The Mixmaster's Horror Movie Countdown, October 4: Poltergeist
Poltergeist is the first horror film I can recall seeing as a wee lad, and for that, it will always hold a special and terrifying place in my heart.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a cool October night at grandma's house. The whole family was crowded around the television in the dark living room illuminated only by the blue glow emitting from the tube, glued to the horrific events that the Freeling family were witnessing in their home (which was eerily similar to the one in which we were in that very moment). And just when the film reached its most climatic and frightening moment, BOOM, power goes out. Complete and total darkness.
As you can imagine, for a boy who was old enough to understand the events occurring on screen but young enough to not understand the line between fantasy and reality, this is when things started to get truly scary.
Just then, BAM, power comes back on and the TV itself blasts on by itself blaring the loud static noise and once again illuminating the dark room with the digital snowstorm from Channel 3 (which of course it had to be on when you were in VCR mode). It seemed I wasn't the only one unable to separate the film from fact, as my entire family, grown-ups and kids alike, were so scared you would have thought that Carol Anne herself was going to enter our living room from the dimension from beyond at any moment bringing with her who the hell knows what.
And, it is because of this first viewing experience, every single time I watch the Steven Spielberg-written, Tobe Hooper-directed Poltergeist I am reminded of just why I love the adventure of watching movies and the thrill of being scared by them. It serves as a reminder that, while the theater is the designated arena of movie enjoyment, there's something special about watching certain films in the comforts and creepiness of your own home, with all the lights turned off and those around that you can grab onto if you get scared.
I urge you, this October, to give it a try...if you dare!
Most Memorable Scene: For me, the most memorable scene may also be the simplest of the whole film. And it involves chairs. There's a moment where Diane (JoBeth WIlliams) discovers all the chairs have been pulled out from the kitchen table. When she asks her daughter (and soon to be traveler to another dimension beyond our realm) if she did it, Carol Anne replies with a monotoned "Uh-uh..." Her mother then puts the chairs back in place under the table and walks over to the sink, bends down to gets something from the cabinet, turns, and...chairs, all stacked on top of the kitchen table like a house of cards. "TV people?" Diane asks (after of course a shrill shriek of terror and bewilderment). "Uh-uh..." Carol Ann replies.
It is the most simple yet effective scare in cinematic history if ever there was one. All done in one beautiful, uncut shot. A true testament to effective and practical filmmaking. In an age of technology-based effects, there is no magic to scenes like this anymore. We know how the magician performed the trick before our eyes -- by sitting behind behind a computer and digitally creating it. But in that chair scene, something so magical does happen. The old "Kansas City Shuffle" if you will.
They just don't make 'em like they use to ... and they don't make them to play here, but you can watch on YouTube.
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