‘Poltergeist’ review

14 10 2010

[written by writer, Sonia Marcon]

 

"They're here"

 

If you want a film that is a great example of an almost seamless amalgamation of creative flair then Poltergeist should be one of your top ten choices. It uses the story writing talent of Steven Spielberg to create a family unit that you can’t help sympathising with, as they are tormented by a creature that gains horrific prowess by being directed by Tobe Hooper, who is best known for his redefinition of the horror genre with the classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

If Poltergeist was written and directed by Spielberg then I think we would have had a very different movie. The expected story tropes would remain, such as the family’s struggle to overcome an external factor and come together as one to defeat it, but it would lose the entertaining and (possibly) necessary scenes that surpass thrills and chills and are all-out horror. The same can be said if the situation was reversed; Tobe Hooper writing and directing Poltergeist would make for a more gruesome yet possibly soulless film. Hooper brings a gritty reality to the unthinkable which is complimented superbly by a depth of character only experienced in Spielberg films. There is something magic about watching a film that is driven by the cutest girl imaginable then seeing her covered in gore.

This film has great character work that is very obviously Spielberg-esque. The way the children interact with each other and the way the parents interact with the children make for a warm, family network. That makes it even more effective when the family is disrupted. This use of family relations is not necessary but I think it raises the film to a level that isn’t purely horror. It becomes emotional. This is also reflected on the family’s reaction to the poltergeist; there is true sadness in relation to death instead of just fear of the unknown. This emotional reaction is also made evident by the conversation between characters. It’s natural and realistic which makes all the spookiness effective by bringing the possibility that this could happen to anyone right there next to you.

Poltergeist has all of the usual Spielberg story angles which make Tobe Hooper’s direction so amiable and satisfying. While Spielberg’s talent lies in bringing majesty and magic close enough to the viewer for them to almost touch, Hooper grabs the viewer’s face, slaps it a few times, and shoves them hard and fast into what he wants them to see. These differences between Hooper and Spielberg are what, I think, makes them work so well together. Opposites attract, as ‘they’ always say. Without Hooper, this film would lack the possibility of what makes ghosts so scary. Without Spielberg, this film would just be creepy without any character or heart.

There seems to be much disagreement about who actually had the final say in the films end result. Did Spielberg direct this but due to the fact that he was doing ET at the time couldn’t have his name on both works? Was Tobe Hooper’s name used in order to create variance in the credits? My opinion lies in the resoundingly negative. Everything that is present in Poltergeist that could be associated with Spielberg is there because it is in the script. Even the parts of the film that look very Spielberg, such as the use of very bright lights, are there because of what would have been in the screenplay. There is the opinion that this film is Hooper trying to direct like Spielberg but I disagree. I think this film is very much inspired by Spielberg, which isn’t surprising; Spielberg does what he does well and he’s very successful at it. I think of this film as an idea that was birthed by Spielberg but was raised and schooled by Hooper. Even though a parent or teacher will try to mould an offspring into something they want, there are unchangeable parts that will always be present from birth.

Poltergeist is a film that stands alone on its own merits and creativity because it melds two opposing creative roots so well. Its only failing would be that it doesn’t hail the die-hard fans of either Spielberg or Hooper. Spielberg fans would not like the parts that are very Hooper and vice versa, so this film easily loses viewers that get hailed by the specifics known to both. However, I think this melding of the two creates a work that stands on it own very well and the fact that Spielberg and Hooper are so different makes the end product ooze originality.

[Check in tomorrow for Aaron Polson‘s Ghostbusters review]

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