POLTERGEIST 25TH ANNIVERSARY
Reviewed by: JimmyO
Craig T. Nelson
What's it about
The Freelings are a typical upper middle class suburban family. They live in a lovely community of houses that all look the same that are side by side with perfect lawns. But when their little girl, Carol Anne begins communicating with the television, something is awakened in the house. And soon, whoever or whatever she is speaking to, takes her with them into their world leaving the rest of the family desperately trying to bring her back.
Is it good movie?
Bogus! You heard me… I’m calling bogus on Hollywood as of late. In the past few years, who doesn’t cringe when they hear that some horror film is coming out and it has been given the family friendly PG-13? Why? Because the majority of them are awful. So how does that explain Poltergeist? This is a ghost story, with children and a PG rating. Did I say PG? Yes, I sure as hell did. So how can this PG rated spook show be one of the most awe-inspiring films about haunted houses of all time. Forget haunted houses, this is probably one of the best films in the past several decades. It is terrifying. It is emotional. And it has several other layers that include rich characters, spooky images and even a fantastic script.
The film, which is directed by Tobe Hooper, although it seems common knowledge that a majority of the input went to Steven Spielberg, is a compelling ride into the unknown. When we meet the Freelings, they are instantly likeable. JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson are both extremely charismatic as Diane and Steve, a well off couple that are raising three kids. The children include Carol Anne, Robbie and Dana, the oldest. Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins and Dominick Dunne are also terrific in the roles that usually are grating. This is a perfect family that I developed a strong connection to. It is also worth noting the tragic loss of both Heather and Dana at too young an age, not to mention several others that have suffered the “Potergeist Curse”. Perhaps it makes the film even more powerful because of they’re untimely deaths.
When young Carol Anne begins acting strange with sleepwalking and starting conversations with the television, Steve and Diane begin to worry. But nothing really seems that out of place. Until one day when Diane finds the kitchen chairs seem to have a mind of their own. All of the supernatural activity seems harmless in the beginning, playful even. But soon, things get serious and they find that their baby girl has disappeared. Desperately looking throughout the house, Robbie hears his baby sister calling out, as her voice is emulating from the television. Realizing that there is something paranormal, mom and dad seek the help of a group of ghost hunters. When they come to investigate, they find that it is far from your typical haunting, so they decide to bring in Tangina, Zelda Rubinstein in an unforgettable role as a psychic.
Now, whoever really directed this worked wonders with the typical Hollywood ghost story. At one minute, it’s clever, the next it is frightening, this is the kind of film that holds up better than you could ever imagine. There is something timeless that even the couple of effects that are not so special, do not distract from the story. This is a wonderfully told story that gives us characters to root for, some creative special effects and a script that works on almost every single level. It’s a difficult task for a genre film to balance wonderment and fear, but Poltergeist pulls it off effortlessly. I wonder if the creative differences between Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg somehow made the film the glorious success it is today. Either way, this is a marvelous achievement in horror that looks just as good today as it did twenty-five years ago.
Video / Audio
Video: This restored and remastered 1.66:1 widescreen transfer is brilliant. In fact, it is so good it almost makes up for the ridiculous lack of extras.
Audio: Same here, this is a wonderful sounding remastered soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0. So what’s up Warner? What about the extras?
Pitiful. Yes, it’s pitiful. How can you release this fantastic looking 25th anniversary edition and not even have the trailer? What we do get is an entertaining (but short) documentary in two parts called They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists Revealed which includes Part One, Science of the Spirits (15:26) and Part Two, Communicating with the Dead (15:29). Both include interviews with scientists and psychics and “ghost hunters”. They offer up a few fascinating ideas behind the search for those that have not gone into the light. But seriously… am I missing a disc? I’m actually praying for a double dip on this one because this can’t be all they have (and from what I’ve heard, it’s not). So I guess I’ll still be waiting for another release.
Poltergeist proves that if you have a solid script, great direction and a wonderfully charismatic cast, you can make a great horror film, no matter the rating. Although, I’m guessing this would have been rated PG-13 if it had been released now. Yet it still manages to be one of the most satisfying horror stories around. From evil trees, to the monster in the closet, there are several aspects of the film which are still frightening. Also worth mentioning is the over the top score by Jerry Goldsmith who deserves credit for adding an extra layer of magic (or by making it an obvious Spielberg film… if you like it or not, you can decide for yourself). If you don’t own this yet, I would recommend the purchase because it isn’t that expensive and the transfer is phenomenal. But if you want to wait for when the real release with a ton of extras comes out… you’re a much more patient person than I. “They‘re here“… and they’ve never looked better.