It has been years since I first saw Poltergeist. Since then, I have seen it again every so often, though I don't remember some things from the movie. I recently decided to add the movie to my DVD collection and I just watched it for the first time in years.
The Freeling family lives in a fairly new subdivision and Steven works selling houses in other sections of the project. Five-year-old Carol Anne starts talking to someone through the television when it is on a channel of static. Some weird things start to happen after that, with things moving around the house. It isn't long before Robbie, Carol Anne's brother, is attacked by a spooky looking tree during a storm. While Steven and Diane are dealing with the tree to get Robbie back, a force pulls Carol Anne through some sort of portal in the closet. Later the family discovers that they can hear Carl Anne communicating through the static on the television. Steven and Diane bring in a group of parapsychologists in an attempt to get Carol Anne back. Dr. Lesh, Ryan and Marty are surprised by the things they see in the house. Soon, Dr. Lesh brings in Tangina, a medium, to help.
I don't consider the plot for Poltergeist to be simple, but it really isn't complicated either. Some time is taken to introduce the characters and set up things. I did remember a few things wrong from when I saw the movie years ago. I had been thinking that the family hadn't been in the house for that long, but according to things said during the movie, they have been there at least five years. That does make me wonder why it took so long for the poltergeist to start doing things in the house. Most of the movie is focused on Carol Anne being missing and how the attempts to get her back. I do think the plot is interesting and makes for an entertaining movie.
Carol Anne is first shown communicating with someone or something through the static on the television fairly early in Poltergeist. After that, other odd things start happening around the house. The things seem innocent at first, with chairs moving or utensils being bent. Diane seems to get a kick out of the things after gets over her initial fear. Then things turn sinister when a creepy tree attacks Robbie and Carol Anne is taken. A few different ghostly things are shown during the movie, a few of which I had forgotten about. The effects were done well, especially considering when the movie was made. A few of the effects look a bit dated now, but overall, I think they have held up well.
Poltergeist is rated PG, which I think is a bit misleading. When the movie was made in 1982, there was no PG-13 rating. I do think some of what happens is a bit too extreme for a PG rating, though the R rating doesn't really fit either. People expecting a more mild scary movie because of the rating may be in for a surprise. It isn't family friendly and definitely not one for children to see despite the rating. There are some extreme things shown, like when one character hallucinates and seems to rip the flesh off his face. There really isn't a lot of violence to the movie, but there are some scare moments. Several things are downright creepy, like that tree that attacks Robbie and a toy clown. I have never had issues with clowns like some people, but I think if I had seen this movie as a child, I would have. The clown toy in this movie is downright freaky, even when it is supposed to be normal. Some swearing is used, though it isn't too extreme. Drug use is briefly shown at one point, something else that might upset some people.
The majority of what happens in Poltergeist revolves around Carol Anne even though she actually isn't in much of the movie. She is sucked through the portal thing not long into the movie and then the movie is focused on the attempts to get her back. She seems like a sweet little girl. Heather O'Rourke does fine with the part. Unfortunately, she died when she was only twelve years old. Dana is the oldest Freeling sibling. She is very freaked out by what happens in the house and she goes off to stay with a friend. She isn't actually attacked by anything like the rest of the family is. Dominique Dunne did fine with the part. Tragically, she was murdered by her abusive ex-boyfriend shortly after the movie was filmed.
Robbie is the middle child in the family and he and Carol Anne share a room. Robbie is freaked out by the tree outside their room which later ends up attacking him. He is around a little more than his sisters, but he is sent to stay with his grandmother at one point. Oliver Robbins did fine with the part. Steven works for the company responsible for the housing development where they live. He is a bit more skeptical about certain things than his wife. Craig T. Nelson did well with the part. Diane is more accepting of some of what is going on. JoBeth Williams does really well with the part. It is clear that Diane and Steven have a strong relationship and love their children.
Dr. Lesh, Ryan, and Marty are the people who come in to investigate what is going on in the house and try to get Carol Anne back. They all seem fascinated by what is going on in the house since it is like nothing they have seen before. Eventually Dr. Lesh brings in Tangina, a medium, to help with the situation. Tangina is a bit odd, but she seems to know a lot about what is going on. Zelda Rubinstein does well with the part.
Dominique Dunne - Dana Freeling
Craig T. Nelson - Steven Freeling
Heather O'Rourke - Carol Anne Freeling
Oliver Robbins - Robbie Freeling
Zelda Rubinstein - Tangina
JoBeth Williams - Diane Freeling
Tobe Hooper - Director
While double checking some things about Poltergeist, I learned more about the fact that there is some doubt about who actually directed the movie. Hooper is credited as the director, but evidently some people have said that Steven Speilberg, the producer, was actually on set more and did more of the actual directing.
There have been a few different DVD versions of Poltergeist released. My version is the 25th Anniversary Edition. There is a two part documentary, They are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists Revealed that has psychics and ghost hunters talking about different things related to ghosts and poltergeists. Science of the Spirits is more focused on the actual science that some use to prove or disprove ghosts. Communing With the Dead is more focused on talking about how people attempt to communicate with ghosts or spirits. I think both parts of the documentary are interesting and worth watching.
Poltergeist is a very entertaining, well done scary movie that has held up well and is still worth seeing. It spawned two sequels, neither of which were as successful. I did just discover that there are plans to make a new version of the movie. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet.
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