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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 5, 2009
This 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition provides an excellent transfer of one of the best films in its genre. As for the extras, well, they seem to be designed for folks who think the genre is documentary ... you won't learn anything about the making of the film, but you'll see an updated version of the investigators of the paranormal portrayed in it. Too bad Tangina's not here.
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Apart from the special effects disaster that is "the mirror scene," Poltergeist delivers one of the most effective, engrossing, and eerie presentations in movie history. Who can ever get the ill-fated Heather O'Rourke's "They're here" line or the fantastic performance of the diminutive Zelda Rubenstein as the psychic house "cleaner" Tangina? JoBeth Williams, for her part, turns in a fantastic performance, cementing her position as the emotional center of the story. Heck, everyone involved did a great job with this movie, including the dog. I'm often critical of Tobe Hooper's directing, but there is no doubt that Poltergeist represents his finest directorial work (although rumor has it that producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg did more than his share of the directing job).

I'm not sure why they called this film Poltergeist because the goings-on in the Freeling house go way, way beyond typical poltergeist activity. Things start out small (chair stacking, objects moving on their own, utensils bending on their own), but it doesn't take long for things to get completely out of hand. Initially, though, the stage is set with the typical fears most all of us experienced as children - fear of the dark, the closet, something under the bed, thunder storms, stuffed toys that suddenly become creepy when the lights are out. Fortunately for most of us, those fears are just childish fancies. The same cannot be said for the Freeling children. Unable to go to the police with their story (yes, officer, we think our lost daughter is somewhere in the house and we can still communicate with her through the television from time to time), the Freelings call upon local paranormal researchers for help. Needless to say, this blows the socks off of every other case they've investigated, leaving them no choice but to call in reinforcements in the form of a short but formidable medium (Rubenstein). Then, just when you think things are under control, the movie ratchets things up to new heights of action and suspense.

Poltergeist definitely has the potential to frighten some viewers, with scare tactics ranging from the small and subtle to the unbelievably grandiose - and even the most over-the-top occurrences work in the context of the presentation. No stranger to large special effects budgets, Spielberg made sure that all of the visual effects were believable (including the use of real human skeletons in one scene) and added to the suspense of the story (except that mirror scene, which really does feature some of the worst special effects I've ever seen in my life). Not having seen this movie in many, many years, I had forgotten just how impressive it was. It features some of the best interaction of actors with special effects that I've ever seen, making it easy to keep suspending your disbelief in the face of the most incredible of circumstances. You even get a sense of resolution at the end, which is something you rarely find in horror movies today. Poltergeist is, without doubt, a classic in every sense of the word.

