Dir: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Dominique Dunne, Beatrice Straight and Zelda Rubinstein
Without question one of the scariest and most affective horror films to come out of the 80’s was Poltergeist. I have fond memories of discovering this along with my cousin for one of our weekly sleep overs, where we’d hire at least one horror film. That very first experience was a great time, the film had this brilliant atmosphere that built itself up cleverly for the first third. Nothing can quite compare to hearing Heather O’Rourke’s Carol Anne stating ‘they’re here’. I have kept that initial viewing with me, and that is how I will always remember the film. That is until now, we discussed the film on a podcast about the films of 1982 (listen here), and I looked up the blu-ray and wondered whether this would be worth getting. Quite simply, experiencing this on blu-ray was like watching it for the first time all over again.
The story in Poltergeist is a nice simple one, a family is haunted in their house by at first what seems to be friendly spirits. But it soon gets much worse, as they are so longer just moving objects around, they take the youngest daughter. The family have no choice and call in parapsychologists to help them get their daughter back and be rid of what haunts the house. More recently you would have seen this done in films like Paranormal Activity, but nothing does compare how to well they did it here.
The film actually takes the time to develop this family, we get to know them all and form a bond with them. Carol Anne and her parents are definitely the stand out characters, so when Carol Anne goes missing it is a shocking event and something that hurts. The traumatised parents are just so sympathetic, they have no idea what is going on and just want their daughter back. They feel justified in their actions, and the performances by all of the actors are just fantastic. The mood starts off lighter, but it goes darker as the film progresses and things get worse. The atmosphere as I mentioned builds up as well, and by the time Tangina shows up, it really is edge of the seat time.
The film is filled with iconic moments, the lightning outside the children’s bedroom along with the tree, the creepy looking clown doll and the static on the television. The film hit so many right notes, it is so difficult to find anything wrong at all with this film. I mean yes the effects are a little dated, but for 1982 they looked fantastic and on blu-ray they looked pretty fantastic. The film is a fantastic genre piece, no question about it. It is a must own for fans, especially in glorious HD!
The Australian Blu-ray
Audio/Video: Warner Bros did a fantastic job with this transfer, the film has been remastered from the original theatrical version (aspect 2.40:1) and it is presented in full 1080p. I was concerned initially with how this would look, if they were going to try clean up the grain and how the effects would hold up. I am very happy to report that it looks absolutely stunning. The picture is crisp and sharp, and the colours are so vibrant. It retains a natural grain, and it definitely has that amazing feel of its time. So you can enjoy something in the way it was intended as the transfer has not tainted it at all. If anything this is the best it has looked, and it really does feel like you are experiencing it for the first time. The soundtrack has been remastered, it gets the full Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Options also include Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 for other languages. It sounds amazing, and I can only imagine just how phenomenal it would on a full surround sound system.
Extras: The film unfortunately only features one extra aside from language and subtitle selections. Included is a two part documentary entitled ‘They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists Revealed‘. The two different parts to this documentary are ‘Science of the Spirits‘ and ‘Communicating with the Dead‘. Together they go for 31 minutes in length, and are interesting enough. They give a little bit of insight into how realistic the film portrayed different elements. I would have loved to have seen a Commentary or two, as well as anything from behind the scenes. Poltergeist remains one of those films that has a strong reputation, with the urban legend of a curse and the controversy of whether Steven Spielberg actually directed most of the film. I do appreciate that there being something extra featured on this release, but as I said I wanted more.