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Written by / 5/21/2015 / 1 Comment / , , , ,

STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS THE ORIGINAL POLTERGEIST

year: 1982 rating: ****
Although executive produced and not technically directed by Steven Spielberg, who was busy with E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL, few projects have perfectly encompassed the successful and groundbreaking filmmakers' style and overall rhythm, while fulfilling his college dream of creating a genuine horror flick, as the iconic POLTERGEIST: beginning with a spooky introduction wherein a television actually… get ready for a shock, millennials… ceases programming late at night following the Star Spangled Banner – the screen becomes "snow" and a little blond girl, Carol Anne, played by the late Heather O’Rourke, is summoned from her bed, puts her hands to the static and utters the famous line…

JoBeth Williams
Well you know that line, and many know the film already…

A taut combination of at least two horror sub-genres, Haunted House and Paranormal Research, POLTERGEIST exists within the suspenseful collision of either, introducing the family at a newly developed semi rural suburbia, a pivotal character in itself…

Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are cool parents of three kids, and only two really matter. Sadly, in real life, a few years before O'Rourke's death, teenage daughter Dominique Dunne, playing the temperamental and eventually absent teenage daughter, was killed by her boyfriend – catapulting the “Poltergeist curse" that unfortunately adds to the overall pop culture spell of the original vehicle and eventual franchise.

Nelson &amp O'Rourke
Behind the lens, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE auteur Tobe Hooper channels Spielberg’s lavish vision, beginning with random odd occurrences that are, by the ex-hippie parentals, mistaken as simply good vibrations at first… that is until Carol Anne vanishes into the television set, and then into the clutches of the house itself, which, by the time professional researchers arrive, has gone completely bonkers…

Send in the Clown
Expository scenes where Beatrice Straight and her two assistants perform a sort of ghostly stakeout within the central living room, as Carol’s voice echoes through the shadowy walls, are both entertaining and educational – also showing how the family has become like seasoned war vets, hardly scared or even skittish after everything that's happened previously: arguably making up the best scenes, free from what would become a bit too much frantic screeching, exist within the mysterious and even humorous 45-minute initial buildup, which includes smoking grass, remote controls, sudden furniture stacking, and a dead parakeet...

No Bozos After This
And there's an underrated horror starlet in JoBeth Williams’ Diane Freeling, keeping a strong connection with her daughter even as scene-stealing, ghost channeling Zelda Rubinstein, as Tangina, a sort of mystic Columbo and the film’s most memorable cult figure, arrives: butting heads with Nelson’s stalwart father/husband Steve while trying to coax Carol Anne towards, and away from, "the Light"...

But it’s Oliver Robins as young son Robbie Freeling, attacked by his infamous clown doll not long after a nightmarish tree grabs him into a menacing thunderstorm, who goes through the most hellish torture – that’s if you don’t count the guy who pulls his face off under heavy bathroom lights, supplying Tobe Hooper fans a taste of 70’s exploitation smoothly combined with Spielberg’s stylistic vision that earns genuine chills while avoiding cheap thrills, and eventually focuses on not only the house but where it was built, giving the tagline and famous dialogue “They’re here” a deeper meaning since, basically, "they" never left: it's the family that moved in.
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1 comment:

  1. A great review. A great movie. I'm not a fan of the horror movie genre, very few appeal to me, but this was one of the rare ones that zapped my head wide open. I really loved this movie. Thanks to cable television when they only had one channel of HBO or SHOWTIME or THE MOVIE CHANNEL and very few movies that they would repeatedly play all day all night I saw this movie at least 100 times. I just re-watched it recently, haven't seen it in 25 years, I still love it just as much now as I did then. Great stuff.

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