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the Poltergeist curse (a result, some say, of using real skeletons in the movie), which adds yet another layer to the atmosphere of the film. As most people know, Heather O'Rourke died tragically at the age of 12, but it's easy to forget that her co-star Dominique Dunne (daughter of novelist Dominick Dunne) was murdered by her ex-boyfriend within months of the film's release. Of course, the curse doesn't seem to have affected Craig T. Nelson, who went on to have a long and successful acting career. You can't help but feel sad, though, watching cute and talented little Heather O'Rourke, knowing that she died so young.
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on June 29, 2004
When two of the greatest directors, horror master Tobe Hooper (creator of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" & "Salem's Lot") and filming genius, Steven Spielberg (creator of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" & "Schindler's List") came together, the blockbuster smash-hit, "Poltergeist" was born and blew audiences away worldwide! A classic combo of epic proportions that brought us one of the most horrifying, imaginative, and powerful films ever put on the BIG SCREEN!
Originally released in 1982, Heather O' Rourke plays the main role as loveable (and cute!) Carol-Anne, while JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson (leading star of the 80s T.V. sitcom hit, "Coach"), & Zelda Rubinstein would probably be considered the supporting actors. It is the most original and creative ghost story since "The Exorcist" (1973) & "The Amityville Horror" (1979) about the Freeling family who lives in the beautiful California suburbs. (which is where the movie was filmed) Carol-Anne somehow has a link with the supernatural via the family television set and soon strange and funny things begin to happen: a large earthquake strikes the community, chairs begin moving on their own, and the family dog begins barking for no apparent reason. (Or so it looks from OUR point of view!)
However, the phenomenon soon turns into a terrifying nightmare of unspeakable horrors: the mysterious tree outside in the back yard comes to life and nearly swallows Carol-Annes' brother, Robbie whole; and Carol-Anne is sucked into a parallel demension (the afterlife) through her bedroom closet. Now, it's up to a group of professionals in the study of the paranormal and a gifted elderly psychic to get her back!
(WARNING: Do NOT read this if you have not yet seen the movie. Contains spoilers...)
In the world of the afterlife, Carol-Anne continues to be tormented by the powerful entity (AKA The Beast) and soon her mother must be plunged into the spectral world herself, while her husband and the others assist her safe return in the process. Barely escaping the undead insanity, Carol-Anne and her mother are brought back to our reality through a gateway in the bathroom ceiling.
Everything is back to normal and everyone is safe again... OR SO IT SEEMS! One night, the family agrees to leave their beautiful home but the nightmare isn't over yet! Robbie is attacked by the one thing that scares him, his stuffed clown doll, while the mother tackles head on with the beast ITSELF! The spirits are now PISSED!! Carol-Anne and Robbie are nearly swallowed back into the portal to the afterlife but are saved by their courageous mother.
The father, being a real estate agent arrives home with his boss and is enraged with anger with the discovery that the town cemetary's headstones was moved but the bodies were left buried under the Freeling's home. After a breathtaking escape, all hell breaks loose in the suburbs in an explosive thrill-ride finale! The ending was quite clever and nicely done and once you see it, you'll never think of T.V. sets the same way again! The DVD includes WIDESCREEN & FULLSCREEN animorphic formats and the original theatrical trailer to the film which is nice for an extra treat! But keep in mind that the BONUS extras are pretty limited.
There are absolutely NO BTS footage, let alone cast interviews or director commentaries. During the production of the film, real scary events were reported happening which weren't supposed to happen and ironically a few years later, Heather O' Rourke, Dominique Dunne (who played Carol-Anne and Robbie's older sister, Dana Freeling), & Julian Beck (who played the villain, Kain in the sequel) died. (Heather O' Rourke died before the release of "Poltergeist III") I only hope that maybe in the future a Special Edition 2-disk set of the movie can be available, teaching us what REALLY happened during filming with the cast interviews and such. After all, it would give Tobe Hooper and Spielberg fans a more insight to the movie. For now, this is the best version of the movie you can get and is without doubt, a MASTERPIECE in cinema!
I GIVE IT A 10/10!!!! DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS #1 HORROR CLASSIC! BUY TODAY!!! I also recommend, "The Amityville Horror", "Tourist Trap", "The Exorcist", & "The Funhouse" in addition! They are all truly horrifying films in their own unique way.
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Ever wonder where all the jokes about haunted buildings being built over old burial grounds came from? Well, it was "Poltergeist."

This was the movie that not only immortalized the "They're heeeeeeere!" line, but tapped into the spookiness of everyday things -- the closet, the underside of a bed, a staticky TV or a closed door. Some of the special effects are a bit dated, but it gives you the feeling of being a young child who genuinely believed that a hellmouth exists in your closet. Or was that just me?

The Freeling family lives the perfect suburban life. Steve (Craig T. Nelson) is a real-estate agent and Diane (JoBeth Williams) is a housewife; they have a lovely new home, a golden retriever and three kids -- teenage Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins) and barely-out-of-preschool Carol-Anne (Heather O'Rourke). All is lovely and well.

Then... weird things start happening. Chairs start moving by themselves. Specters whirl out of the TV. Earthquakes. Then a tree smashes its way into the house and abducts Robbie -- and while his parents rescue him, Carol-Anne is sucked into a vortex in her bedroom closet. I swear to you, none of this is even slightly as funny as it sounds.

Now Carol-Anne is missing, and though her family can hear her occasionally, they have no idea where she is or how to find her. They call on a parapsychologist, Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight), who is totally out of her element. So she brings in an otherworldly psychic (Zelda Rubinstein), who may be their only hope of getting Carol-Anne back.

"Poltergeist" is an odd movie. It's a genuinely horrifying, spooky movie that taps into a lot of primal fears that every child has -- scary trees, lightning, dark closets, things under beds, fizzing TVs in darkened rooms. The poltergeist activity is kind of cheesy-looking (A FLYING LAMP! SO SCARY!), but most of the things we see are genuinely disturbing, like a child almost getting eaten alive by a giant knotty tree.

It's also one of those movies wise enough to save a lot of the horror for the end -- while there are plenty of scary moments earlier on, the last fifteen minutes are a relentless onslaught of skeletons, mud, thunder, screaming and a grotesque gulping portal to "the beast" appearing in the wall.

But at the same time, "Poltergeist" has a strangely family-friendly vibe. It was directed by Tobe Hooper, but it has the unmistakeable fingerprints of producer/writer Steven Spielberg all over it. It focuses on an ordinary, harmless suburban family living their usual lives (their biggest problem is the death of a pet bird), which is suddenly thrown into chaos by outside forces. And unlike most horror movies, there isn't even a lot of violence... well, except for one grotesque hallucination.

