The cult horror classic Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper, is generally agreed upon to largely be the brainchild of Steven Spielberg. While Hooper, a surprising choice given The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, is technically the director, and gets the official credit, most of the people on the set agree that Spielberg was pretty much the man in charge. Only thing was, he wasn’t supposed to be; there was a clause in Spielberg’s contract while he was shooting E.T. that said he couldn’t work as director on any other film until E.T. was finished. Well, seeing as he is credited as producer, writer, and editor of Poltergeist, he essentially found a way to work around that.
I’d seen Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but hadn’t seen this one until tonight, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Hooper this time around. I shouldn’t have been worried; here, Hooper shows a surprising amount of deftness in his handling (if it is indeed his handling). This isn’t the rough and gritty kill-fest that was Texas Chain Saw, this is a much more fine grain of sandpaper, used to polish the film to a mirror shine. Every element is perfectly professional and solid all the way through, though again, with Spielberg as producer, you know he wouldn’t accept anything less. The other standout, besides the production as a whole, is the special effects; even for 1982, they’re pretty extraordinary, and the film would’ve been hokey and campy had they been anything less than what they are.
This is pure popcorn entertainment, plain and simple, and as far as popcorn entertainment goes, this is pretty damn good. Hell, I feel pretty confident in saying this was great, and that’s a word that’s pretty scarce coming from me about a straight popcorn blockbuster. To quote any moviegoer over the age of 40, they just don’t make ’em like they used to, and this is a great example of an entertainment blockbuster that works on just about every level. The Book makes a point to mention that the plot may strain credibility a little, and that’s really the only knock against it I would give, but I was engrossed in the story the whole time, and never felt that credibility stretching personally, so if I can get past it, you should be able to just fine. I went into this thinking it was just another popular blockbuster to make the List, and came out incredibly pleased with what I’d just seen. If you haven’t seen this one yet, either, it’s a film that really is worth it in the end, and it doesn’t save itself entirely for the end like so many other films; it’s worth it the whole way through.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10