Home of the Clown Doll
I think I am one of the few who when they watched "Poltergeist" as a child during the 80s wasn't scared by it and to be honest it has never scared me even on numerous viewings since. Well actually that is sort of a lie as clown dolls creep me out and a certain clown doll scene in "Poltergeist" is as close to scary as it gets. But whilst "Poltergeist" never succeeded in really scaring me like a horror should I still think it is a well put together movie which when considering its age still has some great special effects and top notch performances.
Steve Freeling (Craig T. Nelson - Stir Crazy) and his young family live on the same estate where he is one of the salesmen selling the properties to would be buyers. All is well until one night their youngest daughter Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) has a creepy episode as Steve and his wife Diane (JoBeth Williams) find her tealking to the interference on the TV in the middle of the night as if someone was inside talking back. It starts a series of strange, paranormal events from chairs moving to house tremors till one night Carol Anne vanishes and is lost somewhere within the paranormal side of the house.
So with "Poltergeist" we have a story which is to put simply a story of a haunted house and the poor family living in it having to deal with what are initially amusing spirits who move things turning in to violent ones who steal their daughter. It's a clever take on the idea mixing new elements such as Carol Anne communicating via the TV with old classics such as objects which move on their own. But I suppose unless you get sucked in to what is going on and believe that maybe it could happen "Poltergeist" doesn't quite have the same effect on you. It is why to this day there is only the clown doll scene which scares me with the rest which includes such delights as skeletons in a pool and a scene which feels similar to those in "The Entity" being impressive but not frightening.
I say impressive because "Poltergeist" is an impressive movie, a cleverly put together story which in a world where more houses are being built in areas which are not suitable for a variety of reasons has a strong resonance. But it is also the fantastic special effects with phenomenal use of light to really make the Freeling house come alive which it certainly does when it comes to the climax of the movie. Let me just say that whilst I was never scared by "Poltergeist" the scenes designed to visually scare are brilliant even now over 30 years later and that one scene featuring a clown doll is still as scary as I remembered.
But it is not just the visual scares and the acting from all the cast especially JoBeth Williams really helps to create an electrifying atmosphere. The scene where the Freelings have called in the paranormal investigators and Diane is talking to Carol Anne through the TV is so tense that you can really sense the danger and urgency. And that is where "Poltergeist" is at its best, creating this atmosphere of danger which makes it creepy, makes you never entirely sure what is going to happen. JoBeth Williams is not the only standout performance with both Craig T. Nelson as husband Steve and Zelda Rubinstein as Madame Tangina adding to the sense of danger and drama. Although it will always be little Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne who will be best remembered be it for the chilling "They're here" or just because she plays the character so innocently yet seems to be the channel of so much paranormal activity.
What this all boils down to is that "Poltergeist" is still a very good movie and has aged remarkably well considering it is now over 30 years old. Is it scary? For me no but it does deliver one of the best atmospheres I have ever experienced which in many ways is better than the actual horror side of things.