What a combo! Tobe Hooper, the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
, teamed up with family-oriented producer Steven Spielberg to make Poltergeist
. The film is about a haunted suburban tract home in a development very much like the Arizona one in which Spielberg was raised. (Because it came out the same summer as Spielberg's E.T.
, it was tempting to see both movies as representing Spielberg's ambivalent feelings about childhood in suburbia. One was a fantasy, the other a nightmare.) Spielberg also cowrote the screenplay, which taps into primal, childlike fears of monsters under the bed, monsters in the closet, sinister clown faces, and all manner of things that go bump in the night. At first, some of the odd happenings in the house are kind of funny and amusing, but they grow gradually creepier until the film climaxes in a terrifying special-effects extravaganza when 5-year-old Carole Anne (Heather O'Rourke) is kidnapped by the spooks and held hostage in another dimension. Though not nearly as frightening as Hooper's magnum opus, or the original A Nightmare on Elm Street
, which came along two years later, Poltergeist
is one of the smartest and most entertaining horror pictures of its time. --Jim Emerson