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Poltergeist (DVD)

Poltergeist: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD (click for larger image)Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins, Heather O’Rourke

Directed by Tobe Hooper

Distributed by Warner Home Video


“They’re here!” Two words that when put together form one of the most familiar film catchphrases of all time. Those two words are sacred ground for both rabid and casual horror fans alike. Hell, mention them to just about anyone and they will almost always get the reference. It’s been twenty-five years since little Carole Anne (O’Rourke) put her hands against her flickering television screen thereby ushering in a bunch of dead folks with a horrid agenda, and there’s a new DVD hitting shelves to celebrate. Too bad everyone has shown up to the party except for anyone who had anything at all to do with the movie.

The Freeling family were very much your ordinary folks. They lived in suburbia, had a dog, a white picket fence, and anything else you could imagine that would make them as non-descript as possible. Yet something strange started happening to them. Their new home began to take on a personality of its own. Things started playfully enough with bending spoons and stacking chairs. For a while the Freelings were even kind of digging on this phenomenon. Then things took a turn for the worse. The ghosties they were sharing their home with finally revealed their intentions — take their daughter and use her to cross over to the other side. Why did they need help? Because the spirits became displaced after their headstones were moved to a different area, but their worldly remains were left to rot under dozens of newly built houses. Yep, nothing like desecrating the memories of hundreds of people by building homes for the living on their final places of rest to get the old haunting juices flowing.

Poltergeist: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD (click for larger image)That’s the set up, and it’s a winner. Some people have gone on record by saying that Poltergeist was one of the scariest films they’ve ever seen, and there’s no doubt the film has touched a nerve with many movie buffs. Part of the reason the film is as scary as it is, is the setting. Up until Poltergeist‘s release haunted house flicks usually took place in dilapidated settings or in some huge menacing home. You’d almost expect these places to be haunted, but in this flick everything seems normal. You really get that “if this could happen here it could happen anywhere” vibe from the film. The randomness of these events is pretty terrifying. No matter how much research you do, you may never truly know what’s happened either in the home or on the land in which you hang your hat. History can be one frightening bitch.

Speaking of history, this release is the 25th Anniversary Edition of Poltergeist. One would expect the usual bells and whistles associated with such a momentous occasion. There’s no denying the film has never looked or sounded better. Its restoration is amazing and so very welcome to see. However, with the exception of one two-part featurette that’s all we get. Come on Warner! What gives? Twenty-five years have passed, and a lot of money has been made not only off of this film, but off of the franchise itself! Surely there’s something to talk about? Maybe the making-of Poltergeist? Some cast and crew interviews? How about the dreaded Poltergeist Curse (read Wiki entry here)? Hey what about the whole “who really directed this film controversy”!?! Wow, what a dropped ball. This is without question the most pitiful 25th Anniversary Edition, EVER.

Poltergeist: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD (click for larger image)Here’s what we do get — a two-part featurette called They’re Here: The Real World of Poltergeists. Clocking in at about thirty minutes combined, just about everything but the film (although there are numerous film clips strewn about) is discussed by mediums, paranormal investigators, a cultural anthropologist(?), and even a magician(!). Even scarier, or funnier depending how you look at it, the few times the movie is discussed by some of these folks they speak about it as if it really happened! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Two people from the film itself do make brief appearances — producer Frank Marshall, and actor Richard Lawson who played the black investigator. Each of these cats talks for about ten seconds and then –POOF– they are gone. Are you kidding me? Where’s Speilberg? Has anyone seen Tobe Hooper? Hey look! An interview with Zelda Rubinstein! Oh wait, that’s on our site, not the DVD. What gives?! Please, somebody tell me!

To say this is a disappointing package is an understatement. If you already own the previous DVD release and don’t care about the new print of the movie then you’re fine just as you are. Skip this. If you haven’t bought the film because you were waiting for a definitive edition, this will pass the time until someone gets their act together and gives this classic the treatment that it deserves.

Special Features

  • Laughable two-part featurette — They’re Here: The Real World of Poltergeists

    Film:

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1 1/2 out of 5

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    Steve Barton

    You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.