Everybody remembers the first scary movie that gave them nightmares for days and months after they saw it. For some, it was the Exorcist and for more recent folks perhaps it was Scream or Saw. For me, it was Poltergeist. I was but seven years old and thought it would be something like E.T. Phone Home, but with swirly demons and ghosts? It was PG, how bad could it be? In the next two hours, I was treated to something that resonates with me to this very day. From the moment I heard “They’re Here”, I knew I would never see static on televisions the same way.
It’s 3:00 in the morning, the national anthem is playing and then the television goes to static (remember those days, now we just get infomercials about losing weight). A small child named Carol Anne (played by Heather O’ Rourke) gets out of bed and walks towards the television. She starts talking to the set and works up a pretty good conversation. The people inside the television were trying to communicate with the 5 year old child. However, there was something else in the television set, something far more sinister. There was more at work here than a girl perhaps making an imaginary friend.
The Freeling family seems normal. Steve (played by Craig T. Nelson) is a real estate agent and is responsible for 42% of the area’s sales. Diane (played by Jo Beth Williams)is a stay at home mom with three wonderful kids: Dana (played by Dominique Dunne, Robbie(played by Oliver Robins) and of course, Carol Anne. Then things start happening. More than your standard talking to your television set. Trees seem to come alive and dolls with clown faces seem to haunt their dreams. Diane notices furniture where it shouldn’t be. From there it’s a spiral staircase heading down into a deep and dark story where they fight for their children and for their sanity.
Poltergeist works on so many levels. First, it strikes you as a family drama and then descends immediately into a suspenseful film once the action picks up. It even dives a little bit into a horror film but without the hooks or teenagers getting slashed. However, it always keeps the suspense even into the final scenes. Then the final scene it becomes a family drama again before coming to the conclusion (and two more sequels would soon follow). The acting is soild all the way around and even though it was about ghosts and certain events were strengthened for the camera, it almost felt like this could happen to you. It took something so tranquil and turned it into a great movie. The movie, 25 years old now does suffer a little from age but it is still a very strong movie.
The video is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The print has been cleaned up quite a print and even though its cliche; this movie has never looked better. Colors are solid and the film does not feel 25 years old (unless you start dating the various objects around the house). If you appreciated the movie when you were a child and appreciated the spectors and the ghosts and thought they might be hokey when they cleaned up the print. Well I’m happy to disappoint you then, it still feels genuine, it still feels really creepy. It’s not perfect, but it is as good as it can get with current technology.
Audio is provided in so many choices that it will make your head spin (wait that’s another movie). English is provided in both 5.1 and 2.0 while French, Spanish and Portuguese also participate with a language choice. The 5.1 remaster is excellent; bringing an extra level of creepy to the situation. Sounds bounce off your surround speakers and voices come from your setup. This is still a great movie in this day and age to turn the lights down and grab a bowl of popcorn with. Just be careful or else the popcorn might wind up spilled in your lap. Subtitles are also provided in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese.
- They are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists31:02: This lone extra is split into two parts, Science of the Spirits and Communicating with the Dead. Essentially, it’s some “real” mediums that talk about their experience on communicating with the dead. It dabbles a little with EPV and talks about how certain things in the movie are based on real life experiences. However, all it really does is come off incredibly hokey. To be honest, I question how real these mediums are. I don’t doubt ghosts and I don’t doubt there are phantoms of some sort. But I find it incredibly ironic when they spent a few minutes talking about Harry Houdini and how he debunked various members in the profession and we have 30 minutes of some very circumspect people who claim they talk to the dead.
Until the day I switch over into the next life, I will always have found memories of Poltergeist. It works for me even today and takes me back to a childhood where I can’t sleep with a television going or even have a window where I can see outside. I am still terrified by clowns (however I blame Stephen King more for this) and still am suspicious of trees that have lost their leaves. The amazing thing about this movie is that it is PG. Seven years old, it probably seemed like an innocent scary movie for parents to take their children to. But with displays of ghosts, demons, skulls and corpses along with the occasional drug use (this means you, JoBeth); you start wondering what the MPAA was on. The dvd is fantastic as long as you stick to the movie itself. The video and audio are excellent but the extras are way too meager for such a great film. Highly recommended at a budget price; just be sure that no little ladies named Tangina are sitting around.
- DVDVerdict.com – Brett Cullum proclaims the transfer is clean!
- FranksReelReviews.com – Morbidly Hollywood – Dominique Dunne