Poltergeist (1982)

Dir. Tobe Hooper

This is one of those 1001 films I hate to see because I saw almost all of the film in pieces, but I still don’t feel comfortable claiming that I’ve “seen” it. So I have to see it. Most of you have probably already seen it, so I guess it’s pointless to recommend this to you or not. Larri really thought this sucked (not sure why), but I was surprised that I ultimately felt like it deserved a 6. One of the key questions I ask about older films in this genre is “does it hold up well?” For this film, I would say the answer is uneven, but the fact that it worked in some moments surprised me.

I don’t think a lot of the special effects held up well–particularly the scenes with the skeltons and coffins popping out of the ground; really, the whole popping out of skeletons is date and should be added with Dracula, wolfman and Frankenstein to the no-longer-scary list. But I have to admit there were some compelling and tense scenes, mainly caused by my concern for the little girl and the anguish of the mother; the idea that the girl was trapped and only the mother could keep her alive and bring her back sorta worked on me. (This may not have been the case if I just didn’t recently become a father.)

The family theme, the special effects and some other qualities made this feel more like a Steven Spielberg film (He was the producer) than a Tobe Hooper one. (He directed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But I don’t find the family themes as sacchrine and over-sentimental as I do in later Speilberg films. Whatever.

The other thing that might be worth looking into is the meaning of TV in this film and the previous one I just reviewed, Ringu. Both are updating older ghost stories by using TV or video as a key theme/prop. Analyzing the significance of the TV/video in both films might turn up interesting insights. My sense is that TV in both film signify or hint at the way TV gets in the way of family life. The little girl, Carol-Anne (in Poltergeist) is trapped in the TV, which could represent the way TV actually captures and traps children from their parents.

I haven’t seen Poltergeist since the 80s, but I enjoyed it then and remember it fondly. The Poltergeist Curse has always been kind of interesting to me, too. I can see how it might not age well; perhaps I won’t see it again just so I can continue to remember it the way I do now.

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