When it comes right down to it, “Poltergeist” is pure silliness, starring adult protagonists who soon prove themselves to be TOO STUPID TO LIVE. The problem is not merely that is “out-dated,” although it is. “Psycho” was outdated, but it had a good story and a good villain.
I’m not impressed with “Poltergeist”‘s story at all, and the villains (the ghosts haunting the house and ultimately, Satan) are only interesting if you make them interesting. I’ve never seen evil seem so lame.
Suburban mom Diane Freeling (JoBeth Williams) — peppy, smiley and complete with 80’s hair — does not seem the least bit alarmed when furniture starts moving by itself and her daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke, whose life tragically ended not too long after the movie was made) begins conversing with spirits through the television.
Sure, why be concerned? She is as bubbly as ever while placing little Carol Anne on a spot on the kitchen floor which seems to be magnetized, only to watch her daughter go sliding around the room. Just when you think Diane seems like a pretty good argument for sterilization, she goes and does something that hits spectacular new heights of stupid.
Mom is not so bubbly when the house begins showing signs of all-out possession and *GASP* Carol Anne is sucked through the television, a scene you must have some knowledge of unless you have lived under the ground for the last 35 years.
Together, Mom and dopey dad Steve (Craig T. Nelson), along with their two older kids Dana (Dominique Dunne) and Robbie (Oliver Robins) enlist the help of a group of wily parapsychologists to help locate young Carol Anne in- dum-dum-dum!- THE BEYOND!
This movie might be moderately successful if director Tobe Hooper didn’t treat the situation in such a goofy way. As people get slimed, possessed toys go flying and a toy clown smiles menacingly from behind its make-up, it’s hard to take any of the other elements — including the unexpected Christian overtones 00 seriously.
Let me make this clear — I do like ’80’s horror. Not “The Thing,” so much, but “The Shining,” “An American Werewolf…,” and Bernard Rose’s criminally underrated “Paperhouse-” those I like. Hell, I even like “The Lost Boys” starring the late Corey Haim, which was pure cornball silliness with an extra topping of cheese.
Here’s the difference between “The Lost Boys” and “Poltergeist”… “The Lost Boys” did the wise thing with a story like this and decided to go all the way as a comedy, while “Poltergeist” remained purely in camp territory. “The Lost Boys” featured genuinely fun, likable characters, while “Poltergeist” tried to make up for its lack of character appeal by involving kids and dogs in the mayhem. This is my opinion. Take it or leave it.