One of the big events of my childhood was seeing Poltergeist for the first time at 7 years old. I saw it on a 4:3 set on a very old DVD in my parents' bedroom, after my mom had recently come home from the hospital after surgery. One night, my dad came home from the library with some DVDs, and one of them was Poltergeist.
I popped it into the DVD player without hesitation as I'd wanted to see it since I was 5. I knew from the moment it started, Poltergeist was going to be a great movie, but little did I know it would become my favorite movie of all time, and I'd want to experience it again and again.
Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams star in this classic as Steve and Diane Freeling, who live with their three children, 16-year-old Dana (Dominique Dunne), 8-year-old Robbie (Oliver Robins), and 5-year-old Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) in Cuesta Verde, CA, soon learn that their home is haunted, and also that the spirits talk to Carol Anne through their television. Everything seems normal at first. Dana gives construction workers the finger and talks on the phone later than she's supposed to, Robbie is a huge Star Wars fan, and Carol Anne feeds her goldfish an entire tube of food. One night, a tree tries to eat Robbie, but they quickly save him. When the ghosts kidnap Carol Anne through the closet, they are forced to fight the evil spirit that holds their daughter if they ever want to see her again.
Well-acted, well-written, and well-directed, with great special effects, Poltergeist is the greatest ghost story put on film.
Let's start with the acting. The performances are top-notch. The way lines are said, the facial expressions, body language, everything about the characters feels real.
Craig T. Nelson plays Steve, a husband and father who's willing to do anything to save his family, so realistically, nothing about it feels fake. JoBeth Williams plays Diane, a distraught mother, so realistically, you'll believe what's happening on screen is hurting her. Heather O'Rourke gives the best performance by a 5-year-old ever. Zelda Rubinstein is also great. It doesn't even seem like they're acting. The special effects still hold up, because they still look real. The plot is still very original, because it's set in modern suburban America, and it's about a normal family that loves each other, rather than an abusive husband and father.
Poltergeist is so well-written that nobody has to die, nor does it have to be gory to keep us on the edge of our seats. Spielberg and Hooper keep it subtle by hardly showing the ghosts. Poltergeist features a great plot, great acting, great directing, and great writing. I can't recommend Poltergeist enough.
Poltergeist is a kid's movie, so it's not all that scary, though there are scenes that may scare you or creep you out, but you won't be scarred for life. In the end it really is a fun thrill ride. Poltergeist is a movie every kid must see by the time they're 8 years old. For some reason, I find myself trying, sometimes unsuccessfully, to hold back tears every time I see it.
The movie earns a 5/5.
Poltergeist is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and anamorphic. It should be noted that there's severe cropping on the left side when compared to the 25th Anniversary Edition DVD and Blu-ray.
Sharpness is pretty good except for the opening credits being slightly blurred, but readable. Grain is very present and sometimes blocks detail. Blacks are strong but don't really lose any shadow detail. It does occasionally look too dark.
The chair-stacking scene has an unnatural blue tint, and the cemetery scene has an unnatural orange tint. There are unnatural skin tones in some scenes, The "rescuing Carol Anne" scene has a black tint when it should have a blue tint, the "Carol Anne gets kidnapped" scene has an unnatural red tint. The colors are okay otherwise, but still.
I didn't find any MPEG artifacts. There is some aliasing, resulting in occasional interlacing. There are some film artifacts, but they're mostly kept under control, except for the "Carol Anne gets kidnapped" scene showing severe film damage at the top of the frame, and the "rescuing Carol Anne" scene showing some minor film damage at the top of the frame.
The video earns a 3.5/5.
Poltergeist sounds ever-so slightly better than it looks on DVD.
Poltergeist contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track.
Dialogue is clear and natural. Audio sync is perfect.
Jerry Goldsmith's score fills the surrounds very well for a stereo mix. a good example of this is when the Poltergeist theme plays over the closing credits at the end of the movie.
The surrounds are used to a pretty good level, but being a stereo mix, it's limited.
The subwoofer is used decently.
The audio earns a 4/5.
Just the theatrical trailer. It's a good trailer.
The features earn a 1/5.
Poltergeist is my favorite movie of all time, it is a timeless classic, and it still holds up after over 30 years as its message is still relevant today. Poltergeist tells the story of a family nothing can tear apart. It's a classic good versus evil story, a story of perseverance in spite of your worst fears coming to light, and holding it together in spite of everything seeming to fall apart. It's about never giving up hope. When I watched Craig T. Nelson, I saw my dad on that screen, and I see him on that screen even more now. When I watched JoBeth Williams, I saw my mom on that screen, and I see her on that screen even more now. Your experience might not be exactly like this, but there's no denying that this movie is awesome. I know you're probably worried because of things you've read online about it being scary, gory, or boring, but don't be. The violence is never gory. The occasional cursing never gets too bad. Despite everything that happens, there's a sense of hope that stays the entire movie. Let your kids see it. They'll thank you.
It looks good and sounds great, and extras are nearly nonexistent.
Overall, this release earns a 4/5.