The story of a typical Californian family that are taken back by some strange occurrences firstly identified by their youngest daughter.
She then mysteriously is transported to another world & the family frantically try to find out what happened. Builds to quite a unsettling third act...not typical Spielberg quite interesting.
Old-school special effects reign supreme, but many of Poltergeist's creepy moments have long passed their sell-by date. Today, the film is but a nostalgic relic, which in a video store would need to be placed in its own bizarre kiddie-horror subsection somewhere between Scooby Doo and one of those ghastly Paranormal Activity rip-offs. A soundtrack worthy of a Home Alone picture doesn't help Poltergeist's childish dynamic, which reaches its peak during an embarrassing 'pop-up coffins' sequence in the final act, which wouldn't look amiss in one of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion attractions.
The childish side would be fine, and even fun, if it wasn't for the fact that one or two sequences still chill to the bone - making Poltergeist wholly inappropriate for little ones even in the age of internet porn. Face-shredding prosthetics and paranormal clowns still frighten today, even if they look out of place in this twee tale of family values in the face of misfortune.
This movie was not bad, however. Despite not being actually directed by Spielberg, it had a very Spielberg feel to it, as far as the directing. And I loved it. Tobe Hooper does a great job directing not just stylishly, but when it comes to the horror elements, he pulls it off with terrifying results. The performances are also great. The child performances, though they aren't in very much of the film, are great and sometimes scary. JoBeth Williams' performance is also great, and the actors really make it feel like the horrors happening in this movie are really happening.
Steven Spielberg's script is also great. It's a very smart and original horror movie script. It has scary elements, some surprises, unique ideas, and it really does the horror movie gig that we're now all so tired of in an interesting way. Horror movies now are just something scary happens and there's jump scares and that's about it. This movie is different. It builds suspense in an interesting way. Instead of horrific things just happening, we see them start to happen and people start to figure it out, then things go haywire. I do have one complaint about that aspect, however. It could have been a lot more interesting if it felt like the characters didn't know what was happening. Pretty much after the chair scene, all the characters know there's a haunting in their house and are just fine with it. They almost seem like they're having fun with it. Nonetheless, like I said before, this movie is scary. I was a fan of Spielberg at a younger age, and I'm glad this was one of his movies I didn't watch. I would have an instant death fear of clowns, as most people probably did after seeing this movie. This isn't a true pure horror movie, but it sure is scary.
Overall, Poltergeist is a classic horror flick, but also a unique one. It's horrifying when it wants to be (mainly the last 30 minutes) and also has amazing directing, a smart and original script, and great performances. Definetly worth seeing, but not at night!
The film being nearly as old as me, I can forgive the dated effects, but the acting and story... no.
I felt no connection to the characters, and was frankly switching between boredom, not caring, and cringing the more the film went on.