Friday Night Frights: "Poltergeist" (1982) | Movie Review
Release Date: June 4, 1982
Runtime: 1 hr. 54 min.
MPAA Rating: PG
Welcome back to Friday Night Frights! This week we are starting our journey through the Poltergeist franchise, beginning with the 1982 original film (you can find the rest of the reviews here). Friday Night Frights was created by Claire from The Book Fox (please, check out her channel and subscribe), and if you want to join us on this scary journey you should join this Goodreads group to stay up to date with what we're watching next!
Poltergeist is one of those horror classics that are considered a must-see regardless of whether or not you are a horror fan. It's a thriller, a family drama, and an effectively suspenseful film. It centers around a family in California that has to face an ominous chain of events in their seemingly normal house, and the possibility of it being haunted. It's also one of those film franchises that are considered to be cursed due to a series of tragic events.
One of the best things about Poltergeist is how well it creates its creepy atmosphere. It introduces its viewers to a very pretty normal family—likable, relatable, semi-responsible, with their own quirks and issues. And then it slowly builds up the supernatural elements—starting with odd occurrences here and there, and eventually escalating into otherworldly mayhem. The small abnormalities are just odd enough to notice and question, setting the viewers up for bigger things to come.
And since I started talking about the family itself, let me just say how important it is to see these characters act like real people. Modern horror is so often concerned with squeezing in as many jump-scares and gore into the films as possible that they forget none of it matters if the audience doesn't care about the characters. The family in Poltergeist is definitely one the viewers can't help rooting for because they feel like real people—they fall asleep with the TV on, the kids have typical fights and fears, the parents want some time to themselves, quietly smoke pot after the kids are put to sleep, and are concerned with appearing normal. When it comes other characters, they too are memorable and unique—who could forget the feisty and bossy Tangina?
Unfortunately, the further into the movie it gets the harder it is to judge it fairly with a modern eye. Look, I have a reasonable level of nostalgia when it comes to 1980s-90s, but sometimes it can be hard to look past dated visual effects. It doesn't take away from the story, but it did take me out of it on several occasions, and that definitely impacted my enjoyment of this film. To me, some parts of Poltergeist simply feel silly at this point. The film also feels a bit long—I remember thinking that the first time I saw it as a kid, and I still had that feeling re-watching it recently.
Overall, I would still consider this film a must-watch, despite looking dated. While I can't honestly give it the highest rating, I also can't deny it's a unique and memorable film. Poltergeist just has that "movie magic" that can't be re-captured, and thus must be seen, even though it may not become your favorite classic.
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