Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: Poltergeist

Poltergiest 1982
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writers: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais and Mark Victor
Starring Jobeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins, Heather O'Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein and James Karen

Haunting films are getting really popular of late, and all of them seem to take a nod from Poltergeist, which in my book is the best haunted house film. A lot of people are more fans of The Haunting, but I think the everyday family feel of the film puts it a step above that film. It is a film that I get more enjoyment with every viewing. It has a great story, excellent cast and some excellent special effects. The film is really anchored by the heartfelt performance of Jobeth Williams as the mom that will do anything to keep her family safe. Another great thing about this film is how it has given many viewers phobias of clowns. I never looked at them the same way after watching this film and it has the most terrifying clown until Pennywise from IT. The film has a real casual feel to it, so from the opening shot you are pulled in and it doesn't let you go till the final frame of the film.
The plot basics are this, the Freelings (Williams and Nelson) live in a idyllic housing division and everything is going great. Until their youngest daughter Carol Anne (O'Rourke) begins connecting with otherworldly beings through their TV set. At first it seems to be innocuous pranks but soon it takes a horrifying turn and Carol Anne is taken by the spirits and they will not let her go. The Freeling's then get a group of ghost hunters and they bring in a medium to rescue Carol Anne and exorcise the home of its demons. At first it is a resounding success, but then the house attacks the family yet again and tries to prevent Diane (Williams) from saving her kids. It all leads to them finding out the secret of the building of their house and why they have been besieged by vengeful spirits.
This is a near perfect film. Hooper's direction is flawless, the mundane feeling of suburban life he sets the film up with feels completely natural and the way he slowly cranks up horror elements is a work of greatness. It is like each scene is like making a cake and he is adding another layer with each scene. The script is great as well, you really feel the dilemmas the family faces as the combat this spectral attack on their well being. The characters of the mother and father are crafted very well and before all the horror falls upon them they are built up as very full and sympathetic characters. The cast is amazing. The lynchpins of the cast are of course Williams, O'Rourke and Rubinstein. Williams is the moral and emotional anchor of the film and this is by far her best role. O'Rourke is great as Carol Anne and she really portrays the precocious and frightened little daughter very well. Rubinstein's role is not much more than a extended cameo, but she is such a vital part of the film that it would not be the same without her. The SFX and effects by ILM is stupendous. The scene that always sticks with me is the ghost hunter who peels his face off in the bathroom, that still freaks me out. The climax of the film with Williams in the pool surrounded by corpses is gut wrenching as well. The score by Jerry Goldsmith is the final piece of the film that brings it all together. The score is at times both harmonious and ethereal. It really fits the film and if you hear the first few notes you know exactly what kind of film you are seeing. This is a great Haunting film with a great sense of a family sticking together and fighting to overcome all the obstacles in their way.
This one gets 5 out of 5

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