A ghost story that's traditional yet different is how I'd begin to describe Poltergeist, a film that mixes classic horror and suspense with a fuzzy feel-good message. Think Texas Chain Saw Massacre meets A.I. Artificial Intelligence at least in spirit. These choices aren't coincidental: The movie is directed by Tobe Hooper who also helmed the former horror classic, and written by Steven Speilberg who gave us the syrupy A.I.
Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O'Rourke) is a young child who has mysterious friends that she communicates with over the television. Turns out that the mysterious friends are poltergeists who've lost their way to heaven. The spirits are hanging around because the house she lives in was the site of a graveyward with bodies still buried underneath. Everything's fine until a malevolent spirit takes away Carol Anne and her desperate family tries to get her back.
There are some memorable scenes in the film, including one where Carol Anne's mum ends up falling in a recently-dug hole for a pool in their backyard and encountering the buried skeletons. "They're here", the phrase uttered by Carol Anne when the poltergeists show up, is deeply embedded in American pop culture. The special effects and sound track, along with a solid performance by child actress Heather O'Rourke, are what make the film work.
The drags a bit but there are some disturbing and some amusing moments in-between. It's definitely worth a Halloween rental, especially as a "family horror" film.