Movie #207 Poltergeist
(1982, US, d. Tobe Hooper)
Steven Spielberg had a lot to do with this movie, though he often goes uncredited. He has a a story credit and producer’s credit, but rumor has it he practically directed this film as well. I had heard a lot of good things going into this film – that it was one of the scariest films of all time. And coming from Spielberg, I had to believe that. The biggest problem with this film, though, is that it never manages to settle in a single tone. A lot of the film was funny, but then jokes started to come out of the horror and I didn’t know if it was intentional. The acting at times was magnificent and the next scene, the same actors would be delivering their lines in the most melodramatic ways. The film relies a lot upon creating a similar atmosphere as ET did. We have a neighborhood everyone likes, neighbors the audience likes, a school, etc… But that whole ‘Spielbergian’ element only sabotages the film. It feels a lot like he can’t make his mind up about whether he wants this film to be a sentimental film about family or a horror flick about things that come out of your TV. Perhaps, it’s just that my taste for horror has evolved – This film did make an impact in people’s minds upon original release and it does continue to inspire so many modern horror films, the most obvious homage being this year’s Insidious. Poltergeist is a strange film. What starts off as a horror movie becomes something else which becomes something else which becomes something else, never settling in a single tone – the first great task any auteur must try and accomplish. And from there, it becomes really hard to buy into.