Poltergeist (1982)
By: Mr Intolerance on September 19, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Warner Home Video (Australia). Region 2 & 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0, French DD 2.0, Italian DD 1.0. English, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Romanian, Bulgarian, English (FHI), Italian (FHI) subtitles. 109 minutes
The Movie
Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: JoBeth Williams, Craig T Nelson, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robbins, Heather O'Rourke
Screenplay: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
I first saw Poltergeist when I was ten years old as part of a double bill with Raiders of the Lost Ark. I went with a mate of mine, and we were happily munching popcorn and enjoying the boo-scares until one scene three-quarters of the way through the movie where my mate flung his popcorn sky-wards, screamed out, "Holy shit!" and dove under the seat in front of us. By the way, when I was best man at the same mates wedding, I told that story just to roundly embarrass him. It worked.  

The Freelings are a nice average family living in a new housing estate that father Steve (Craig T Nelson) helped to establish. This film is possibly the reason I don't fully trust real estate agents – you know what I'm referring to. We know things are amiss in the neighbourhood for three reasons: first Steve can't get good reception while trying to watch the Superbowl (interfered with by his neighbours' kids watching Mister Rogers), secondly, the family canary Tweety has died suddenly and mysteriously, and thirdly, youngest child 5 year old cute-as-a-button Carol-Anne (Heather O'Rourke) has started speaking with the "TV people", as she calls them, beings that can only communicate via the boob-tube when there's dead air.

Weird shit continues to escalate on the ole Freeling homestead, starting with moving furniture, and hitting a crescendo with Carol-Anne being somehow drawn into the netherworld of the TV People while youngest son Robbie is almost devoured by a tree. Yes, I know how that sounds. This is a film that starts with the boo-scares early, and doesn't let up, having some pretty iconic set pieces.

Yep, that's right, their daughter is in the TV, more or less. So the Freeling family do what anyone would do in the same situation, they call in a bunch of boffins from the local University to help solve things, but initially these people turn out to be as much use as a cunt full of warm beer, so more drastic measures must be taken. But not before we see some truly scary stuff happen. As a kid, I leapt a mile at some of the badness that happens, at 36 I still get a bit of a pleasurable tingle at them. Let me throw some words at the motherfuckers in the know: bite-mark, chicken leg, steak, face, mirror. If you've seen this film and those clues don't raise a few memories, you were probably making out with your date while the film was on. Or playing with yourself in the back row.

Debate still…well, not exactly rages, but is present among horror nerds, as to how much of this film is Tobe Hooper's, and how much is Steven Spielberg's. I really don't care too much one way or the other, as I really like it regardless. Nevertheless, there are parts of it you look at and can almost see the Spielberg stamp on; the sentimental, wishy-washy moments, basically. The bits with a bit more oomph smack of Hooper, although you have to remember, Spielberg was the guy who gave us Jaws. As a film-maker, he does know what he's doing, so you can't rule him out of the nasty stuff. Also, the bits I'm guessing are Hooper's do lack the polish the majority of the film achieves. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's worth bearing in mind. Nevertheless, this does very much seem like the work of two film-makers.

We find out a possible motive for the weirdness in the old Freeling place maybe two-thirds of the way through the film, and there's my instinctive distrust of real estate agents again. But there's still so much more to go. The scientists return with the cavalry in the unlikely and diminutive form of Tangina (Zelda Rubbinstein). Carol-Anne is rescued, but if you think this film is over, you've got a long way to go yet buddy-boy. We've got one final act to go, and it's a doozy. And there's no way I'm ruining it for you; watch it and find out the goodness which awaits.

I guess if this film's got any symbolic or allegorical meaning, it's gotta be to do with fear of the break-up of the family unit. This would fit certainly with my own experience – when this film was released, I was the only kid in my class from a single-parent family, within five years, we were the majority. Divorce and separation seemed a lot more common by then – and the fear of not seeing one of your parents again. On another level, it's the worst case of separation anxiety imaginable, looking at it from the kid's perspective. It's also kind of interesting that the character of Dana, the teenage daughter is never really made much of; she almost seems only tangentially a member of the Freeling household. But given its domestic setting, the family is definitely the key to unlocking any deeper mystery as to the films meaning, if you look for such things. 

And can I go on the record right here and now and tell you that JoBeth Williams was one hell of a hottie back in the day. Oh yes.

Can I just mention that I recently went and watched this at the cinema with some of the Sydney D.R.U.N.K.S. as a double bill with Enter The Dragon, and you'd better believe we enjoyed it. There's nothing like bootlegging drinks into a cinema and watching goodness.

Certainly up for the task, presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and 16:9 enhanced. This looks the business.
And it sounds prwtty good too. Might not be in 5.1, but it still has an edge to it. In other words, it'll still give you the same boo-scare wonderfulness it did when you were a kid. Or at least when I was.
Extra Features
Interactive menus and scene access are NOT special features. Maybe I should upgrade.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
This is obviously not the package to buy, given its total absence of special features (the 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is the best option at the moment), but Poltergeist is a movie to own, regardless of who actually directed it. Debate runs rampant about how much was Hooper and how much was Spielberg, but unless someone comes out of the closet and tells us, we'll never know. Who cares anyway? It's a great popcorn-munching fun-fest and still gives you the same shocks you did when you were 10.

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