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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Poltergeist touches on many things that are frightening to kids (and some adults), including scary shadows in the dark, monsters in the closet, and separation from family. A character rips the flesh from his face (though eventually we see he's hallucinating). A young boy is attacked by a ghost-inhabited tree. A girl is taken from her parents and held in a netherworld where she's menaced by a character it's intimated is evil. The parents are seen smoking marijuana, and are apparently regular users.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Written and produced by Steven Spielberg, POLTERGEIST is one of the all-time great haunted house stories, as a family's "perfect" suburban home becomes the target of a ghostly invasion. Steven and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams) and their three children are happy in their new home in a California housing development built by the company Steven works for. They don't notice at first that 5-year-old daughter Carol Ann is receiving messages from voices that speak to her through empty channels on the television set. But Diane soon begins to see more physical evidence of a ghostly presence, one that moves things around the kitchen. The unseen beings grow more malevolent, inhabiting a tree that attacks son Robbie. And when they take Carol Ann away, the Freelings call in a team of experts, including a diminutive psychic who holds the key to the other world.
Is it any good?
The story of a family assaulted by ghosts is still compelling. Well-written characters played by a strong cast make up for once top-of-the-line special effects that now look a bit cheesy. Kids raised on movies of the '90s, with their seemingly limitless digital effects, probably won't be too terrified by the ghosties on display here, which look dated by comparison.
But the most frightening parts of Poltergeist arise from our empathy with the characters. Everyone in the family is sympathetic, likable and believable, which helps involve us emotionally in the movie. And the film doesn't abuse the fact that we've come to care about them: We're scared at the ordeal they face, but they all come through OK, saved by their love for one another.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Poltergeist so scary. Are the effects, the ghosts and other things that you see, that are so frightening? Or is the situations?
Did you identify with the little girl who was taken away? What about the little boy attacked by a tree?
Did this movie make you think of the times when you were little that you thought there were monsters in the closet or under the bed?
Why do people like watching movies that frighten them?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.