Synopsis: A young family are visited by ghosts in their home. At first the ghosts appear friendly, moving objects around the house to the amusement of everyone, then they turn nasty and start to terrorize the family before they “kidnap” the youngest daughter. Left with no other options, the family invites various experts to their home to try and retrieve their daughter and get away from their not-so-safe abode.
Killer Scene: As I observed upon watching this film for the first time in a long time (see below for the rest of the story), it is one of the few truly great and terrifying horror films in which no one actually dies. At least, not during the runtime of the film. It involves plenty of dead people, all of whom died a long time ago, but no one actually dies (spoiler alert, straight from the early 80s). However, there is one badass scene in which the son (played by Oliver Robbins) is nearly swallowed whole by a tree. If that ain’t killer, I don’t know what is.
Violence: As I mentioned above, I was surprised to re-learn the fact that no one actually dies in this film. There’s plenty of violence, including the aforementioned tree eating scene, as well as the implied violence of the giant whateverthefuck demon head that almost eats Craig T. Nelson whole during the big final rescue of little Carol Anne. Creepy, creepy.
Sex: There’s no sex to speak of, but mom and dad (Jobeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson, respectively) do smoke a little of god’s green and make out. As well, there’s a hint that their daughter Dana (Dominique Dunne) has some intimate knowledge of the Holiday Inn. Also, mom gets naked and hits the bath tub at the most inopportune time. Nothing shown, but I’ll be damned if Jobeth Williams wasn’t one fine 80s babe.
Scares: Plenty of scares to go around in Poltergeist, even though its the Steven Spielberg version of a haunted house story. It has all of the classic family elements and even earned its PG rating back in the day by only letting by one “shit” and zero nudity, but that didn’t stop it from scaring the living daylights out of many kids of the 80s. I still shiver at the sound of Zelda Rubinstein’s voice to this very day.
This year’s 31 Days of Horror feature has been a blast, if you ask me. And even though Robert Fure will deliver one more great horror title tomorrow to finish us off, I am glad that I got a chance to round out my own selection with a horror flick that has been very impactful on my life. At age 7, I watched Poltergeist for the first time and it shook me to my core. So much so that I was paralyzed in my horror genre watching for almost 12 years. I was accosted by friends because I wouldn’t go see any of the Nightmare on Elm Street films, or the Halloween series and The Exorcist until my late teen years. Even as recently as my dawn in the profession of movie blogging, I’ve long been labeled as a big pansy by my peers. The guy who can’t take a good scare and avoids horror films like the plague. Luckily, guys like Robert Fure and Rob Hunter have come along and taken up the genre torch here at FSR, otherwise this site would probably have suffered over the years.
This week, as part of a therapeutic journey through my own movie-watching youth, I sat down with some close friends here at Reject HQ to watch Poltergeist for the first time in almost two decades. And what I found is that I really had nothing to fear all along. Tobe Hooper’s movie is scary at times, but its classic paranormal fun — a calling card for a decade of horror and sci-fi films that hasn’t been matched since. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and plan to watch it again next year in the run up to Halloween. No longer will I be scared of the jump scared that Hollywood has in store for me, as I’ve conquered my own demons thanks to 31 Days of Horror.
That said, I will forever be looking up the history of anywhere I choose to live so that I’m certain it wasn’t built where there was once a cemetery…