JoBeth Williams

The original ‘Poltergeist’ successfully blends horror and family melodrama

The original 1982 Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper, opens with an apt image: an extreme close-up of a television set. Not only does the object prove pivotal to the film’s narrative, but the close proximity of the camera to the screen imbues the television with a strange, almost alien quality. Though it simply plays the national anthem over patriotic imagery, the signature sign-off for most TV stations in the 1980s, the close-up distorts the pictures and renders them wholly indeterminable. For a film that explores the dark unknowns that lie beneath the seemingly innocent and ordinary, Poltergeist certainly knows how to prime its audience for what’s to come.

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