It's more than 25 years since that classic catchphrase, "They're heeeere", made its mark. And in those intervening years, the film has been frequently referenced and parodied. And looking back at it all these years later, it still holds up as a fine supernatural thriller, thanks to the efforts of Spielberg and Hooper — although the special effects look quite primitive by today's standards.
Poltergeist is a ghost story set in Spielberg's favourite territory — suburban middle America. Spirits begin communicating with five-year-old Carol Anne (O'Rourke) through static on the TV. Strange things then begin happening: forks and spoons bend, kitchen chairs move themselves. The family thinks it's all quite amusing until all hell breaks loose during a nasty storm one night and Carol Anne is sucked into another dimension through her bedroom closet.
The rest of the film is about trying to get Carol Anne back — first involving parapsychologists from the university, and then medium Tangina (Rubinstein). Cue that other famous line from the film — "Carol Anne, don't move into the light" — and more spooky goings on. Plus a good dollop of humour along the way. And that wonderful double climax. And one of the scariest clowns on screen (next to Pennywise from Stephen King's It).
It's classic stuff, with good solid performances all round — particularly from the late Heather O'Rourke as little Carol Anne — and the usual Spielberg themes of love and family. Hooper seems somewhat restrained (probably boss Steve wanting to keep things reasonably family friendly) and as I said above, the special effects — which were groundbraking back in 1982 — look very ordinary compared to what we're now used to.
But it's still an effective ghost story, still quite scary at times (particularly the corpses in the swimming pool). And who will ever forget that classic final scene of the TV set being evicted from the motel room? Stories still abound that Spielberg — who is only credited as co-writer and producer — actually ruled on set and directed more than Hooper did. I guess we'll never know the real story.
EXTRAS ★★ A 31-minute documentary called They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists.