Poltergeist (1982)

In Films by Samuel Love

Rereleasing in cinemas this Halloween from Park Circus Films and available for the first time on 4K UHD from Warner Bros, Tobe Hooper’s iconic supernatural shocker remains one of the most enjoyable horror flicks of its era. From the relatable, lived-in characters, to the funny moments and terrifying scares alike, Poltergeist just works – and continues to age remarkably well even in its 40th year.

Narratively speaking, Poltergeist is pretty much the archetypal haunted house flick. Small, peculiar happenings begin to plague the seemingly perfect family home until the activity gets more sinister and five-year-old Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) – who seemingly has a connection with the paranormal through her mysterious conversations with television static – is captured through an otherworldly portal in her bedroom. Desperate, the family turn to parapsychologists, and ultimately an eccentric spiritual medium (the incredible Zelda Rubinstein), to save their daughter before it’s too late.

You’ve all seen Poltergeist. I don’t need to tell you what it’s about. But what I do need to remind you of is that it’s held up so much better than a lot of 80s horror. Poltergeist is still scary, thanks not only to the solid effects and genuinely unsettling atmosphere but also the stellar performances – particularly the late O’Rourke who delivers one of the most chillingly compelling child performances in cinema history. Her iconic “theeeey’re heeeere” will always send shivers down my spine. Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are also sublime, portraying one of the most genuine married couples you’ll see onscreen. 

Poltergeist of course went down the same dark path that all horrors of that era did, with increasingly underwhelming sequels and ultimately a bland, cookie-cutter remake in the mid-2010s. But the original remains a near-flawless piece of cinematic horror crying out for you to revisit it this Halloween season. Thanks to the major BFI UK-wide film/events programme IN DREAMS ARE MONSTERS you can enjoy this spooky spectacle on the big screen where it belongs, but if that doesn’t float your boat, you’ve got the option of Warner Bros’ stunning new 4K UHD release.

Either way, there’s no time like now to revisit Poltergeist – an impeccable piece of horror filmmaking from Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg.

POLTERGEIST is back in cinemas nationwide from 21 October and screens as part of IN DREAMS ARE MONSTERS, a major BFI UK-wide film and events programme celebrating the horror genre, in cinemas and venues across the UK until 31 December 2022.