Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982)
The storyline is very usual, a cute American family is haunted by ghosts and the hauntings become more and more violent each time. From a story by Steven Spielberg and directed by horror mastercafter Tobe Hooper Poltergeist is one of the cult Horror films of Cinema.
Ghost stories must interpel the viewer and the catharsis (identification of the public with the main characters) must be at its high. Well, here you have the most universal kind of human cell available: the family. Everything to help the catharsis. Moreover, there are no known actors in Poltergeist, a strategy Producer Spielberg wil re-use in his Jurassic Park, (there are known actors in J.P. but no big stars...).
On the side of the subplot of the story there are many interest links to make. First the depiction of the suburb, typically American (helping once again the catharsis) but here we'll discuss about how its expansion from the big megalopoles of the last thirty years have never stopped. The ever growing suburbs of America has been somewhat of a problem to the urbanists that tried to figure otu how to structure them but moreover how to make them living entities of their own. Since the 1950's, the working class has been having more and more money to spent on cars and bigger houses to extract them from the working ares, the cities and establish their family on the surrounding areas of these cities. Our main character, the father Steve Freeling, is the best representant of the Establishment that sold the houses of this entire suburb... Poltergeist is in sort of a critic of this kind of major land where every house looks like the next one and where every street looks like the other.
The fact that the suburb is situated on an ancient cemetary dramatically figures that for the profit big companies are ready to do any outrage to culture or the eternal rest of some poor deceased...
Another well used topic is the use of children in a ghost story. The public is easily convinceable that there are ghosts around when children are the first to see them; remember as a child how you were afraid of a strange form made by some shadow in the corner of the room, or by the twisted branch of a tree you could see by your window... Childish fears felt by kids on the screen are more believable and contribute to the so talk catharsis of the story telling.
Tobe Hooper was well advised and many Spielberg subjects are present in the story. This could have easily have been a film directed by Spielberg. But, Hooper is a better horror oriented director than Steven Spielberg who liked to play with alien instead of trying to frighten little girls... Of the so few Ghosts flicks I've seen Poltergeist is maybe one of the best around. Probably the most efficient!