The late Heather O'Rourke is best remembered now for her "They're here" line, but she actually gave a pretty decent performance -- she had the affected quality of a child actor, but she also had raw talent. The scene where she's shrieking at the ghosts to stop tormenting her is just chilling.

Nelson and Williams are excellent as the harried, increasingly terrified parents, as are Dunne and Robins as Carol-Anne's terrified siblings. You really feel that these people ARE a family, whatever annoying qualities they have, and that they will do anything to protect each other. And Zelda Rubenstein was just a lot of fun -- her childlike voice and quirkiness ("You're right. You go!") are just charming.

"Poltergeist" is the scariest family film I have ever seen -- a genuinely spooky ghost story that keeps amping up the horror. Definitely a good movie, but don't watch it during a thunderstorm... near your closet... with a clown doll.
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on May 23, 2004
Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Jobeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Zelda Rubenstein.
Running Time: 114 minutes.
Rated PG for ghastly scary scenes and some language.
The anticipation for "Poltergiest" was imminent. With "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" director Tobe Hooper teaming with the likes of Steven Spielberg (who has directed such classics as "Jaws" and "Jurassic Park") and Frank Marshall, it was bound to be a supernatural classic. The team did not disappoint. This film is one of the most stylish, devilishly entertaining horror films of the past quarter century, using superb special effects, fine performances, and an elegantly humorous screenplay as a springboard to portray the terror of restless spirits.
The opening scene of "Poltergiest" is the most famous, presenting the cute six-year old girl Carol Ann in front of a disoriented television screen. As the girl turns back to her family, who has fallen asleep watching a television program, she proclaims "They're here!", creating the foundation for a tense, roller-coaster ride full of ghoulish thrills and chills. When the family realizes that their house has been inhabited by fiendish spirits who wish to use their daughter as tool to reach the next world, parents Steven and Diane (played extremely well by "Coach"'s Craig T. Nelson and the charming Jobeth Williams) must put their faith back in love and use sheer determination to save their family from the evil ghosts.
Some of the most memorable and witty scenes involve the quirky haunted house specialist (played by Rubenstein), which she guides the Freeling parents into a world of unspeakable horrors as they attempt to rescue their daughter. The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith is evocatively on the mark, using a chorus of children vocalists that not only create a glorious harmony, but add an eeriness to the film. "Poltergiest" is not only a ghost tale, but a film that renders a theme of hope and faith, using a gentle touch that is not found in many horror films. A magnificent spectacle of stricly original terror, "Poltergiest" has withstood the tests of time and is still of one of the best.
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on May 15, 2004
POLTERGEIST is a film conceived, co-written and produced by Steven Spielberg. A clause in Spielberg's contract with Universal for E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL forbade him from directing POLTERGEIST and E.T. simultaneously. Spielberg hired up-and-coming horror film director Tobe Hooper, whose biggest credit to date was the classic horror film THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, to helm the picture.
Up to this point, Hooper had only directed three other features: EGGSHELLS, an independent film that proceeded CHAINSAW, EATEN ALIVE, another backwoods horror film in the vein of CHAINSAW, and THE FUNHOUSE, which was his first studio-backed film. CHAINSAW, his only really notable film at the time, was a notorious success (and a phenomenal film despite its reputation from people who go by the garish title only). It is great praise that on the strength of this film alone, Steven Spielberg, Hollywood's golden boy by this point (having JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK under his belt) would give Hooper's film (guarded) praise "It's a real cult film, I know, but one of the most truly visceral movies ever made. Essentially it starts inside the stomach and ends in the heart. As a filmmaker who likes to see everything, I loved it".
POLTERGEIST is set in what would become a hallmark of Spielberg films: suburbia. In the film, The Freelings, a young couple and their three children are terrorized by spectral entities that exist within the spirit world, yet manifest themselves in their home (most notably through the conduit of the television). The spirits make contact with the family's youngest child, Carol Anne, and soon, in one of the film's most (out of many) harrowing sequences, abduct her away (through the bedroom closet) into the spirit realm. The Freelings then enlist the help of a trio of university parapsychologist and a medium to save their daughter and put an end to their unwelcome house guest.
POLTERGEIST, having been written and produced by Spielberg, certainly has all the ear-markings of a film he had a large hand in. At the time of it's release, the press grabbed on to a story that Spielberg had indeed directed the film (spurred on by comments producer Frank Marshall had made). After the press broke the story and the Director's Guild of America launched an investigation in defense of Tobe Hooper's directing credit, Spielberg paid for a full-page ad (addressed to Tobe Hooper) that ran in the Hollywood Reporter 4 days after the film's premiere:
