Poltergeist (1982) - Weasello Rating: {****} (Excellent!) {Sequel}

Many, many spoilers.

One Sentence Plot Summary: Some vengeful ghosts torment a family and kidnap a little girl, all with a happy ending.

Death Count: Well, one could say there was one on-screen death; but it turned out to be a hallucination. Other than that, there was one dead bird, one dead mouse, and maybe an off-screen death of a goldfish (death by over-feeding). Though having no deaths in a horror movie is quite odd, this movie still excelled.

Plot Outline: A family of 5 moves into a house built in a new suburban development - after some strange poltergeist activity (bottles moving on their own, chairs stacking themselves in a creepy manner), the youngest daughter starts talking to voices she hears in the TV (on a static-ridden channel, no less). After even more strange goings-on, and a giant tree almost eating a young boy, the little girl gets sucked into her closet where she dissapears from sight... indeed, from this plane of existance.

This is where the movie starts to get rolling.

It seems the little girl was sucked into the ghostly plane of existance, even though she was still alive. Apparantly some big evil ghost was holding her captive, but was being nice to her and tricking her into thinking he was a good-guy. Because her life-force was like an beacon to the undead, the other ghosts of the region flocked to the house as well - this explains why no other houses in the neighborhood were affected by this phenomenon.

The parents could sort-of communicate with the little girl by talking to their TV, but they enlisted the help of a few psychics and paranormal investigators in an effort to bring their girl back to this life. Of course, they succeed, with just a few seconds left on the clock! Very exciting stuff.

It turns out that the real estate company that constructed the new suburbia built it on an old graveyard. Though they had approval to do so, they didn't move the buried - they just moved the headstones. This would be, in my best guess, an effort to save money. One has to ask, though - the workers moving the headstones knew what was going on, didn't they? Ah well. In any case, the restless spirits started haunting their house, and the end of the movie was a climax of hundreds of dead bodies and caskets shooting up out of the ground, into the house, floating up in their swimming pool, and other such gory details. The house then inexplicably implodes on itself in a fit of very cool special effects, and dissapears from sight.

My Opinion: Though this movie did have quite a few special effects, almost none of them were technology or ghost-related, which is what I was expecting in this movie. Instead, most of the movie was shot Blair Witch style; that is, the unknown, all-powerful, invisible enemy. Makes for a very suspenseful and timeless classic of a movie (because there aren't many cheezy special effects that date it). The only complaint I have is that they didn't really explore a few of the plot lines... Then again, there are two sequels I have yet to watch. Also, the end of the movie features a giant skeletal monster-skull thing that looks very cheezy. Like that big monster head thing in the Evil Dead movie, if the reference helps. I still give this movie 4/4 on my patented Weasello-Scale, and I'd even rent it again.

Interesting Notes:
  • The creepy swimming pool scene with all the skeletons floating to the surface - well, it just got creepier. Those were real skeletons. I imagine the cast was not happy, as they weren't informed of this fact.
  • When the clown (doll) chokes the little boy under his bed, it was actually choking him. When he started yelling "I'm choking! I'm choking," Spielberg applauded his ad-libbing. Only when his face started turning purple did they wrestle the clown away from him.
  • The giant monster skeleton head (you know, the big lame one?) growl is the original sound that the MGM lion roar uses.
  • Before they could film the sequel, actress Dominique Dunne was strangled to death by her boyfriend, starting the first of the deaths in what is called the Poltergeist curse (several people related to the trilogy have died strangely).
  • In one of the early scenes there is a movie playing on a television in the bedroom. The movie playing is A Guy Named Joe, which Spielberg later re-made as Always about 6 years after Poltergeist. This is also interesting because the writers for Poltergeist were originally being interviewed to write Alawys, but they said they'd prefer to write this movie instead.
  • The cool-looking imploding house at the end of the movie was an actual model and not special effects. A model was placed on it's back on top of an industrial strength vacuum cleaner, and was shot with a pair of shotguns. The scene took less than 2 seconds to film, but with the camera rolling at 300 frames per second(!), it made for quite the spectacle on film. Spielberg was so impressed with the effect that he encased the remains of the house in perspex and has it mounted on his piano at home (incidentally, the model cost $25,000 to build for a mere 20 seconds of film).
Cast: Director: Tobe Hooper, Steven Spielberg

Writing Credits: Steven Spielberg

Runtime: 114 minutes

Tagline: They're Here
Sources: The IMDB of doom, my head, and special thanks to the box.