Poltergeist

"They're heeeere."

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. NelsonJoBeth WilliamsDominique 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 TerrestrialJurassic 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 MassacreLifeforce).  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.

Lifeforce

Once the intrepid astronauts fly into the tail of Haily's Comet to find a gigantic ship shaped not-unlike a penis, disembark their shuttle to enter and fly down a long organic corridor that is not-unlike a urethra (more of a fallopian tube, but we're sticking with the previous organ), and enter a room that was not-unlike a womb filled with batlike fossils, and with a large doorway that is not-unlike a sphincter that later has a shaft of light shoot out of it, we knew we were in for a cinematic achievement heretofore unimagined by man. Once the self-same astronauts deploy a "specimen bag" on one of the fossils (read: A Net) and fly into the sphincter light only to find some nubile alien hotness in a crystal cage on the other side, we realize that Freud is deeply at work in this picture. But we also realize that this is going to be one hell of a movie!

It's kind of hard to figure out exactly where this film went so gloriously astray. Written by Alien-scribe (and director of Return of the Living Dead) Dan O'Bannon, who certainly is capable of writing a creepy film with Xenomorphs, and directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), who has scared the living crap out of an audience more than once, and yet this is one of the silliest "serious" Sci-Fi/Horror movies to ever come out of the 80's. Maybe it's the subject matter? When you adapt a little-known book published in the 70's with the auspiciously descriptive title of Space Vampires, you set yourself up for a certain level of camp. Strangely enough, the book is supposedly better than the movie, but I can't see how. It doesn't have Mathilda May.

Ah yes, Mathilda May, the lead vampire. One must  wonder what she thought when she read the script and saw that the only costume she would be wearing the entire production would be a see-through scarf, and that for only one scene. The rest of the movie she walks around the very cold sets very naked, something that the producers certainly decided to showcase in all of the trailers and a healthy dose of the promotional materials. To be fair (and a bit of a lech), it's totally the right call on both the producer's and the vampires' part.  To quote one of the astronauts: "I'd say she's perfect. I've been in space for six months and she looks perfect to me."

Don't worry ladies, there are two male vampires who also suffer from the same continuous wardrobe malfunction for a large portion of the picture, but for some reason they don't get equal screentime. Go figure.

As it turns out, bringing naked space aliens, who just happen to resemble hot-bodied models housed in crystals to your ship can lead to electrical fires (something that Smokey certainly never thought of). Also, when a derelict burned-out space shuttle is found to have only one survivor and a cargo of naked space aliens, who just happen to resemble hot-bodied models housed in crystals, it might not be a good idea to bring them back to Earth. It might just lead to an alien invasion, a whole host of horny zombies, and some man-on-man action with Patrick Stewart. Who knew?

What totally makes this movie is that every one in it is dead serious. British actors Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, and the aforementioned former Starfleet Captain all deliver their lines with the gravitas of Lincoln's Gettysburg address. The same goes for the heavy-handed direction and script. At no point, it seems, did anybody realize exactly how ridiculous this all was, which makes it all the more amusing to watch.

Colonel Tom Carlsen: She's resisting. I'm going to have to force her to tell me. Despite appearances, this women is a masochist. An extreme masochist. She wants me to force the name out of her. She wants me to hurt her. I can see the images in her mind. You want to stay? Otherwise wait outside!
Colonel Colin Caine: Not at all. I'm a natural voyeur.

When exchanges like that are handled like they're reciting Shakespere, well...It just becomes that much more enjoyable with a group of friends, a host of drinks, and a large helping of food. Throw in some truly impressive special effects for the time, and this film is highly recommended for the Cavalcade.