Poltergeist is a 1982 American supernatural horror flick directed by Tobe Hooper with the writing and producing credits going to Steven Spielberg. The story centers on the Freeling family and their struggles in dealing with a mystical threat that has taken over their dwelling and abducted one of their own in Carol Anne.
a.) Carol Anne.
She is one of if not the saddest story in Hollywood history may she rest in peace. Judging by her performance in this film, I think Heather O’Rourke would have grown up to be a mega-star if she hadn’t met her demise so early in life. I found her character Carol Anne quite likeable and one who drew a lot of sympathy from me. In life, we all find ourselves in very calamitous situations that for the most part, we feel we do not deserve and that is pretty much the girl’s arc in this.
She gets trapped in an odd supernatural realm that exists within the house she is living in; a situation that only her family and interested persons on the other side can get her out of. Her shaky dialogue was incredibly authentic during the scenes where paranormal stuff happen in her bedroom as well as in other rooms and I was heavily invested in her predicament all through.
b.) Diane & Steve Freeling.
The word ‘stellar’ would be an understatement when describing Jobeth Wiliams’ and Craig T. Nelson’s work in this. Playing Diane Freeling and Steve Freeling respectively, they are parents to 3 kids in Carol, Anne, Dana and Robbie who all live in a suburban Hollywood home. It’s a peaceful and coordinated set-up but that all changes when a metaphysical force takes over the house and thus, as you would expect, Diane and Steve’s main priority is the safety of their loved ones.
In spite of the fact that there were all sorts of uncanny events happening all around their home, primarily their daughter’s vanishing, they got accustomed to them pretty fast because they knew how important it was that the welfare of Carol Anne be secured. If it meant bringing into the fold a team of parapsychologists to investigate the matter or even a spiritual medium in Tangina Barrons (Zilda Rubinstein), they were not ready to give in to the dark forces of the preternatural. The process does take a heavy toll on them both physically and mentally.
They live every minute of every day trying to make out plausible ways of bringing back their girl but at the same time, they have to live in this dangerous dwelling while they are at it. I don’t know about you but I’d be running mad just at the prospect of all this potentially happening to me or my would-be family. I think I’ve watched enough YouTube videos and heard of enough related stories to be open to the possibility of the such even though I haven’t witnessed it myself.
c.) Dana and Robbie Feeling.
The remaining Feeling siblings had it rough after their sister’s disappearance and understandably so. Unlike their parents, Dominique Dunne’s and Oliver Robins’ characters need to dig deep into their courageous selves simply because they are children; there’s not much to it. The film does show you how scared and vulnerable they are at different instances; some of which happens before Carol disappears like in the case of Robbie. He is afraid of a the night-storm thunder and therefore goes to the lengths of pulling his father out of his marital pleasures so that his issues can be attended to.
On the other hand we have Dana; she might be older, confident and an occasional tough-talker but this whole scenario shakes her to the bone, literally. There is a scene where she is seated on the sofa holding on to herself and endlessly shivering as her mum was trying to reach out to Carol Anne. I am and will always be quick to point out exceptional performances from juvenile actors; even though Oliver’s character is more present in the story than his onscreen sister, I indeed acknowledge that they had their own roles to play in the movie and they did them well.
The Plot, Merits and Demerits.
First off, let me just acknowledge that incredible 1st scene; it set a really great tone for what was to come. We see O’Rourke’s character waking up from her bed, strutting down the stairs towards the television when everyone is asleep and then all of a sudden she starts saying weird stuff loudly which her family picks up on. When they come to where she is at, Carol turns to them and says “They’re here!” I loved that scene a lot; it leaves you with plenty of questions concerning the film’s plot and the potential eeriness that it might possess.
I do not intend to demean Tobe Hooper and his work in this flick but Steven Spielberg must have had a lot more influence on that set, beyond his writing and producing duties, and I felt it. As a writer of a film, you’ll want your vision or imagination to be portrayed as best as it can on screen. In the context of this movie, that was quite essential; I mean, this is Spielberg we are talking about here, and a lot of film fanatics love his work, I included.
His style of visual storytelling has always been phenomenal even at the early stages of his career and Poltergeist, from a visual perspective, has his influence sprinkled all around it. From the first scene to the last, the story barely leaves you by the wayside and always has something to keep you interested in how things are going to unfold eventually.
The comedic moments in this film, though few and far between, are great. For instance, there’s a scene where the Freelings are in a back and forth argument with the neighbours over which television transmission should show in their respective houses. I loved those sort of moments because of how they were executed by the actors involved. Additionally, they had good timing.
The musical score is good, though it can get a bit overboard in some instances. The story is rich, filled with authentic tension that is riveting; I genuinely felt sorry for the Freeling family members as they go about their struggles. I mean, a tree snatches a boy from his room and almost kills him and also, household appliances in the residence move around on their own; I think that’s enough to make you emotionally invested.
In spite of the praise I am giving this film, it does have its other side of the coin. The visual effects are dreadful, even for it’s time; I can’t even begin to describe it. I guess you’ll have to see this film if you haven’t already to know what I mean. Additionally, the product placements in this film are very glaring e.g. the ‘Star Wars’ merch. There’s a blanket that Robbie uses which has a Chewbacca figure on it, there’s a Darth Vader action figure on a shelf in the children’s room and finally, a Han Solo toy gun makes an appearance. I get that George Lucas’ franchise was getting a lot of frenzy at the time of this movie’s production with the Episode four and five but it didn’t need to exert it’s presence here as much as it did.
Well, there’s no hiding behind the fact that this motion-picture is something that satisfied me considerably as a viewer throughout its run-time. Poltergeist had me on the edge of my seat when I was supposed to be on the edge of my seat and that, my friends, is stuff that horror movies should be made of.
SUPPORT MY BLOG