Poltergeist (25th Anniversary Edition) (1982)

Actors: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins
Director: Tobe Hooper
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Original recording remastered, Restored, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs:
Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date:
October 9, 2007
Run Time: 114 minutes



A typical middle class family living in the same homogeneous northern Californian suburbs as the kids in E.T. is terrorized by an Industrial Light & Magic special effects team led by Richard Edlund.

Yup, it’s the 1982 “produced by” Steven Spielberg and “directed by” Texas Chain Saw Massacre director Tobe Hooper horror flick, Poltergeist. Poltergeists literally “banging ghosts” (but that title would have meant a completely different type of movie!) enter the home of the Freeling family via their television set and capture their youngest, five year-old daughter, Carol Anne. Spielberg’s attack on the very same medium in which he began his career?

Who knows? But the film is so drenched in pure Spielbergia that it is easy to believe the rumors that Poltergeist was, excuse the pun, ghost directed by Spielberg and that Hooper’s input was minimal to say the least. (One can see Hooper’s touch though in the less PG horror moments a man tearing the flesh off his face, a raw steak exploding, food swarming with maggots, etc.)

Today the film is dated though not so much by the fashion worn by its actors, but by the pre-CGI era special effects that, let’s be honest, looked a tad ridiculous even at the film’s original release. It also moves a lot slower than today’s movies, being at times rather quite talky.

As a time capsule the film can’t be faulted though. It perfectly captures the early ‘Eighties as the last hangover effects of ‘Sixties liberalism finally made way for the Reagan era. Telling signs are in the small details: the steadily expanding suburbs as the urban CBDs slowly depopulated, the spliff-toting Boomer couple reluctant to discipline their children yet having to cope with new parental responsibilities, the Sony television and so on. If the movie were to be made today it’d probably be set in one of those gated security communities and be a full half an hour shorter.

But the film’s biggest strength is in the investment it makes in its character development. Like many early Spielberg flicks E.T., Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind Poltergeist has a natural feel for the tempos and politics of nuclear families and their suburban existence. It makes us care for its protagonists even when the horror is a bit too PG and the FX too Raiders of the Lost Ark-ish for its own good.

A classic in that it is definitely one of the era in which it was made’s best horror movies.

THE DISC: This 25th anniversary disc needn’t have been the pointless milestone it is. Poltergeist was previously released as bare bones release back in 1997, the early days of the medium and was simply ripe for a proper two-disc set re-release.

Alas, this is only a single disc release. All you get is the movie pristinely restored and remastered for sure and one of those dull one-sided “ghosts really do exist” documentaries titled, They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists Revealed. No making ofs or even audio commentaries whatsoever. Compared to Jaws (Widescreen 30th Anniversary Edition) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Collector's Edition this is a shoddy treatment of a major Spielberg film.

WORTH IT? Maybe Poltergeist will boast some proper extras with its 30th anniversary in five years’ time. Who knows? You’ll probably be buying it on HD DVD or Blu-Ray by then, so shelling out $20 for it right now is a bit of a waste unless you really must have it right now.


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