Film is creative because it is subjective. Film can provoke a sense of reaction from the audience, either negatively or positively. While this could be said for a number of genres, the horror genre sees this type of conversation the most, given a director’s style and the thought-provoking themes taken from the film. 

For those not aware, a small independent horror film titled Terrifier 2 scared audiences to the point of fainting and nearly getting sick due to the film’s gore and executions. Now, is this a good thing or not? 

 That question all lies within the audience and their ability to attain media literacy. Classic horror films of yesteryear are always being resurfaced because of the way they hold up within the confines of today’s social normalities. 

As we delve into answering this question, we ought to discuss the horror classic, Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist. Not only has the film turned 40 years old this year, but given the spirit of Halloween, we have to evaluate some of the classics. Is it a suitable film to watch during the scare-filled holiday?

Hooper is a pioneer in the horror genre, paving the way for the slasher grindhouse subgenre with his terrifying 1974 film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and introducing the world to the devious villain known as “Leatherface.” The film worked with a $140,000 budget and made nearly $30.9 million at the box office, which at the time (and even by today’s standards) is outstanding.

 After the success of The Texas Chainsaw, Hooper would continue in the horror and science-fiction genres, but with seemingly varying degrees of box office success. What makes Hooper an innovator in the horror landscape is his approach towards whimsical and outlandish stories. His directing style is manic, unhinged, but completely enthralling due to the commitment from the actors’ performances along with cutting edge visual flare. 

Poltergeist stars Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, and Heather O’Rourke, and tells the story of the Freeling family, a middle class family who have been experiencing paranormal activity at night. As the nights progress, the weirder the events become. 

The film was not only directed by Hooper, but was written by Hooper and Steven Spielberg. Yes, you read that correctly. To this day, many online film circles and the cast and crew often argue on who really directed the film, because of Spielberg’s huge role on the set.

Poltergeist is one of those movies where every iconic moment brings a smile to your face; but knowing the context behind those moments is even more bone-chilling. While Hooper’s sensibilities and body-horror is completely his own, the family dynamic between the Freeling family and its charming nature feel very indebted to the notion of “the Spielberg magic.” 

That being said, Hooper’s direction is flawless and still manages to scare me to this day. From its intense practical effects and body horror to the unexpected paranormal juxtapositions, the film still works all these years later. This could not have been without Hooper’s willingness to reach for the stars in terms of scares. 

Hooper’s flawless execution is brilliantly coupled by wonderful performances from its entire ensemble, especially by T. Nelson. Hooper is one of those filmmakers that when given a correct budget to work with, is able to create an expansive, cohesive and contained story—the marking of a true master. 

For those looking for a charming, but still frightening horror film to watch this time of year, give Poltergeist a revisit. While it is a horror film at its core, Hooper and Spielberg’s incredible screenplay work impeccably to create a layered family dynamic with themes of suburban Americana, while working with Hooper’s fascination with the past. 

Poltergeist is truly a classic in every sense of the word. 

Rating: A+

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