EdithNelson's Rating of Poltergeist

Edith's Review of Poltergeist

4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
Poltergeist

Poltergeist(1982)

This Is What All the Fuss Is About?

When I pick up my library holds every Tuesday, I go to the counter to check out instead of using self-check out, because I like talking to the librarians about any particularly interesting item that I've gotten that week. I'm pretty sure they like talking to me about them, too; when they haven't seen me in a while, they ask how I'm doing and where in the alphabet I am. This week, the librarian who checked me out looked through the pile and told me that he'd never seen this movie, because it's a scary movie. I told him that I didn't get scared by movies, ever, and he looked surprised. However, even if I did, I don't think I would have been scared by this. It isn't just my generation's curse--I saw the [i]Simpsons[/i] episode first--that caused that, either. It's that I found the movie silly instead. And I'm going to be giving spoilers, because when the big reveal came, it simply didn't make any sense.

The Freeling family has been living in the pleasant subdivision of Cuesta Verde for years. Father Steve (Craig T. Nelson) is, in fact, a salesman for the company and has apparently sold nearly half the homes in the subdivision for them. Mother Diane (JoBeth Williams) takes care of the three kids--Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke). Then one day, a storm comes. In the storm, for reasons, are dark spirits. They take Carol Anne into the realm between the living and the dead. Her parents call in Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight), a parapsychologist. She tries to help them, but it's beyond her capabilities. She, in turn, summons Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein), who has more experience in such matters. Together, they work to find a way to bring Carol Anne back into the world of the living and the care of her parents. While they are preparing for it, Steve finds out the secret of Cuesta Verde.

Or at least part of it. The part that we discover at the very end is that it is not merely that the land where the housing development was built used to be a cemetery. It is that it basically still is. Steve cries in shock that they moved the headstones, but they didn't move the bodies. (Which were real skeletons, because real ones were cheaper than good fake ones.) This is, bluntly, stupid and impossible. I mean, take a look--how deep is the foundation on your house? Okay, subdivision in probably California means these houses probably don't have basements, but the first sewer line they ran? Heck, the pool that the Freelings are having dug is deeper than six feet at its deepest point. It would not have been possible, even if it were legal, which I'm pretty sure it isn't. This doesn't work. I know I'm probably not supposed to think about that, but I'm not sure how I'm supposed to avoid it. It was so obvious and stupid that I don't know how it was possible to miss it, and one of you who managed not to think about it should let me know how.

And then there's the claim that the production was cursed. I'm not buying that, either. Supposedly, it's because they used real human skeletons in the climax (they were actually cheaper), but if that's true, [i]MythBusters[/i] is similarly cursed. Anyway, it is true that Dominique Dunne was murdered by her abusive boyfriend. Heather O'Rourke probably died of completely preventable causes. I'm given to understand that a couple of people who were in later movies also died, but you know, both the parents are still alive. The younger brother is still alive. Heck, the film was produced by Steven Spielberg, and unless you want to argue that the Academy's hatred of him is part of the curse, he's doing just fine. Director Tobe Hooper is still alive. No, this is like the alleged Curse of King Tut; it's grasping at straws to make a story more interesting. I feel for the O'Rourke and Dunne families, but I still don't think there's any such thing as curses.

This is another film I watched solely to check off the list. There are a lot of those. There continue to be a lot of them and will for some time. Yeah, okay, the list of classics I've never seen actually does get shorter, even if my list of movies I actually want to watch doesn't. My definition of "classic" is pretty specific, and there aren't as many new ones made every year which will one day become classics as I watch in a year. I don't even find out about all that many new ones. Even as I examine more countries' films, I don't learn about as many that I would consider classics as all that. So that's one list in my life that actually gets shorter, and I've knocked another one off it today. (It will not surprise you to know that the sequels don't make it onto the list.) I sometimes feel that my library project is particularly quixotic, because the catalog has more than doubled since I started. But since I don't backtrack in the library catalog, at least the end of that one is in sight, too.