I saw Poltergeist when it first came out in 1982. The film features an eight-year-old boy named Robbie who gets attacked by a tree outside his window. When I first saw the film, I was also an eight-year-old boy named Robbie with a tree outside my window. Later in the film, Robbie gets attacked by a clown doll. I never owned a clown doll… just in case.
It’s been at least a decade, maybe two, since I saw Poltergeist. I still think it’s great, and like any great horror film, it works on multiple levels. The film contains plenty of scares, but as with many (most?) Spielberg productions, it attacks your heartstrings as well. As a kid, the idea of ghosts pulling me into a television was scary. As an adult, the concept of losing a child and not being able to rescue him or her is horrifying.
In Poltergeist, five-year-old Carol Anne makes contact with “the TV People,” who turn out to be spirits from beyond communicating through the Freeling’s television. The contacts increase in frequency and the poltergeists increase in power until Carol Anne is pulled into the spiritual void. The Freelings bring in a trio of paranormal investigators to search for their daughter, but when the trio of researchers realize that this is no prank and that this is outside of their scope, they bring in Tangina, a psychic with the knowledge and strength to formulate a plan to rescue Carol Anne.
For the most part I feel like this movie still stands up as most of the themes (corporate greed and the loss of a child) are timeless. As for the special effects, I’d say some stood the test of time while some (Marty’s bathroom hallucination) looked laughably fake.
Poltergeist was followed by the almost-as-good Poltergeist 2, the not-so-great Poltergeist 3, and the television series Poltergeist: The Legacy. Some (if not all of these) attempted to build on the back story surrounding the hauntings, but I felt like the first film gave us all that we needed.
A remake Poltergeist is currently underway and set to be released in 2015. I am sure the special effects will be better. I am not sure it will be a better film.
(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)