The first thing I did when I got this new release was to play the start of the film on the previous DVD and then the same on the new one. I instantly noticed that the picture quality on this new release is definitely a hell of a lot cleaner with hardly any of the scratches seen on the previous release. The other noticeable thing was that although the previous release had a great widescreen of 2.35:1, this new release has a widescreen ratio of 2.40:1. This means that you get even more of the image in the new release. I noticed this from the point where the opening credits roll. On the previous DVD, some of the longer names in the credits were slightly off the edge of the picture whereas this problem is not on the new release.
Dolby Digital 5.1 and
Dolby Digital 2.0
Although I have sadly not yet been able to hear Poltergeist in its new remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, I can say that this is a huge step forward from the previous release which only carried a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack.
Im certain that the 5.1 soundtrack will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. I cant wait to hear it in 5.1 one day but as my surround speakers are currently still at my parents place and Kate and I have a new baby in the house, I think room-shaking surround sound will be off the menu for quite some time.
MY HISTORY WITH THIS FILM
You have probably already realised that I love Poltergeist. It's definitely right up there with some of my all time favourites - but why?
The first time I saw any part of Poltergeist was many, many moons ago - back when I had been given a small black and white portable television one Christmas... (What a sign of the times! Black and white television!) I for whatever reason had been awake quite late (I should imagine) and when I sneaked on my TV very quietly, I recall catching the end of the film.
Of course, given my tender age and having only caught the tail-end of the film, I didn't quite understand everything I was seeing but I knew I was thrilled by the imagery even then - but don't recall being overly scared of it (maybe the impact was lessened by the small black and white TV picture).
Years later, I purchased the widescreen VHS video of the film and watched and enjoyed it several times. The thing that has always struck me as being perfect in this film is the portrayal of a thunder storm. My childhood fear was (and to a lesser degree still is) thunder and lightning - following my being caught outside in a thunder storm when I was only five years old.
Poltergeist features a child who is scared of the incoming thunder storm - only to be told by his father about counting from the point where you see the lightning to know if the storm is further away or nearer. This is such a realistic portrayal of a thunder storm (instead of the usual constant thunder and lightning that is found in so many other horror films) and a parental attempt to reduce the fear of it in a child.
This parental instinct is now in me follwing Kate and I having our little girl almost one month ago (correct at the time of typing this). I am determined that whenever Eva witnesses her first thunder storm when she is old enough to be aware of - and possibly afraid of - that I will do everything possible to ensure my nervousness of the storm won't show and that I can be as supportive to her as Steven Freeling is to Robbie in Poltergeist.
Yes, yes... I DO know Poltergeist is just a film BUT what I have said above proves that the portrayal of the Freeling family in the film is a very convincing and realistic one. This is the sign (in my book at least) of a great cast and great writing - when the family at the centre of the story doesn't reek of artificial and unconvincing dialogue. They just ARE a real family - who you can feel scared and worried about.
Perhaps my liking for the film is down to the Spielberg connection. I generally love a lot of the films he has directed - and whether or not he did direct Poltergeist is somehow irrelevant. The fact that he wrote the story tells me that Poltergeist was still his baby and although the film is quite dark compared to some of the other projects Spielberg has been involved in, it certainly contains a lot of the Spielberg magic I have come to love so much over the years.
Okay Its not an amazing DVD offering as far as the special features are concerned. Whether or not Warner Bros will eventually release an even better version of the remastered edition of the film with more deserving extras remains to be seen.
If however you love this film and want to get a new, cleaned up version with better picture and sound quality than youll have had before, then this release should be great for you.
Many thanks for reading this spooky review
P.S. Pleasant dreams! Mwah-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaaa!!!
Poltergeist is one of my favourite horror films. The opening scenes of the little girl watching the television is great,you do not expect anything to happen,and then a spooky hand comes out of the t.v,which made me jump.this is when things start to happen to little carol anne.she suddenly disappeares,and the parents are looking all over the house for her,with a rageing thunder storm going of (You know all the usual stuff you see in a horror film),after they search the house and no sign of her they wonder if she has fallen into the pool they are having build,its full of water and here dad jumps in to see if she is drowned but nothing no sign of her at all.So where could she be,this is where all the action starts and the special effects start to happen,and you can imagine whats going to happen in a film by steven spielberge.i will not give to much of the story away in case you have not watched it before,all I will say is watch out for the ending?The special effects in this film are awesome.Watch it if you dare.
