Poltergeist (1982) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Why you shouldn’t build over an ancient Indian burial ground 101

Poltergeist is the story of how building on an ancient burial ground, and not caring for the vessels of the dead, can come back to haunt property developers (and property sellers).

A family move into one of the houses, that the father of the family’s employer builds. All seems to be going OK until one day weird things start happening. The youngest daughter, who is able to hear and see things in TV screens which just display static, announces that somebody has arrived. The weird and sometimes supernatural events start to escalate; cutlery bending, the dog listening to invisible commands from shadows, chairs on tables, freak storms, things moving across the kitchen as if pulled by an invisible rope – and ultimately, the young daughter is sucked into the TV. It turns out the families house is haunted by ghosts, and after a team of scholars investigate it’s soon recognised that these aren’t just any ghosts, they’re poltergeists. An experienced ‘cleaner’ is called in to help the family try and get their daughter back, and rid the house of the supernatural spirits.

This is a 1982 film written by Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper; starring Craig T Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Zelda Rubinstein and Heather O’Rourke. This was always marketed as a horror film but I never felt that scared when I watched it in the 80/90’s, I found it as much of a supernatural suspense thriller film as I did a Horror – just with a lot more special effects thrown in. There are horror parts in it, but then no more scary then what you could find in films of the same year, such as; “Creepshow“, “ET“, and even “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan“. In fact it’s probably fair to say, that, with other notable horror films out the same year, this film was relatively tame in its horror theme. Films such as; “Basket Case” (1982) “Friday the 13th, Part III”, “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982), “Amityville II: The Possession” and “The Thing” (1982) all delivered more horror to audiences. Despite this, it did quite well at the box office – it was the 8th highest grossing film of the year, so it obviously affected some people the right way. That’s not to say I personally don’t, or didn’t like this film – I do/did, but it retains a place in my heart as a great cult film, rather than one that I love and would go out of my way to re-watch regularly.

The story is relatively straight forward and easy to follow – taken directly from many an urban legend about building on ancient burial grounds. My main gripe here would be how some things seem mixed up and unexplained. Why has it taken 7 years for poltergeists of the dead, whose graves have been disturbed, to wreak their vengeance on the living? How is the devils supposedly linked (according to narrative being relayed)? Why did the tree turn evil and try gobbling the son? Why are the supernatural events isolated to one house despite the whole neighborhood being built on the same burial ground? How big was the burial ground, considering the one shown later in the film is big and also contained behind a fence. Why is a second floor bedroom cupboard then portal to evil, when a graveyard wouldn’t have had a second story in the first place? Why oh why, did the mum let the children sleep in the same room of evil – despite not wanting to spend another night in the house towards the end of the film. And why – for heaven’s sake, didn’t they cover the swimming pool hole over with some kind of tarpaulin to prevent falls. These are just my own irks, and these are only likely to come from dedicated film/horror fans – because the most part, regular film goers wouldn’t be too bothered about these kinds of things – because the story itself is entertaining enough.

The acting is decent, everyone from the younger cast members to the more experienced actors do a believable job. I don’t like the dumbed down moments the cast have to advance the plot, but that’s a typical Hollywood thing to allow audiences to feel engaged and get information.

The special effects may look dated by today’s standard -but they were good at the time. It’s a harmless film with a decent pacing which gets quicker as the events of the film unfold. I’d give this a 7 out of 10.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (7/10)


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