"Regrettably, some of the press has misunderstood the rather unique, creative relationship which you and I shared throughout the making of "Poltergeist."
I enjoyed your openness in allowing me, as a producer and a writer, a wide berth for creative involvement, just as I know you were happy with the freedom you had to direct "Poltergeist" so wonderfully.
Through the screenplay, you accepted a vision of this very intense movie from the start, and as the director, you delivered the goods. You performed responsibly and professionally throughout, and I want to wish you great success on your next project.
Let's hope that "Poltergeist" brings as much pleasure to the general public as we experienced in our mutual effort.
Steven Spielberg"
Producer Frank Marshall claimed that Spielberg would step in during shooting when Hooper was indecisive, and that Spielberg was on the set constantly. The actors, however, attribute their direction solely to Hooper. Whether the film was largely directed by Spielberg or Hooper may never be clear. A positive point is that Hooper did go on to direct an episode of Spielberg's AMAZING STORIES and more recently Dreamwork's THE OTHERS and TAKEN, so any ill-will (if there was any) is behind both men.
When the film was completed and sent to the MPAA for rating certification, POLTERGEIST received an R rating, which severely narrowed the film's producers audience to profit from. Spielberg and MGM chairman Frank Rosenfelt argued for a PG, with Rosenfelt citing that POLTERGEIST contained no sex, profanity or extreme violence. The MPAA disagreed, saying that the intensity of the film warranted an R. Producer Frank Marshall has even gone on record to debate the R rating, citing it's lack of profanity or violence. While the film isn't quite R material, the producers (and the MPAA) obviously forgot the film's drug use by the Freeling parents, the litany of profanities in the first 15 minutes of the film and the scene where the parapsychologist Marty rips his face apart, dropping gory chunks of flesh, fat and blood into the sink. The MPAA relented and the film was released uncut with a PG rating. This, along with Spielberg's INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and GREMLINS would all add up to the adoption of the PG-13 rating in 1984.
The film, like other Hollywood horror films such as THE EXORCIST or THE OMEN has sprung up a spooky legend around itself, being called by many "The Poltergeist Curse." Not long after the film premiered, Dominique Dunne, who portrayed Dana, the Freeling's oldest daughter in the film, was attacked and strangled to death by her boyfriend. Years later, after the third POLTERGEIST movie was filmed, Heather O' Rourke (Carol Anne) died at the age of 12 from intestinal stenosis. Also, two actors in POLTERGEIST II died early from cancer and complications from heart surgery. Mystique like this, however, is purely coincidental, as many Hollywood films not of a supernatural ilk have casts and crew die quite regularly to be sure.
POLTERGEIST opened in June of 1982 one week before E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, the film that would eclipse it, all other films that year and all other films in history (until it was dethroned by Spielberg's own JURASSIC PARK). Still, POLTERGEIST easily made back it's $10.8 million dollar budget and went on to spawn two other sequels and an very loosely based television series (none of which Spielberg or Hooper had anything to do with).
While it is not noted as one of Spielberg's bigger pictures, it is an important film in his body of work, as it is a model of themes and concerns that would become evident more and more as each new Spielberg film was released. Most importantly, it is a fun, terrifying film that seems fresh even after repeated viewings.
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on March 21, 2004
When I saw this film when is was about 20, it scared the guts out of me, now 24 years later, it isn't as scary but still keeps me thrilled. I watch this movie so many times and I never get scared of it. Alot of people out there like it too, only a few think it isn't that great. Everyone asks me why is this movie PG and I have 2 things to say to that
1. Back in 1982 PG-13 wasn't a rating
2. It couldn't have been R because it has no frontal nudity and rarley and swears.
So, I hope that answers your question. Anyway, this film even thou PG is not for kids. It may be a bit to scary and intense for younger viewers. A part that still scares the heck out of me is when the clown pops up and another part that scares me is when the guy is in the bathroom and he's ripping of all his skin. It may look a little fake, but what do you expect, it was made 22 years ago. This movie should be in any movie collectors shelf, even if your not a big fan of horror films cause this movie is for movie likers of the age 9 and up. So, go ahead and get this movie, it's worth every penny and will remain a gem in any one's shelf.
Rated PG for strong graphic violence, language, brief nudity and mild gore.
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on March 16, 2004
This 1982 horror film is from writer/producer Steven Spielberg, who purportedly gave the director's seat to Tobe Hooper, revered director of the classic slasher flick THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974). It has been long rumored, however, that Spielberg kept Hooper under such tight reins that POTERGEIST is, in effect, really all Spielberg's. But regardless of whose vision it may be, POTERGEIST is a very scary and very entertaining movie--a worthy entry in the horror genre.
