Summary: A distinctly Spielbergian piece of childlike terror and awe.
Review: I’ve always been a paranormal enthusiast. My instincts tell me that the world around us, especially popular media’s edited view of the world, is not all there is. There are still unfathomable mysteries. Not everything’s explained by bouncing particles together and making educated guesses. It proves my geekhood, but when I consider how I approach the world, I immediately think of the Vulcans from ‘Star Trek’ and their philosophy IDIC, that is, Infinite Diversity (in) Infinite Combinations. There are too many possible answers for every question.
Which brings me to a recent cinematic experience I had, Steven Spielberg’s story ‘Poltergeist’, a movie that’s equal parts wonder and horror. The filmmakers wisely spent most of their time showing the unfolding supernatural events from a child’s point-of-view. Children, of course, believe in IDIC. They’re natural poets. A rainstorm is more than part of a cycle, unfolding since the Earth’s beginning; it’s a harbinger of doom. A tree isn’t a passive factory of useful materials; it’s a pensive, devious, patient monster. A clown doll sitting at the foot of the bed isn’t a fun toy; at night, it transforms into a demon, waiting for you to fall asleep. It’s the imagination’s dark side in full force.
What ‘Poltergeist’ does is it takes childhood fears — that your home is the devil’s playground — and brings them into the adult world. Unlike most cinematic families, the family in ‘Poltergeist’ is unified, loving, and three-dimensional. It’s the family every kid wants and deserves. When the kids’ fears prove real — and ghosts kidnap the little girl — the parents don’t react with skepticism. To combat a supernatural enemy, they need the same imagination and faith their children have. This is what Jesus is talking about when He says, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Not an impossible demand or a threat; a plea for open minds.
‘Poltergeist’ is indeed scary, but because it originated in Spielberg’s mind, it has the same sense of adventure and awe as ‘Jaws’ and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. If you’ve got a stomach for horror, ‘Poltergeist’ is incredibly fun, and even inspiring. Watching the father, played by Craig T. Nelson, interact with the kids, well, it made me want to be a Dad. It’s increasingly rare that we get to see a purely positive role model.
I’ve referred to this as a Spielberg film, and it’s not because I have any illusions about who directed it. That was Tobe Hooper. The auteur is not always the director; its how we ought to pinpoint the chief creative force behind any project, no matter their role. Here, it was certainly the co-writer and producer, Steven Spielberg, as the narrative is certainly his and every shot screams out his influence.
‘Poltergeist’ is my favorite horror film of all time. It’s an experience akin to ‘Jaws’, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and the ‘Indiana Jones’ pictures. I’ll be returning to that haunted house again.