Directed by Tobe Hooper, produced and written by Steven Spielberg, the film often seems like signature Spielberg—including the middle-class family dynamic and a focus on children that lends a softer, but no less scary, edge to the disturbing events suddenly taking place in the Freeling home. A horror film crafted to scare viewers of all ages, Poltergeist barely earned its PG-rating because of a single scene of surreal gore. With special effects that have aged relatively well, the film is now a compendium of iconic phenomena—Carol Anne’s hands on the television, the carnivorous tree tapping against the bedroom window, the possessed clown doll, Zelda Rubinstein’s indelible medium—ingrained in pop culture’s psyche. Despite touching on modern problems such as suburban alienation, rampant homogenous development, missing children, desecration of sacred land, media messages, and of course, the power of television, the film and its family always maintain a certain positivity and lightheartedness, perhaps because realizing so many primal fears in one movie requires a little more levity than your average poltergeist can provide.
Age recommendation: 15+