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

poltergeist tv carol anne heather orourke theyre here

They’re here!

The Freelings are the all American family.  When Steve (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane (JoBeth Williams) find their youngest daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) begins seeing and hearing things in their California home, they assume it is her imagination, but the rest of the family begins to experience strange events.  When Carol Anne disappears during a stormy night, a desperate race against time begins that has the Freelings crossing the barrier between the living and dead…and the dead don’t intend to let Carol Anne go.

Directed by Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist is a supernatural horror thriller written and produced by Steven Spielberg.  The film was well received by critics and became a commercial success.  The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Score.

poltergeist clown oliver robins

This clown gives you the warm fuzzies…of DEATH

Poltergeist was one of those horror movies that you saw as a kid and it sticks with you.  Much debate has occurred on the role of Steven Spielberg in the making of the film (since it feels so Spielbergian in style and story), and it seemed like in the pre-PG-13 era that anything Spielberg was ok for kids.  Everyone I know saw Poltergeist, and everyone I know was traumatized by Poltergeist.  It remains one of the scarier films of the decade and one of the scariest films of all time.

The story does a great job creating a “normal” family.  Everyone feels very real world and even the house is exceptionally normal.  The horror rises because it isn’t a dark and haunted house, and even someone in a suburb can be the victim of a horrible haunting.  The idea of the dead clinging to life and breaking through the barrier to get it creates impossible odds for the characters, but the script and the story keeps the family fighting a realistic battle to find (and keep) Carol Anne from the spirits.

poltergeist bathroom face martin casella

Reminding you…PG…not R

The cast is strong.  Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are the “cool” parents that you want and the children played by Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, and Dominique Dunne feel like the kids you knew if you grew up in this time.  Zelda Rubinstein is a scene stealer as Tangina Barrons (with the famous “This house is clean” line) and Beatrice Straight also is a standout among the investigators brought in to try to bring Carol Anne back.

Part of the film’s horror lies in the setting.  The Simi Valley home looks like a modern house of the early ’80s.  It isn’t the dark and creaky haunted houses of classic horror.  It really feels like Spielberg in its population by toys and rooms that look lived in (Star Wars was huge and for a kid Robbie’s age not to have Star Wars toys in his room doesn’t make sense)…though I still don’t think anyone would have that horrible clown in any home.

poltergeist beast craig t nelson

Call an exterminator…we’ve got demons

Poltergeist is a memorable movie that is very watchable.  It is typically a go to movie for me and remains scary.  The movie is also known for its “curse”.  Not long after its release, Dominique Dunne was killed by her ex-boyfriend and other deaths followed the film and its sequels.  The film was followed by Poltergeist II:  The Other Side in 1986, Poltergeist III in 1988, and a remake of the original in 2015…but they do not live up to the horror of hearing a young Carol Anne say “They’re here.”

Related Links:

Poltergeist II:  The Other Side (1986)

Poltergeist III (1988)

Poltergeist (2015)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @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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