31 Days of Horror: Poltergeist (1982) – REVIEW

Time to turn our attentions to an oldie for today’s instalment of 31 Days of Horror. Let me warn you – the thoughts that lie in wait may well get me exiled from the horror community. Poltergeist is a film that I felt needed to feature just because it’s sort of a Hall of Famer. Of course, this does set a certain level of expectation (you really would have thought I’d have learned by now) that is almost always never met. Was this the instance that was the exception to the rule? Sadly not.

The premise here is a simple one – a family home is haunted by a collection of ghosts. When the spirits kidnap one of the children, the parents are forced to find someone who might be able to help get her back.


Poltergeist just didn’t float my boat

It’s a shame, because it had quite a lot going for it. My ears pricked up when I saw Steven Spielberg’s name plastered all over the opening credits. It’s usually a good sign, right? Then, later on when the film got under way, I thought it was fascinating that the family didn’t seem to have much issue with the ghostly invasion at their home. I can’t think of too many films today where characters are as enthusiastic as the Freelings were about the haunting at first, let alone older films like Poltergeist. It was quite refreshing to see.

The film was also pretty funny, although I don’t know how much of that was intentional. There were moments that I think would have been scarier for cinema goers back in the 80’s whereas now we seem to be more seasoned when it comes to ghost stories. However, I think the timing of watching this helped massively as I was in the mood for something not quite as heavy as some of my other viewings of late, so it was a nice change of pace in that regard.


I was also a huge fan, as I always am, of the practical effects used in the film. They’re why I’ll always give older films a go because they simply don’t make them like this anymore. Not that I’m knocking CGI, but I just love seeing it *really* happen on-screen, and Poltergeist had some absolute crackers.

However, the film fell flat

Maybe I was waiting on the wrong thing, but it seemed like Poltergeist never had any kind of real impact. I was hoping for some of the old-school traits to make an appearance, but they never came. I can’t say that the film presented us with an iconic character, or had a stand-out moment that will stick with me for years to come. It’s like it was always on the cusp of something, but lacked the energy to actually break through.

I dare say that it also felt very dated as well, and not in a way that gave it charm. There are some older films where the age adds to their magic. Whether that be the pioneering methods used to get them made, or the fact that it really couldn’t have been better made at any other point in time, for some films, their age is as big a part of them as anything else. I didn’t get that vibe from Poltergeist at all, and it disappoints me because I really wanted to like it. Instead, it was more of a forgettable let down.


Maybe old horror isn’t for me?

Poltergeist joins a growing collection of films that I thought would be much better than they turned out to be. It lacked a pizazz that would at least have resulted in me remembering some of the film’s events beyond the end credits. There were individual components that stood out to me as something promising, but as a whole, it was a drag. I definitely won’t be rushing into a rewatch any time soon.

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