Two words that were never able to be used together again without thinking about television static, a creepy little blond girl, and just how disturbing the suburbs really are. After the memorably creepy opening scene where little Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) sits waaaay to close to the TV and has an interactive viewing experience that predates the Nintendo Entertainment System by 3 years, the movie abruptly shifts to a montage sequence of a bright, sunshine-filled subdivision, where the children and the antelope play. Ok, no antelope, but in 15 years there will be a Caribou Coffee on every block. All of these shots of quaint perfection serve to provide a backdrop and counterpoint to the events that follow.
The film continues innocently enough after that, at least for a while as the supernatural phenomena continues to escalate. Furniture stacks itself on tables, or occasionally slides around rooms, to the bewildered enjoyment of the family (Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Dominique Dunn, and Oliver Robbins). However, things soon start to take a dark turn when glasses explode and trees start getting inappropriately handsy. Soon enough, the experts are called in, Carol Anne gets sucked into the closet, and a creepy little southern medium (Zelda Rubinstein) channeling Tammy Faye Baker starts speaking fallacies like "This house is clean" and screaming "Don't go into the light!"- things that would soon become part of the pop-culture mainstream of the 80's. Plus there's a couple of nifty scenes involving goopy tennis balls and a rope, and the black dude doesn't get killed, thus signifying the real progressive progress promised by the shift from 70's Sci-Fi/Horror.
Produced and Co-Written by the freshly-popular Steven Spielberg, the movie is full of the trademarks that would go on to define his films. The suburban setting, the interplay of day-to-day comedy with supernatural elements, the camera work, and the technical proficiency with the special effects all would be seen again in things like E.T. Extra Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. He gets first mention primarily because of the storm of controversy about who actually directed the picture, Spielberg or the credited Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lifeforce). Reports are sketchy about it, from all parties involved, though Hooper has always maintained his was the final word on the set. Which is strange, because even his supporters don't go that far. As already stated, there's a lot of Spielberg in this picture, and not nearly as much Hooper, when comparing their bodies of work. Wether that is the myth of fingerprints or signs of a versitle director, I'll leave up to you. You know why?
Because it doesn't freakin' matter! The movie is awesomely weird and fun to watch, considering that it the plot doesn't really have any sense of internal logic, so you're left with entertaining characters in odd situations with special effects that are (for the most part) still eye-catching to this day. Something that's perfect for an audience like the Cavalcade. As a matter of fact, the only problem our audience had was with the fact that this was the third film in our event that was a big loud blockbuster type of Ghost movie, leading to movie fatigue. It would have been a better balance for us to have had at least one of our movies be a quieter b-movie type, to keep from getting hammered by the pictures. But make no bones about it, when selecting films for an event, Poltergeist is a solid choice.