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Life is very pleasant for the close-knit Freeling family until a host of otherworldly forces invades their peaceful suburban home. It starts with just an odd occurrence or two, but soon their house is transformed into a swirling supernatural sideshow. The forces at work are anything but friendly, and if the luckless Freelings don't clear out soon, they'll all be swept off into nightmarish chaos!
For more about Poltergeist and the Poltergeist Blu-ray release, see Poltergeist Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on October 30, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins, Heather O'Rourke
Director: Tobe Hooper
» See full cast & crew
Poltergeist Blu-ray Review
They're here! On Blu-ray, that is...
Reviewed by Ben Williams, October 30, 2008
One of the pivotal moments of my movie-going childhood revolved around my parents taking me to see Poltergeist. I was eight years old at the time and probably wasn't prepared for the sheer terror of seeing kids about my own age being given the royal bitch-slap by a group of ornery and violent ghosts. Nightmares followed for what seems, in retrospect, like months. I'm still not sure what possessed my parents to take me to this particular movie, but I guess when the director of E.T. is involved, one naturally concludes that Poltergeist is cut from the same cloth, right? Wrong! For the record, just because Steven Spielberg produced Poltergeist doesn't necessarily guarantee a warm-hearted hug-fest. At any rate, the strange thing for me back in 1982, was that despite nightmares, terror and all the associated childhood traumas that resulted from being scared out of my mind by a movie, I actually loved the experience and started to enjoy that special feeling of cinematic terror. Movie magic at its best, my friends! Onward…
The Freeling family live an idyllic life in the suburbs of Southern California. Family patriarch, Steve (Craig T. Nelson), is a record-setting real-estate agent who hawks property and tract housing while his wife Diane (JoBeth Williams) stays at home with the kids. Both seem happy enough and their kids enjoy the benefits the suburbs provide. When their youngest daughter Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) starts behaving strangely and talking to a TV tuned to static, the Freelings realize something is a little off in their pleasant little world. Unfortunately for them, this is only the beginning as these strange happenings turn into a full-on haunting that is specifically targeting the family's children. Only a group of paranormal researchers and a psychic named Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) can help to save the children and rid the family of the haunting that threatens their very lives.
One of the joys of Poltergeist lies in how effectively director Tobe Hooper lays the groundwork of the Freeling's suburban lives. We're treated to highly entertaining scenes of Steve getting into little spats with neighbors, eldest daughter Dana (Dominique Dunn) flirting with construction workers and what amounts to a perfectly normal buildup to the events that throw the family's lives out of whack. Poltergeist just sucks you in with each passing second. In watching the film again, it really isn't terribly frightening anymore, but it is expertly made and still qualifies as an exceptional thriller with great performances.
In addition to the great setup and acting, Poltergeist benefits from its effects being produced by Industrial Light and Magic. Although there are a couple of scenes that look a bit dated, the legendary effects shop's work is still remarkably solid and many of the models used for the film give the effects a weight not often seen with modern-day CGI. It's a real treat to re-visit these scenes in high definition.
I hadn't seen Poltergeist in a number of years before viewing this Blu-ray release. It has been a great reminder of what's missing from a lot of the current thrillers coming out of Hollywood. Sure, Poltergeist looks great and has its fair share of thrills and scares. It's the great story and emphasis on character that makes it a great film. The fact that I actually give a damn about the characters is an attribute that is all to often missing from films these days. Poltergeist easily earns my highest recommendation.
Poltergeist Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner delivers Poltergeist to your home theater on Blu-ray with a spiffy new remaster in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. As usual, Warner has utilized VC-1 to compress the title and it is, of course, presented in full 1080p. Poltergeist is one of those films that I didn't have much hope for on Blu-ray. With all the complex optical compositing used for visual effects back in 1982, it was almost a certainty that the film would look murky and be riddled with dirt and debris. Fortunately, that's not the case and Warner should be applauded for bringing home a fantastic looking presentation.
As I mentioned, I honestly wasn't expecting much out of this set, but I'm pleasantly surprised to see that Poltergeist looks pretty darn amazing. Colors are nicely saturated and contrast is stable and sufficiently deep. Detail is vastly improved over the previous DVD release and there's a really nice level of filmic grain present throughout the entire film. If there is a single bone to pick with this release, it lies in the occasional bit of dirt on the otherwise pristine print. Given the aforementioned optical compositing done on the film, I'm honestly surprised that it is as clean as it is. So, don't take the presence of a small amount of dirt as a criticism, but rather an observation. Anyway, Poltergeist looks better than ever and is certainly an attractive Blu-ray presentation.
Poltergeist Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Thankfully, Warner has chosen to give Poltergeist the full Dolby TrueHD 5.1 treatment with his Blu-ray release and the film has never sounded better. As with all TrueHD releases, there is also a standard English Dolby Digital track included as well as a both English and French Dolby 2.0 tracks. Poltergeist certainly wasn't produced at a time when the likes of 5.1 lossless audio were even an option, but it does benefit from having what was considered a state-of-the-art sound mix upon its theatrical release. This translates nicely to Dolby TrueHD.
Poltergeist features surprisingly active surround usage, nice, deep bass and a very pleasing spacial feel in its mix. Clearly, this has been trumped up and remixed for Blu-ray, but the results are completely satisfying. Naturally, the effect isn't anywhere close to a modern day mix from something along the lines of Transformers, but it is an above average mix. Dialogue is also nicely rendered with every syllable reproduced in a crisp and clear manner. Ultimately, Poltergeist sounds great on Blu-ray.
Poltergeist Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In something of a bizarre move, the only extra included on the Blu-ray release of Poltergeist is a dopey documentary on real-life ghost hunters. I'll take the zero on that one!
Poltergeist Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Poltergeist is something of a rare treat. It's a film that manages to combine realistic human drama, a terrific and suspenseful story and excellent acting. Even though the movie is now 26 years old, it retains its ability to draw you in and really get the viewer involved in the story. Warner has done a nice job in bringing the film to Blu-ray by giving Poltergeist a very nice video restoration and a surprisingly involving Dolby TrueHD track. Supplements are, for all intents and purposes, non-existent, but the real draw here is the film itself. Poltergeist is a film that I'm proud to have in my collection and is highly recommended.
Poltergeist: Other Editions
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• Interview with a Vampire; Poltergeist Announced - August 4, 2008
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring 'Interview with a Vampire' to Blu-ray on October 7th. A week later, on October 14th, they will bring 'Poltergeist' to Blu-ray as a digibook with never-before-seen photos and inside information. Both titles will ...
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