Monday, August 8, 2011
I started out kind of loving Poltergeist, then about fifty minutes in, I got the strange feeling that I would sort of hate it. The movie sets up to be a splendid little ghost story. Though he didn't direct, Steven Spielberg, acting as producer and c0-writer, is clearly behind the small town suburbia setting and the common family being invaded by a supernatural force. Ghosts are haunting the Freeling family (headed by Craig T. Nelson, looking a lot like a heftier Richard Dreyfus), and their young daughter seems to be able to communicate with them through a TV screen. It's a wonderfully creepy image, seeing her crouched in front of the tube, almost like a possessed demon-child. But instead of keeping things at that, chilling and frightening and slowly building up the tension, Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper (has there ever been a more disappointing collaboration?) turn Poltergeist into a special effects horror flick more along the lines of The Thing than Paranormal Activity. So if both of those movies are good, then why does it matter if it resembles one or the other? Mainly because Poltergeist had the chance to be a superior ghost story and instead settled for the B movie bliss embraced by The Thing while being limited by a PG rating. But more regrettable is that not only does the movie fail to scare us, but it doesn't even seem to try. I'm glad it opted to stay away from the obvious gotcha moments that plague so many horror films, but that's still no excuse for how loud this movie gets. I was particularly irritated by the ending, partly because I was ready for the movie to stop and it just went on, and because in its over-bloated final scare, Spielberg and Hooper become children who do not understand that there's such a thing as too much of a good thing. The only difference is that for them, they're indulging in too much of a bad thing.