Poltergeist was released in 1982 and was directed by Tobe Hooper…or was it Steven Spielberg? There’s still arguments to this day on who actually directed this movie and I can see why. The tone of the film and how it looks wreaks of Spielberg while some of the horror elements definitely spell Hooper. While both are great minds, if they each had roles for certain elements of the film, it shows as I am still conflicted on my final thoughts on this film.
It would be a vast change in direction for Hooper as eight years prior, he was the mind behind The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Texas Chain Saw is a fright fest and the tension steps on the audiences’ throat throughout the whole movie. With Poltergeist, it’s a fun, haunted house joy ride as the Freeling Family tries to bring back their daughter, Carol Anne, from a ghostly dimension.
We get Spielberg’s imprint in the special effects. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial came out in theaters just a week after Poltergeist and when you compare the effects with lighting in both films, they are very similar. I’m gonna have to revisit E.T. some day but from what I remember as a child, there are similar effects in both movies. There’s a sense of grandeur with the special effects as a part of you is in awe of this paranormal activity but it is also terrifying because the family is in absolute horror, and that’s the best part of this movie.
The Freeling Family is outstanding as they portray the terror and sadness of missing Carol Anne. JoBeth Williams gives a performance unlike any other in a ghost movie. Craig T. Nelson, who is the voice actor of Bob Parr in The Incredibles films, is also terrific. The dialogue between every character flows very well and feels like improv. You never feel as though these characters are acting. While the dialogue and character-developing moments are great, they are enveloped in this movie’s downfall and that is the pacing.
Sadly, this movie is a slow-burner. While its runtime is only 114 minutes, it felt three+ hours long. There were points, inside my head, where I was begging for this movie to end. Scenes linger way too long and don’t keep the plot progressing. We pause a lot and while it leads to some great individual performances and some realistic reactions that the kids have, it doesn’t help a movie like this.
Fun, ghost movies like Poltergeist should be surface-level. There’s nothing wrong with surface-level when you have a supernatural film like this. However, this film tries too hard to be something its not. There are hints at underlying symbolism to Christianity that aren’t explored in the slightest. When the movie tries to be deep, that’s when it fails. I don’t hate it but it definitely lost my attention in these moments.
You can have a blast with this movie. I think this movie provides some great scares that kids and pre-teens will enjoy. However, I feel like Hooper and Spielberg both had their hands in this, which lead to some contrasting tones and a film that tries to be more than what it is, and that is a fun, haunted-house thrill ride.
If you haven’t seen it Poltergeist yet or want to rewatch it, the film is available on Netflix.
10 down, 21 to go.