Just six more films to review (including this one) before the magical number that is 365 is reached. The home stretch is here. Ahhh… feels good. Now this is the last Monday of the project, but I will keep writing and reviewing and generally having fun discussing the horror genre. I’m looking forward to being able to write more in depth about particular topics that I want to discuss (like best ‘80s horror movie moms and other abstract topics). I’m even working on a horror / comedy web comic that will be released shortly after the project finishes (will be available right here on this site). And I will continue writing a couple columns over at Bloody-Disgusting.com. So yeah, I’ll be staying busy.
Poltergeist is just so damn good. Stephen Spielberg’s classic story is one of the most frightening and instantly recognizable horror films within the genre – rightfully so. Blending humor, excellent storytelling and outright frights seamlessly is something that is incredibly rare in horror. This isn’t just a great genre film; it’s a great film period. A lot can be and has been said about Spielberg’s (and his working on E.T. during the same time as this film) influence over Tobe Hooper’s direction, but it took the both of them to make this movie work. Hooper injected pure terror and Spielberg ensured strong characters and his trademark charm were present throughout. And it turned out wonderfully scary. Of course, have Industrial Light and Magic providing Oscar worthy effects, which still hold up well today, didn’t hurt either.
The story weaves around a family that is haunted by spirits in their suburban track home. It’s all good and fun until little Carol Anne is dragged into the spirit world. This sets off a chain of events including paranormal investigators, clairvoyants, and lots of Craig T. Nelson. Turns out that Mr. Nelson’s boss pulled some shenanigans and built a bunch of houses on top of a burial ground. These spirits weren’t happy, so stealing a child 7 years after the fact seemed like the most appropriate thing to do.
As a kid, Poltergeist and Stephen King’s IT were the two most influential clown hate movies around. I wonder if Ronald McDonald would seem less creepy if it wasn’t for those flicks. No, you are right. He is probably a pedophile. I mean, who hangs around kids and weird purple blob creatures while handing out treats. The scene I refer to in this film involves Robbie and his satanic looking clown. The clown gets all uppity and decides to attempt to strangle the poor kid with its creepy long appendages. It’s ridiculously scary by any standards and makes anything Chucky tried to pull off laughable. This clown should have gotten its own sequel. How awesome would that have been?
Lots of things combined, as mentioned, to make this film great, but the humor in the film clearly stands out. It’s not cheesy humor, but realistic and relatable – just like the family. From the paranormal investigator shaking nervously while trying to drink her coffee to the mother having a hysterical laugh over chairs that move all by themselves – these scenes make all the in between action so memorable (not to mention quotable). The matter of fact attitude the family has about the spirits is quite funny in itself. And all of their performances and the supporting actors as well are top notch. They remain believable even in the midst of a ridiculous situation.
As good as it is, Poltergeist does have plenty of flaws, but most of them are kinda comical and small – especially for a horror film. And there’s no since picking out minute things like the fact that it doesn’t make sense that spirits didn’t do any haunting during the first 6-7 years that the family lived there. Or that graves surely would have been found when the family put in its pool (well over 6 feet deep). It’s just a movie and it’s meant to be entertaining – which it is.
May all the real life stars that died as part of the curse that this film created RIP (Google it if you don’t know the story).
Snore Factor: Z