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Click above to purchase "Poltergeist" at



review by Ren C.


Rated PG

Studio: MGM

Running Time: 114 minutes

Starring Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams

Written by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais and Mark Victor

Directed by Tobe Hooper

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French 2.0 Dolby Surround, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search

Seemingly since the beginning of movies, one of the most tried and true plots has been the ghost story. "Poltergeist", at heart, is a ghost story. However, it is what it does with the plot of the ghost story that makes it so memorable, and what earned it a place on the recent AFI 100 Years, 100 Thrills list.

At the start of the movie, we are introduced to our average everyday family, the Freelings, who live in a house that is part of a real estate development. The Freelings personify the "all-American family". At least, until five-year-old Carol Anne looks at the television one night, and announces with some certainty, "they're here."

From here, all hell literally begins to break loose, at first starting with fairly innocent things such as chairs moving across the kitchen floor by themselves. But, during a thunderstorm one night, things take a very large turn for the worse, with a tree seeming to attack the house by itself, and Carol Anne being taken through a "vortex" in the bedroom closet.

The Freelings are beside themselves, and hire a parapsychologist to investigate. She informs them that the house is inhabited. The question now is, what are these beings, what do they want, and most importantly, can the Freelings get their daughter back?

It is easy to see why this movie became one of the hallmarks of the early 80's. First of all, Steven Spielberg, while technically not directing, was very heavily involved in this movie, making it a very interesting contrast to his other major movie of this time period, "E.T." Also, for this time period, the effects were state of the art, although to be honest, they look more than a little dated today. This is, of course, not a fault of the movie, as I am still impressed that they managed to do what they did with the technology of the time.

Technology aside, however, a movie at its basest elements always comes down to the plot, and this is definitely an involving one. The actors all do an excellent job with their roles, and definitely pull the viewer into the supernatural environment. Heather O'Rourke is especially good for such a young actor in the role of Carol Anne Freeling. "They're here" has become one of the most well known movie tag lines, and with good reason. All of the actors play their parts with conviction, which is vital to making a movie like this seem realistic, as opposed to campy. This has become one of the most well known movies of the 1980's, and with good reason, as it takes the classic ghost story to a whole new level.

I think this transfer was inhabited by poltergeists. This was one of the early DVDs released, so it is understandable that there would be some flaws, but it is apparent that no work was done to the transfer before putting it on DVD. Constant specks, flecks and flaws mar the print, and the picture, in general, has a washed out look. The one redeeming quality about this is that it is an anamorphic transfer, but that barely makes up for the apparent age of the print.

The audio mix is another reason that the video transfer is so frustrating. In Dolby Digital 5.1, the audio sounds fantastic. When Carol Anne is pulled out of the bedroom, it is almost as if the viewer is in the room with her, as the wind and effects come from all around. The effects take center stage, but never at the expense of dialogue, and the music is present without being overpowering. A very nice mix, especially for a movie that is almost two decades old.

It continues to amaze me that movies considered modern classics by some are virtually ignored by the studios in terms of features. For a movie like "Poltergeist", I expected a little more than a theatrical trailer that makes the video transfer of the movie look stellar by comparison. I'm sure that some point the disc will be revisited, but that doesn't excuse the total lack of features on this disc.

While "Poltergeist" is definitely a memorable movie, and one that broke new ground, it is given a generally shabby treatment on this disc. The transfer is almost sad, and unless you're a trailer completist, there are no features here for you. The audio is the only above average part of this disc, as is, of course, the movie itself. Not recommended, unless you have to have "Poltergeist" in your collection RIGHT NOW and can't wait for the inevitable re-release.

(3.5/5 - NOT included in final score)




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