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Now clear your minds…
It knows what scares you.
It has from the very beginning...
Don't give it any help, it knows too much already.

It’s hard to believe that more than a quarter of a century has passed since POLTERGEIST ($35) was released into theaters. POLTERGEIST has been one of my favorite haunted house movies for as long as I can remember and the film remains as potent today as it was, when it was first released. The reason POLTERGEIST remains effective is the fact that its story is grounded in middle class normalcy, with the supernatural elements layered on top. POLTERGEIST tells the tale of the Freeling family, who are living the American dream in the middle of Californian suburbia. Strange things begin happening in the household, starting with the five-year-old Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O'Rourke) talking to someone or something through static of a vacant television channel.

Then other odd things begin occurring in the household, like furniture and other object in being moved by an unseen force. However, these incidents are only a preamble to something otherworldly punching a hole into our realm and abducting Carol Anne. Devastated by the loss of their youngest child, whom they can still hear through the vacant television channel, Steven (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane (JoBeth Williams) enlist the help of paranormal investigator Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight). Convinced that something truly supernatural is occurring inside the Freeling home; Dr. Lesh in turn, brings in clairvoyant Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) to help Steven and Diane retrieve their daughter from whatever is holding her on the other side. What follows is a Rollercoaster ride of thrills and special effects, but POLTERGEIST remains grounded in its solid performances, especially Rubinstein’s Oscar worthy turn, which has become one of the most unforgettable aspects of the movie. The cast of POLTERGEIST also includes Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins, Michael McManus, Virginia Kiser, James Karen and Dirk Blocker.

Warner Home Video has made POLTERGEIST available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is really quite impressive, serving an accurate reflection of what an early eighties film should look like in high definition. In general, image sharpness and definition are very good; but POLTERGEIST doesn’t produce the absolute razor sharpness of newer movies. Additionally, there are the some shots scattered through the film that across as slightly soft, even by 1980’s standards, but this is a result of decades old production techniques and film stocks- not a flaw in the hi-def presentation. Still, POLTERGEIST appears far more dimensional and impressive on Blu-ray than I have ever seen it look. Colors are the best I have ever seen on this title, much of the film is rendered with a realistic level of saturation, but key sequences do pop with highly vivid hues. Blacks are accurate, the whites are crisp, plus the picture boasts good contrast and better than expected shadow detail. Mild grain is ever present, but helps maintain an organic quality for the presentation.

POLTERGEIST is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This is the absolute best that I have ever heard POLTERGEIST sound, but the sound design is definitely dated. Lets face it; POLTERGEIST was produced when matrixed Dolby Surround Soundtracks were considered state of the art, so what we have here still reflects those origins. As expected, the forward soundstage remains dominant throughout, while the surround channels really only come to life at key moments. Sure, the rears do provide the requisite ambience and fill, but are a bit anemic in comparison to today’s fully digital tracks. Fidelity is decidedly stronger here than it has been, but there is no mistaking that the recordings are two and a half decades old. I will give credit to the quality of Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which has a lot of presence. The bass channel is reasonably deep, but lacks the explosive quality of newer tracks. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. English Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0 channel tracks, plus French, Spanish, Castellan, German and Italian language tracks are also encoded onto the disc.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the two-part program They Are Here: The Real World Of Poltergeists Revealed. POLTERGEIST also features book styled packaging that contains forty-two pages of photos and production notes.

POLTERGEIST remains one of the great haunted house movies of all time. The Blu-ray presentation is impressive, rendering the eighties horror classic with more clarity and detail than has been seen in more than a quarter century. Recommended.



Poltergeist [Blu-ray] (1982)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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