One of the big events of my childhood was seeing Poltergeist for the first time at 7 years old. I saw it on a 4:3 set on a very old DVD in my parents' bedroom, after my mom had recently come home from the hospital after surgery. One night, my dad came home from the library with some DVDs, and one of them was Poltergeist.
I popped it into the DVD player without hesitation as I'd wanted to see it since I was 5. I knew from the moment it started, Poltergeist was going to be a great movie, but little did I know it would become my favorite movie of all time, and I'd want to experience it again and again.
Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams star in this classic as Steve and Diane Freeling, who live with their three children, 16-year-old Dana (Dominique Dunne), 8-year-old Robbie (Oliver Robins), and 5-year-old Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) in Cuesta Verde, CA, soon learn that their home is haunted, and also that the spirits talk to Carol Anne through their television. Everything seems normal at first. Dana gives construction workers the finger and talks on the phone later than she's supposed to, Robbie is a huge Star Wars fan, and Carol Anne feeds her goldfish an entire tube of food. One night, a tree tries to eat Robbie, but they quickly save him. When the ghosts kidnap Carol Anne through the closet, they are forced to fight the evil spirit that holds their daughter if they ever want to see her again.
Well-acted, well-written, and well-directed, with great special effects, Poltergeist is the greatest ghost story put on film.
Let's start with the acting. The performances are top-notch. The way lines are said, the facial expressions, body language, everything about the characters feels real.
Craig T. Nelson plays Steve, a husband and father who's willing to do anything to save his family, so realistically, nothing about it feels fake. JoBeth Williams plays Diane, a distraught mother, so realistically, you'll believe what's happening on screen is hurting her. Heather O'Rourke gives the best performance by a 5-year-old ever. Zelda Rubinstein is also great. It doesn't even seem like they're acting. The special effects still hold up, because they still look real. The plot is still very original, because it's set in modern suburban America, and it's about a normal family that loves each other, rather than an abusive husband and father.
Poltergeist is so well-written that nobody has to die, nor does it have to be gory to keep us on the edge of our seats. Spielberg and Hooper keep it subtle by hardly showing the ghosts. Poltergeist features a great plot, great acting, great directing, and great writing. I can't recommend Poltergeist enough.
Poltergeist is a kid's movie, so it's not all that scary, though there are scenes that may scare you or creep you out, but you won't be scarred for life. In the end it really is a fun thrill ride. Poltergeist is a movie every kid must see by the time they're 8 years old. For some reason, I find myself trying, sometimes unsuccessfully, to hold back tears every time I see it.
Poltergeist is my favorite movie of all time, it is a timeless classic, and it still holds up after over 30 years because it remains a thrilling, touching, and heartwarming movie experience. Poltergeist tells the story of a family nothing can tear apart. It's a classic good versus evil story, a story of perseverance in spite of your worst fears coming to light, and holding it together in spite of everything seeming to fall apart. It's about never giving up hope. When I watched Craig T. Nelson, I saw my dad on that screen, and I see him on that screen even more now. When I watched JoBeth Williams, I saw my mom on that screen, and I see her on that screen even more now. I know you're probably worried because of things you've read online about it being scary, gory, or boring, but don't be. Gory? Never. Scary? Not at all. Boring? Don't make me laugh. Despite everything that happens, there's a hopefulness that stays the entire movie, and honestly, I think that's what keeps us coming back. Let your kids see it. They'll thank you.