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Final [Girl] Review: Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist follows a family who moves into a new home in a new development. They begin to experience supernatural activity within the home, particularly a malevolent force that has an interest in their daughter.

Poltergeist (1982) Review


I wanted to watch one of those “classic” horror movies. The ones that you hear about that makes people clutch their pearls. So I figured, why not Poltergeist, one of the popular old ghost movies? I really had no idea what to expect other than exactly that, an old ghost movie. And like with all of the films I view, before I hit play, I checked on IMDB to confirm that Poltergeist is indeed considered horror.


The opening shows a cheery family, in a cheery house, in a cheery neighborhood. I wasn’t sure of the tone they were going to end up going with. Everything was extremely cloying right off the bat. Many points during the setup I was assuming the movie was going to have to take a darker turn. They gave us a little taste right in the beginning: the father, Steven, falls asleep in front of the TV. The youngest daughter of the family, Carol Anne, comes downstairs and begins speaking to the static on the television. The parents, while imbibing in herbal refreshment and getting a bit silly, chalk Carol Anne’s odd behavior from the previous evening up to sleepwalking.


However, I would like to share some thoughts I had while watching the exposition of this film:


“Is this supposed to be comedy?”

“Why is the children’s pet bird dead?”

“YOU DON’T FLUSH BIRDS DOWN THE TOILET.”

“Okay they’re burying the bird, maybe this will come into play later.”

“I must be in a dilapidated club with how many strobe effects are used.”


Once we get past the awkward setup and the plot begins to develop, we are introduced to Disney-villain levels of special effects. Wispy, ghostly animated hands come out of the television and cause a ruckus. This is when things start to become interesting. Every time there is a supernatural event, there is thunder and lightning. The son, Rob, becomes afraid of the tree outside his window. Later, the very same tree is shown crashing into the house a la Whomping Willow and nearly abducting poor Rob. Then, Carol Anne is sucked into the closet and disappears. Items continuously fly and swirl around Rob and Carol Anne’s room even after Carol Anne goes missing.


At this point the family brings in paranormal scientists, as you do. After explaining the difference between poltergeists and hauntings, the main psychologist states, “Hauntings don’t usually happen around living people.” Ma’am, I’m not an expert, but I am fairly certain that nearly 99% of all hauntings happen around living people. Needless to say, I did not see the credibility nor feel the weight of importance of the team of ghostbusters.


The family attempts to communicate with Carol Anne through the static of the television and the team of scientists devise ways to get in contact with her. They become desperate to find Carol Anne, so the main psychologist brings in another woman to assist in rescuing Carol Anne. We meet Tangina, a clairvoyant and a medium apparently well-versed in cleansing homes of angry spirits. Tangina provides some much-needed mystery and direction to a movie that seemed it would never end. Tangina instructs the children’s mother, Diane, on how to rescue Carol Anne by c r o s s i n g o v e r (it really was that vague) and bringing her back to the material plane of the living. Diane, with young Carol Anne in tow, appears after what seems to be a hefty ordeal on the other side. Then after a reunion (and a bath) we get a swift resolution of the family packing up a moving truck to begin their lives anew elsewhere.


But wait, there’s more…


Here are more thoughts I had that I would like to share:


“Why are we starting over?”

“I’ve never heard of Final Act: Part Two before…”

“I’m really not understanding why we’re starting over.”


That night, after everyone is packed, the poltergeist comes back with a vengeance. It attempts to take Diane, Rob, and Carol Anne into a glowing, gooey closet before Steven comes to the rescue. Eventually it’s revealed that the haunting (sorry, the poltergeist infestation) is due to the entire home being built on a cemetery (a nice tie-in with Tweety the bird being buried in the backyard during the setup.) The home implodes into a flash of light. The next scene shows the door of the family’s motel room about to close for the night, right before Steven rolls a portable television out onto the balcony.


I struggle to call Poltergeist a Very Scary Movie, but I have to admit that it definitely seems like a big inspiration for many modern day horror films, the first to come to mind being the absolutely brilliant The Sixth Sense. I would be really interested in seeing this film adapted into a dark, animated movie. The ghosts, makeup, and monster special effects were relatively well-done, even a bit charming and whimsical at times (ghost people in the form of motes of light walk down the stairs!) The (second) ending was clever with everything coming full-circle with the TV.


Good movie? It was decent.

Scary movie? If you’re eight, maybe.


Horror Qualifier: 7/10

Horror Quality: 4/10

Film Quality: 5/10


Make sure there are no ghosts in your closet before bed tonight, readers.


-Final Girl


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