By Brett Mullins
Directed by Tobe Hooper; Produced by Stephen Spielberg
Poltergeist is a iconic sci-fi/horror film from the 1980s that managed to elude my viewing for several years. I wrote the film off as a ‘creepy child’ film and a predecessor to the modern J-Horror classics, such as The Ring. Fortunately, this was a grossly inaccurate assumption.
The Freelings are a middle class Californian family living in a massive housing neighborhood. The children are happy and quaint, while the parents are successful ex-hippies. Their overly normal life is punctuated by a series of paranormal events that manifest into the kidnapping of the youngest child into another world.
Despite the film’s PG rating, Poltergeist is able to provide constant tension and moments of thrills and chills. This is solely the result of precise filmmaking that appears to be lost on much of today’s horror cinema. No amount of blood and gore can equate to the careful placement of a clown doll or a frightening human-like tree. This goes to show that the imagination holds more power than the eyes.
Equally as impressive as the filmmaking is the simplicity and believability of the plot. Though the film is quite eventful, the plot never goes beyond the comprehension of the audience; well, if it does, then it is a fault of the audience. Instead of spitting out information for over one hundred minutes, the film closely observes the family and allows the audience to deduce the information slowly. This accounts for both the film’s simplicity and believability and, ultimately, leads to the film being entertaining.
Stephen Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper should be applauded for producing a film that sheds the vulgarity of exploitation films while providing a spooky and enjoyable experience.