'They're Here:' A Poltergeist Retrospective

Small town America comes under attack by evil spirits in the 1982 classic Poltergeist, a Horror film with a Spielberg twist that would dazzle audiences with an incredible array of special effects care of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic. The ghosts would return to torment the Freeling family and poor Carol Anne in two sequels, followed by an unrelated but critically-acclaimed television series, Poltergeist: The Legacy. Tonight, we take a look back at the spooky film series in 'They're Here:' A Poltergeist Retrospective.

Poltergeist (1982)

"They're here!" Steve Freeling and his family move in to a beautiful new neighborhood, only to find that their home is infested with evil spirits in the 1980's Horror classic POLTERGEIST! POLTERGEIST presents an image of the ideal American family turned upside down by the supernatural forces at work within their home, but one who manages to find strength in one another in order to overcome all obstacles. The film is perfectly cast as such, with JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson playing the loving, down-to-earth parents who live in a quiet California suburb with their three kids (and Golden Retriever, of course). We instantly relate to them because they are heartfelt and real, but also because they are imperfect just like the rest of us. These small town vibes can largely be attributed to the involvement of writer/producer Steven Spielberg, who has long been rumored to have taken over the director's chair while filming with TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE creator Tobe Hooper. Using state-of-the-art technology from Industrial Light and Magic, the spirits in POLTERGEIST were brought to life on screen unlike anything audiences had ever experienced in the past. The scares are softened by the film's light-hearted mood and Jerry Goldsmith's gentle score, making it enjoyable for all ages despite a few startling moments. Although her life was tragically cut short, POLTERGEIST will forever hold the legacy of Heather O'Rourke intact thanks to her endearing performance as Carol Anne Freeling, the family's youngest daughter. Carol Anne has since become one of the most recognizable characters within the genre, while POLTERGEIST is commonly cited as being one of the greatest Horror movies of all-time.

Rating: 10/10.

Poltergeist 2: The Other Side (1986)

"They're back!" The Freeling Family is far from safe after escaping from their haunted home in Cuesta Verde, California... The dark entity that controls the other spirits has come looking for Carol Anne, who he believes is their gateway back to Earth. With the aid of an Indian spirit guide, the Freelings must band together once more to defeat the forces of evil and win back their family! If POLTERGEIST painted the picture of the perfect American family, POLTERGEIST 2: THE OTHER SIDE shows us what happens when that family is torn apart. With their hopes and dreams diminished, the Freelings are forced to move in to Grandma's house, and Steve must return to selling vacuum cleaners to make ends meet. The psychological damage and financial stresses from their ghostly encounter has left the family in ruin, which is just where evil has the advantage to strike when they are at their weakest. Despite their hardships, we find that the bonds of love cannot be broken, and the Freelings are able to overcome their greatest trials yet. POLTERGEIST 2 dives into the history of the Cuesta Verde estate, revealing that the ghosts that haunt the area were the followers of a religious fanatic that drove his congregation to a horrible death. Julian Beck makes his series debut as the Reverand Kane, a terrifying personage of evil incarnate. Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams return along with Zelda Rubinstein, Oliver Robins, and Heather O'Rourke as well, and while their is a bit more overacting than before, it is great to see these familiar characters continue their battle, together. Nelson's first confrontation with Reverand Kane as Steve Freeling provides one of the most powerful moments in the entire series. The sequel is also much darker and more menacing in tone than its predecessor, with far more shocks and frights abound. As sequels go, THE OTHER SIDE does a great job building upon the original, while carefully monitoring the personal struggles of each of its characters to maximize the emotional impact of the film.

Rating: 8/10.

Poltergeist 3 (1988)

Carol Anne Freeling has been sent to live with her aunt and uncle in their upscale high-rise apartment, but the ghosts of the past refuse to release their grasp of her in the third and final installment of the POLTERGEIST series. Unlike the two previous films, which relied heavily on digital effects, POLTERGEIST 3 keeps everything in camera as Gary Sherman employs a number of effective optical illusions to shape his scares. The mirror motif that is used to create the two parallel dimensions is just as creepy as intended, and allows the evil doppelgangers the element of surprise. Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, and Lara Flynn Boyle join the cast as Carol Anne's adopted family, presenting a new dynamic to the family structure that is key in each of these films. There is a division and a disconnect between family members, which weakens their resolve when faced with their evil adversaries. Although no one will say it, Carol Anne is a burden, and there is almost a sense of relief when she disappears once more. It is the psychology behind the scares that strikes the hardest, a theme which reflects the dissolve of the nuclear family in America at the time. As for the plot, itself, we quickly fall back into a repetitive cycle, only many of the events seem odd or out of place since the spirits have no clearly-defined powers. Sadly, Heather O'Rourke died of a misdiagnosed disease months prior to release, which further complicated the marketing and editing of the final project. The film has been dedicated in her honor.

Rating: 7/10.

1 comment:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterApril 24, 2013 at 5:20 PM