Poltergeist (1982) 31 Days of Horror: Terror-Thon at the Somerville Theatre   Leave a comment


JoBeth Williams and her husband Craig T. Nelson live an idyllic life. They love each other and their three children and live a comfortable, middle-class life in a suburban subdivision in California. So one day, their youngest daughter, the adorable Heather O’Rourke, gets swallowed up by the television. Uh huh. They call a team of parapsychologists (like you do) led by the wonderful Beatrice Straight, to investigate and soon discover a weird spectral world hanging around their staircase.


It sounds too silly to work, but the cast which also includes James Karen, and the cooler than cool Zelda Rubinstein makes you believe it. The script, written by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor brings the characters to life and gives them great stuff to work with. I’ve seen this film many times and the dialogue and characters never get old for me. They’re too real. I buy into the whole thing. These people are really a family and they’re desperate to believe these spiritual specialists can save their little girl.


The ghost hunters’ earnest beliefs and their sympathy for the beleaguered family makes the whole thing work. Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Salem’s Lot) directed Poltergeist wonderfully as a suburban dream turned nightmare. He also it with a sense of humor and some real heart. imdb lists 105 people from Industrial Light and Magic for the visual effects credit. I have no doubt of this. The effects are spectacular. Ghosts, skeletons, and demonic forces run amok and are truly frightening. Seeing Poltergeist in the theatre allowed me to notice something else. The sets look right. The little details ring true even to the wallpaper swatch books leaning against the master bedroom wall. I’ve seldom seen this film on any top ten lists and I’m not sure why. It’s a real gem.

Clowns are never a good idea.



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