What do you get when you put Steven Spielberg, Tobe Hooper, Jerry Goldsmith, and Beatrice Straight in a big budget MGM motion picture about a haunted house? You get "Poltergeist" a top of the pick, no holds barred, roller coaster ride through the supernatural world and back to ours. "Poltergeist" explores the side affects of a haunted house and it's effects on a normal suburban family who inhabits the house.
Steve Freeling is a successful realestate agent who has a nice house and a loving wife, with a family to die for. There is the spunky, rebellious eldest daughter, as portrayed gloriously by the late Dominique Dunne, may she rest in peace. The sporty young son, and the cute, innocent youngest daughter, Carol Ann, of whom the story is based around. The Freelings' are a happy American family whose lives are turned upside down when they realize their house in 'haunted' and the 'poltergeists' kidnap the youngest member of the family. In the film that pursues, Steve and his wife Diane do everything in their power to get her back, with the aid of Dr. Lesh, played out Oscar worthy by Beatrice Straight, and her assistants. Horrors and traumas ensue.
Enough power to knock you out of your dreams for long time, this film, was said to be directed by Tobe Hooper, whom had previous fame with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But when one watches this film, it is anything but Hooper. Hooper's trademarks include hysteria and screaming by a young female in the finale of his films(remember 'Eaten Alive?') and have no real substance or depth in their plots, what you see is what you get. Whereas this film, said to be produced by Spielberg, was so obviously directed(on the side anyway)by also, as his trade marks include psychological P.O.V. shots(Diane Freeling in the hallway scene) and wide range of character development(all characters except for Dana are developed to fruition, but Dunne does such a great job as Dana that you can't really tell.)There was even controversy over who directed the film, and still stands so today, although Spielberg came forward a little after the film was released, and exposed himself as only producer and assistant to the director, still, rumor is still hovering over the memory of the production.
The music to the film is superb, with Goldsmith clearly at one of his best moments, nominated but did not win, although he should have. His theme for the Freelings' is a calm, gentle one that compliments his theme for Carol Ann, which is quite possibly one of the prettiest themes he ever concocted. His score for the ghosts consists of structured, spiritual themes and rough orchestral brass woodwind, accompanied by a grand chorus. All other themes he came up with were just as stand out-ish as the above mentioned.
The acting is top notch, by conflicted Steve Freeling, who is so confused he self destructs into a pale maelstrom in his mind, and Diane, the mother and star of the film, Jobeth Williams is at her finest as she deals with the stress of trying to find her daughter, and keeping her family afloat amidst the chaos. The children are all really good under Hooper's(Spielberg's?) direction, particularly Dominique Dunne, who shines through in all scenes she is in, even though her character has got to be the most underdeveloped! Robbie is fun to watch, as all little boys will be boys. And who could forget the cute Carol-Ann...They're Heeeeere! Enough said. But my personal favorite was the late Beatrice Straight, as the sympathetic Dr. Lesh, who with every facial expression, the audience can see what exactly she is thinking, about to say, and still manages to surprise the audience with her spontaneous acting skill. The supporting cast are just as great.
Special effects make this even more of a thrill ride of the ages, as Industrial Light and Magic was first starting out, and makes this one of the biggest special effects fest of cinema. Nominations for those also.
So in full circle, this family, this film, the most extraordinary horror film of the eighties, still has the power to ring every chill out of it's script, while still managing to keep the audience calm with it's realism, and relief.
And about the curse that is said to follow the series' past, all just tragedies and coincidence.
May Dominique Dunne, Beatrice Straight, Heather O' Rourke, Jerry Goldsmith, all rest in peace.
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