Poltergeist (1982)

This House …………………………… is Clean

One of the final movies of the October Horror-thon will be a movie that I vaguely believe my roommate Richard suggested I review. I remember him mentioning it but it may not have been an official request. Whatever, I’m doin’ it! Today’s movie will be the classic horror movie, Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper, presented to us by Steven Spielberg, and starring Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Dominique Dunne, Zelda Rubinstein, Beatrice Straight, and Richard Lawson.

Steven (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane (JoBeth Williams) Freeling live a fairly uneventful life with their three children, Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Steven is a realtor and Diane is a stay at home wife, Dana and Robbie are kids, and Carol Anne talks to TVs. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. One night, while Carol Anne is having a riveting chat with her friends the “TV People”, a ghostly hand comes out of the TV and jumps into the wall, waking her family. Carol Anne informs them, famously, that “They’re here.” The crazy times begin to occur with a greater degree of frequency. Drinking glasses break, chairs movie and spontaneously stack themselves, all that normal stuff. It begins to get a little big troublesome when the ugly, old tree in their backyard breaks a window and tries to eat Robbie. While Steven and Diane try to rescue him, Carol Anne is sucked into the closet and she disappears. If this girl was gay, her eventual escape from her closet domain would set up a great joke. Instead, they can just have conversations with her through the TV. With the help of some paranormal investigators and a fat, midget, female Elvis, the family must try to rescue their daughter from the TV.

This is a fairly older movie, but it stands up on a lot of levels. There are a couple of things that don’t really hold up, but I feel it’s just because of either the budget, the time, or both. We’ll get into that as it comes. The story still works and I feel like the movie could have a pretty awesome remake if they wanted, as long as they didn’t screw that up. Of course, the whole premise that the movie starts with, that a TV, if left on long enough, will play some pro-America thing and then go to static would be lost on today’s youth. The little girl would have to try to talk to the TV through commercials about making your penis bigger. But I always approve of a good ghost movie, so I’m willing to accept that. I wouldn’t say this horror movie was that scary by today’s standards. I don’t know that it would have been back when it came out because the only thing I thought was scary at the time was the prospect of not being the first sperm to the egg. But they did some cool scary things and had some things that were more goofy. The chairs moving and stuff was just there. The tree trying to eat the boy and the coffins sprouting out of the ground were the closest they got to scares. The Incredible Hulk riding a floating horse toy around the bedroom could possibly qualify as goofy. That actually happened, by the way. I wish I could make that up.

The effects are the things that don’t always hold up in this movie. Some of them still work great, but some of them are laughably bad. The ghosts, for instance, are awesome. They’re a lot like the ghosts from Ghostbusters. You can see through them, but not the look nor the lighting of the room around them give a clue to the fact that it was probably superimposed. They look really good. The part where the steak is crawling across the counter is kind of funny, but the effect holds up, and it quickly turns gross. I’m not sure what the story was with the afterbirth that covered the things that came out of the ceiling portal after being thrown into the closet, but it still worked. Also, this movie did a thing similar to A Nightmare on Elm Street when the poltergeist grabs JoBeth Williams and drags her up the wall like she’s in a Jamiroquai video, which only serves to make me MORE angry at A Nightmare on Elm Street because one of the few cool things they did in their movie was stolen from a much better movie. By the way, I am proud to admit that I totally spelled Jamiroquai correctly on the first try. The biggest thing that does not hold up at all is the part where one of the investigators is made to hallucinate that he’s tearing his own face off. It starts off with him looking at a fairly well done scar on his face, cuts to the sink, and cuts back to the most obviously and laughably fake head I’ve seen in recent memory. I know this movie is older than I am so I give it a pass, but it’s what makes me think they should remake it. They could totally make that brutal and terrifying today.

The acting was definitely solid, especially for a movie with so many kids in it. Generally speaking, I don’t expect a kid to be able to act unless it’s last name is Fanning, but these ones all did fairly well. Dominique Dunne was inexplicably absent for a good part of the movie. She was apparently on a date when the family was trying to save Carol Anne and wasn’t present for most of the rest of the movie. Heather O’Rourke was ridiculously adorable and even a little bit creepy. I liked her performance. On the other hand, that little boy pissed me off. He had gigantic buck teeth and whined in the most irritating way when he first heard Carol Anne’s voice coming from the TV that I knew I would’ve choked him out if I were there. SAY IT WITH YOUR WORDS, YOU BUCK TOOTHED PIECE OF … okay, I may have overreacted … Oh no, he’s not breathing. Both of the parents did a fine job. Craig T. Nelson is pretty charming for the first part of the movie and seemingly turns into a sleep-deprived alcoholic overnight when Carol Anne goes missing. Certainly the breakthrough performance of this movie was fat, midget, female Elvis, Zelda Rubinstein. For more than just sharing a name with a great video game series, I liked her. That is, of course, assuming her purpose was to make me laugh by just being there. But what was up with those construction workers that were putting the pool in their backyard? Were they the only construction guys in town or something? ‘Cause these dudes didn’t seem to do much work, made lewd gestures at their underage daughter as her mother watched, and leaned into the kitchen to grub on their food right out of the pot and put that saliva drenched spoon back into the chili pot. How are they still working?

Also, it turned out it was a bad idea to click through on Wikipedia to the life stories of the three kids from this movie. All three of their careers are dead but that’s mostly because the two girls are FULLY dead. The youngest, Heather O’Rourke, died at 12 from cardiac arrest brought on by the flu, and the oldest, Dominique Dunne, was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend in front of her house. Dude only served 4 years. I would recommend that you do no such research on the movie, but I’ve already done it for you. Instead, I’ll just recommend that you watch Poltergeist. There are a couple of things that don’t hold up in this movie, but not enough to keep it from being a good watch. I’ll give this movie “This house has many hearts” out of “Go to the light!”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!