After its cloyingly honeyed opening sequence, POTERGEIST shifts gears and becomes both a powerfully frightening suburban haunted-house story and an eerie contemporary tale of ESP and the paranormal. Unseen spirits enter a tract home via the TV and cause some minor spooky mischief, then graduate to more violent and corporeal grotesqueries. When a little girl gets sucked into the netherworld, psychic investigators and a freaky little clairvoyant are called in to do a little ghost-busting and rescue the child.
Most of the scares are cinematically original and genuinely scary, with many that play upon common (and in adults, buried but extant) childhood fears. The creepiest of these is a scene where a gnarly tree comes to life and pulls a child out the bedroom window, and a little episode with an evil clown doll is a real spine-tingler, too.
POTERGEIST is a well-planned, solidly structured film that first carefully establishes an unearthly ambiance, then pushes the audience inexorably towards its heart-stopping preternatural crescendo. Admittedly, the way in which the protagonists resolve their crisis seems somewhat contrived and therefore rather weak, but the film is so well acted and most of it so effectively frightening that the one minor flaw can be easily forgiven.
The DVD from Warner Home Video is a no-frills package, which in this case means you get the theatrical trailer and the option of watching the film in full-screen pan-and-scan or anamorphic widescreen. But the digital transfer looks very good, and the retail price is quite reasonable, so this is one that undoubtedly deserves a spot in the film collections of all serious horror aficionados.
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on March 6, 2004
There aren't many movies based on ghosts and hauntings that can hold a candle to this epic horror classic. Tobe Hooper ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre") and Steven Spielberg (needs no introduction) paired up to make what was to become one of the greatest horror films ever. Though this movie is as old as I am, it still frightens me to this day.
Craig T Nelson (of "Coach" fame) plays Mr. Freeling, a real-estate agent selling homes in a large tract development. He and his wife (JoBeth Williams) live with their three children in one of these developments, and what they don't know CAN kill them. As it turns out, their home was built on a graveyard and the now restless spirits seek revenge. One of their children, Carole Anne (Heather O'Rourke), is drawn to these spirits and can talk to them via the television. Some seemingly harmless late night child's play goes very awry when these ghostly beings find a way to enter the house ("they're here..."), and later Carole Anne herself disappears and is taken into custody by the other-worldy inhabitants. What began as something of amusement (watching chairs move and silverware bend) quickly becomes a huge threat to the previously average, quiet family. Specialists, including the infamous clairvoyant pyschic (Zelda Rubinstein), are brought in to investigate the matter and retrieve Carole Anne from the alternate dimension in which she is being held captive by sinister beings.
The special effects in this movie are excellent, and show where Spielberg's input was more than effective. Not only are the big effects incredible, but the subtleties within the film are as well (the creepy malformed tree, the children's clown doll, the dog barking at the wall), thus illustrating that the seemingly benign can, in actuality, be grossly malevolent. Furthermore, this movie proves that excessive make-up effects in the gore department are not necessary to generate scares. The acting is also superb. All involved gave memorable performances that are not soon to be forgotten by fans of the genre. The dialogue is far superior to much of what you hear in many horror films, and at times is even witty. The film showcases fears that every child has at some point in his/her life, adding to the intense creepiness. It places horror within the home, a generally safe haven. There isn't a second of wasted film to be found here, for every bit adds to the plot and the thrilling, edge-of-your-seat atmosphere.
Overall, this is a great movie that should be owned and loved by any fan of quality horror. A must see! An added "spook" factor: some of the actors died shortly after the release, and the film is purportedly cursed!
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on February 23, 2004
Love the cast, love the ideas, but this movie never scared me over twenty years ago when it came out and it definitely doesn't now. It felt more like an amusement park ride than a horror film.
There were rumors at the time of its release that Tobe Hooper had been fired or barely showed up, giving control of the film to Steven Spielberg. I've never heard any follow up to that, but it's obvious that this movie is more of a Spielberg film (cute kids, harmless thrills, constant tracking shots, etc.) than a Tobe Hooper film (think of the dark, mischevious cynicism of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE). I don't know.
All the whispering scenes drove me nuts. Did they think the ghosts wouldn't hear them?
The "experts" in the story didn't seem afraid of anything and made the supernatural sound fun and fulfilling. How can you feel any dread when Beatrice Straight and that crazy little psychic are all giddy?
THE EXORCIST makes POLTERGEIST look like an afterschool special on Nick at Nite.
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