I’m not sure why but I love this movie and could watch it again and again. Not being a horror / ghost story fan I think it must be the special effects especially since it was made in 1982. The film is all about a family who move into a new neighbourhood and from the start we get straight into is there an afterlife and the fear of toys coming alive in the night. Produced by Stephen Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper for years I would not get up to close a wardrobe door once the lights went out. The parents Steve (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane (JoBeth Williams) are both hard working and have decide to purchase a house on a development that Steve is working on. With their three children Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robbins) and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) they like their new home. The kids are like any other kids being well natured but arguing a lot amongst each other. They have been there for five years to wake up one night to find Carol Anne talking to a TV set showing nothing but snow. They think she may be sleepwalking which is something that Diane did as a child. This soon changes as more and more little occurrences happen. Whilst trying to save their son Robbie from being eaten by a tree Steve and Diane are unaware that their daughter is being sucked into another dimension full of trapped souls trying to escape. They don’t know where she has gone until they hear her voice via the TV. The parents turn to a psychic who is an expert with the paranormal. She tells them that the creature that has sweet and innocent Carol Anne will not let her go. Anyway I will not tell you more as it spoils the end. The effects by George Lucas Arts are fantastic and very realistic, the characters are very good especially that of Carol Anne. Imaginative and spellbinding Poltergeist is a film that must be watched and I’m sure you will enjoy. 8 out of 10.
I saw the movie “poltergeist” when it first came out back in 1982 or 83. I really liked this movie and still enjoy watching it on video and cable. This is about a couple’s 5-year-old daughter starts talking to somebody in the TV set. This “somebody” is from “the other side” and decides to take the child to the other side because they are attracted to her life force. I will leave it to your imagination whether or not the kid comes out it okay. You will just have to see the movie for this one. Hey, by the way, you are very welcome. These people go to great lengths to get their daughter back. They get the parapsychologists and a psychic to fight off the specters and finally send in the big gun---MOMMY. The plot is pretty good. Of course like all good things there is always room for improvement. But the special effects are spectacular. Especially when the ghosts come down the stairs. I am going to finish this on one final note. Since we’re on the topic of special effects, the house that the family lived caves in on itself. It’s a truly strange effect. Good but it looks like the house just got eaten right up. But I did like this one. It was an experience.
Thanks to one shot in this move, I've always viewed raw steak with a bit of apprehension. But that just shows how effective a horror movie it is, though relatively family friendly! The basic story follows the Freeland family, an average American unit living on a new housing estate, the father works as an agent. Strange things start to happen - chairs move by themselves, toys move, and the creepy looking tree comes to life! After the youngest daughter, Carol Ann, is sucked into the TV set, a group of investigators are brought in to help save the little girl. Though produced by Steven Spielberg, and featuring many of his stylistic touches, the film is actually directed by Tobe Hooper, who made The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Spielberg actually had to take out a big press advert to tell people that he did not direct the movie, the film being so much closer to his style than any of Hooper's films. However, Hooper acquited himself quite well with handling this big budget movie, bringing subtlety and good performances to the movie. There are a great many effective moments, some delving into childhood fears, and some brilliant effects work. The final revelation about why this stuff is happening is intriguing, not least because it not only seems plausible, but is also based on a minor piece of San Francisco history.
Poltergeist is good film that proves that older scary films still have great potential to entertain as well as make you jump. This film may not have some of the spectacular special effects that recent films like Final Destination has, but with its limited special effects (compared to today films) I found that it still made the hairs on the back of my neck go on end on several occasions! The film revolves around a family, which moves into a new home. This home proves to be more than they bargained for, because it happens to be a centre of a number supernatural phenomenon. At first the family is baffled at the events, even slightly amused, but as they realise what terrible forces are in the house things take a turn for the worse when the youngest daughter CarolAnne is abducted by the poltergeists and taken to a supernatural plane of existence. The family then embarks in a battle to try and get back their daughter before it is too late. They get help from a group of paranormal experts, although they seem to be overwhelmed at times. I am not a particular fan of the horror/chiller genre but I still found this film entertaining. I suspect that if you are a fan of this type of film you will REALLY enjoy it. It is widely acknowledged as a classic and after seeing this film I don’t see why this accolade is not deserved. If you are squeamish, maybe not one for you!
Its been a long time coming, but at last the digitally remastered version of the original 1982 horror movie has arrived. Tobe Hooper, the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, teamed up with family-oriented producer Steven Spielberg to make Poltergeist, about a haunted suburban home in a development very much like the Arizona one in which Spielberg was raised. (Because it came out the same summer as Spielberg's E.T., it was tempting to see both movies as representing Spielberg's ambivalent feelings about childhood in suburbia. One was a fantasy, the other a nightmare.) Spielberg also co-wrote the screenplay, which taps into primal, childlike fears of monsters under the bed, monsters in the closet, sinister clown faces, and all manner of things that go bump in the night. At first, some of the odd happenings in the house are kind of funny and amusing, but they grow gradually creepier until the film climaxes in a terrifying special-effects extravaganza when five-year-old Carole Anne (Heather O'Rourke) is kidnapped by the spooks and held hostage in another dimension. Though not nearly as frightening as Hooper's magnum opus, or the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, which came along two years later, Poltergeist is one of the smartest and most entertaining horror pictures of its time. --Jim Emerson