Poltergeist (1982)

poltergeist poster 1982 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Realistic family, big scares

Slows down a bit in the middle when the investigators arrive

Movie Info

Movie Name: Poltergeist

Studio: United Artists

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): June 4, 1982

MPAA Rating: PG


Ok…why would anyone have this thing in their room?

The Freeling family lives in a nice neighborhood.  They have three children, a dog, and a nice house.  They also have something strange going on.  Mysterious voices coming from the television and objects moving on their own are the start of the problem…but when their daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) disappears, things just get worse…much worse.

Directed by Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist was written and produced by Stephen Spielberg.  The movie was received positively, but criticized for its gore and violence.  It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Special Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Original Score (losing all to E.T.).

Poltergeist is rated PG.  It is also one of the scariest movies around.  This was way before PG-13 and probably would be rated that now.  “It knows what scares you” tagline is very true.  The movie, like The Shining, preys upon base fears.  What behind a door, what under the bed, and what lurks in your closet.  The clown scene alone ruined many children’s nights (mine included…I still don’t understand why they had such a hideous clown anyway).


A victim of the Poltergeist “curse”?

It is obvious that Steven Spielberg had his hands all over it.  It was shot at the same time as E. T. (another story of a suburban family that has their lives turned upside down) and E. T. and Poltergeist were released a week apart.  It was said that Tobe Hooper directed but Spielberg’s involvement was covered by him because the studios wouldn’t allow him to release two films.  Regardless, E.T. and Poltergeist can be seen as almost two sides of the coin…one is a sci-fi suburban story the other is a horror suburban story.

Nowadays, much has been made about the “Poltergeist curse”.  Shortly after the release of the film, Dominique Dunne (who played Dana Freeling) was strangled to death by her boyfriend.  Julian Beck (Reverend Kane in Poltergeist II) was dying of stomach cancer as he shot his part.  Will Sampson who played Taylor in part 2 died of kidney failure after a surgery.  The biggest victim of the “Poltergeist curse” was Heather O’Rourke who died from a bowel obstruction during the filming of Poltergeist III (in which she appears sickly…a double filled in for many of her shots).  The “Poltergeist Curse” may have taken them, but there are still plenty of people left alive from the cast that it can’t be taken too seriously.


If you need a good guard dog…Get “Demon Dog”…It will swallow robbers souls.

The best part of Poltergeist is how normal the Freelings feel.  JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson play a perfect “real” husband and wife and the kids interact like real kids.  They exist in a home that looks like any home at the time and the kids play with toys that kids there age would play with.  It is what makes it scary is that it could be anyone or any family.  It was something that the sequels forgot.

Poltergeist is one of the scariest films ever made.  It has that lurking fear, but it also has the jumps.  Sure, some things are weird (like why would they stay at the house at all regardless if it was “clean”) and other things like no one in the neighborhood ever realizing that there were bodies right under their foundations although the neighborhood looks rather lived in.  These little questions can be forgiven because it is a great film.  Poltergeist was followed Poltergeist II:  The Other Side in 1988 and was remade in 2015.

Related Links:

Poltergeist II:  The Other Side (1986)

Poltergeist III (1988)

Poltergeist (2015)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

One Comment on "Poltergeist (1982)"

  1. deebo August 22, 2011 at 2:04 am - Reply

    The only movie that ever scared me.


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