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Whoa, three weeks in a row! It’s October. It’s feeling like Fall outside. It’s spooky movie time. G and I perused the list and came to the decision of “Poltergeist” (1982). Unsurprisingly, G had never seen it. I’ve seen it about a billion times and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. My parents loved this movie, and we watched it as a family A LOT. I think it’s a pretty good horror entry point for most kids. It’s very Spielbergian, with its intense focus on the family and their relationships with each other. They're a very functional family, who love and care for each other. This is the reason to watch the movie imo. The ghosts and the haunting are fun and interesting, but it’s really how the family reacts to everything that is happening to them. For this to work so well though, the cast had to be perfect, and it was. Craig T. Nelson is the most Dad dad to ever dad, and JoBeth Williams brings the perfect energy to the incredibly important mother. The kids are great too. Oliver Robins is able to characterize Robbie with little dialogue, and Heather O’Rourke gives a performance that will literally never be forgotten. Come on. “They’re hEere!” is just as overused by annoying horror fans as “HEEERRRE’S JOHNNY!!”. G even pointed at the screen in excitement when she said it.
While I do think that it is a pretty good family movie, there are some parts that can be frightening— for a kid especially. The entity targets the children specifically, and it appears that the kids can perceive the ghosts differently than the adults and the audience. The beginning of the movie is so quiet and cheerful, that when Robbie is getting eaten by a tree 2 minutes later you feel just as discombobulated as the parents do. I imagine this would be a very stressful movie for a parent as well. My parents often voiced this opinion, and I think they liked it for this reason. As horror fans not much scared them, but this did. An otherworldly attack on their family and home would be terrifying.
I could go on and on about the amazing technical aspects of this movie but I’ll spare you— a little. I want to mention some things that stand out to me that set this apart from other horror movies. I think Spielberg has a very unique take on horror that I wish someone could rip off decently well already. I think the closest I can think of a modern comparison is Mike Flanagan. His movies all have this less than modern quality to them, plus he often chooses projects that work well for his style. “Jaws” is another very unique Spielberg horror that will always be remembered and its cultural impact is still very much felt to this day. The way these movies use light is very important to why each film feels the way they do. And I cannot leave without talking about the music. For “Jaws” it was John Williams ability to create THE most memorable themes for everything ever, and for “Poltergeist” it was good ol’ Jerry Goldsmith. If you’re not the biggest movie nerd like me, and you’re under the age of 45, you might not know who that is. He’s scored very many movies with unique and interesting music rare to see in modern movies. “The Mummy”, “The Omen”, “Rambo”, “Total Recall”, “Gremlins”, and many, many more. So many of my personal favorite movies were scored by Goldsmith. He’s up there with Danny Elfman for me.
”Poltergeist” is a very interesting movie to me. Tons of urban legends around it, quotable lines, memorable visuals, and unique characters. And yet it feels like it kind of remained in the 80’s, well loved by that generation and maybe their kids but not as relevant as something like “Jaws” which came out almost a decade prior. Is it the familial nature of it? Is the scary part just not relatable anymore? Or is it just an outdated kind of horror that’s just not popular and won’t be again at least for a long while? Whatever the case, I’m more than happy to nudge anyone into watching it by saying “It’s not even scary!” “It’s just a fun kind of kiddy kind of spooky movie, you can handle it!” Or “It’s great for Halloween! It’s a Halloween movie!”. These tactics are admittedly hit or miss, but I’m glad I watched it with G and now he got H to watch it and she’s way more influential lol. She also used to not like horror much at all, and now she’s watching it all the time. My influence is spreading like a disease, muahahaha!!!
*rubs hands together menacingly*