I’ll probably get a lot of backlash for this, but I wasn’t really a huge fan of Poltergeist. I know many consider it to be a classic in the horror genre and some have even regarded this as the scariest movie of all time, but I simply can’t find the appeal. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it hasn’t aged well or that countless horror films since have imitated it, but I found it rather predictable and silly at times. The movie does begin by setting up the characters in an interesting way (this is where Spielberg’s influence as a producer is felt), but once the horror elements begin to take center stage I felt disengaged. I can imagine those final fifteen minutes must have haunted audiences during the 80’s, but I just found it a bit convoluted and silly. I wanted to check out the original before I decided to see the remake, but considering I wasn’t such a huge fan of this film now I probably won’t even get near it (the only appeal right now for me is getting to see Sam Rockwell who is always brilliant). Poltergeist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are Tobe Hooper’s most revered horror films, but at least the first doesn’t seem to have aged well. I was disappointed and when compared to other horror classics like Halloween, Psycho, Alien, and The Shining, I don’t think Poltergeist deserves to be considered among that group.
Steve (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane Freeling (JoBeth Williams) seem to be enjoying their peaceful lives in the suburbs along with their three children: Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). That is until strange events begin taking place: their youngest daughter, Carol Anne, begins sleepwalking and having conversations with the TV set, the house begins to shake but only they seem to experience it, bent dinner forks are found at the table, the chairs are placed in bizarre positions, and finally a terrible thunderstorm destroys the house and mysteriously makes one of the trees come to life and snatch Robbie from his room. It is evident that the house is haunted by some strange presence, but while everyone is distracted by trying to save Robbie, Carol Anne is sucked into the closet and disappears. However the family can hear her voice through the static TV screen and that is when they fully understand that they are dealing with supernatural forces so they hire a parapsychologist, Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight), to help them find and save their daughter.
The film is at its best when it’s setting the atmosphere and introducing us to the family members. I did enjoy the first part of the film, but once the strange events begin taking place the film lost most of its appeal. I didn’t find it scary, but it wasn’t disturbing either. I know that the premise has been imitated hundreds of times now so perhaps that hurt my overall enjoyment of this film. I wish I could’ve experienced it back in the 80’s to see if it would’ve had a different effect on me, but I can’t simply give it a pass for it because I’ve seen many other classic films that are older than this but have aged much better. The greatest thing about this movie is Heather O’Rourke, who played the cute little girl, Carol Anne. That scene where she tells her family that “they’re here” is probably the best moment of the movie.