Wednesday, October 29, 2014

31 Days of Horror-Day 29: Poltergeist (1982)

(dir. Tobe Hooper)

*First time viewing

     Almost as long as humans have been telling stories, there have been tales of ghosts, of supernatural forces that for one reason or another are incapable of moving from the land of the living into whatever comes next. We’ve seen this story play out in a variety of fashions over the years, in stories that inspired and were inspired by this film. But few have tackled the material with such spectacle as Poltergeist. In the film, a suburban family must deal with ghostly forces that take their daughter into their dimension.

     A strong argument could be made that Poltergeist is the first true blockbuster horror film. It’s full of the kind of special effects and large shifting set pieces that dominate the summer seasons. While Hooper was no stranger to the horror genre, Poltergeist definitely feels like at Spielberg film. Not only did Spielberg develop the story and script, but he also storyboarded the film and set up the shots (Spielberg couldn’t direct himself because of his contract with Universal which released E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial that same year.) The film is rooted in its familial relationships and is full of Spielberg’s humor, and kid-friendly antics (its legacy can be seen in the more frightening, but no less family-focused, The Conjuring.) While some of the special effects are dated, the climax holds up really well and remains surprising in all that it achieves. It may not scare you, but it will certainly entertain.

Scare Factor: 2/5 Poltergeist feels like more of a family horror-adventure than a traditional horror film. It’s proof that with the right talent and a solid story, PG-13 (or in this case PG, since this film helped lead to the creation of the PG-13 rating) horror films can work successfully without feeling like watered down versions stripped of their R rating. Poltergeist is full of the imagination for which Spielberg and his productions were so celebrated in the 70s and 80s. The film is a wonderfully orchestrated and charming take on the fun of the horror genre.

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