Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist actually feels like a total joint venture between him and producer Steven Spielberg, because there’s as much whimsical Amblin style as there is gooey horror and supernatural chills. I saw the film for the first time ever last night and enjoyed it spectacularly, it’s a visually impressive, supremely spooky haunted house ride that showcases some brilliant practical effects, but what I liked most was the family dynamic between Heather O’ Rourke, Craig T. Nelson, Dominique Dunne, Olivier Robbins and JoBeth Williams. You really get the sense that this family loves, cares and protects each other, and the devastation felt by all when malevolent forces kidnap poor Heather through the television into the astral plane feels earned and palpable. Ironically that onscreen bond makes it all the more tragic that both O’Rourke and Dunne lost their real lives some years later after completing two more Poltergeist films, which some attribute to a curse directly related to the films but is most likely just life being a bitch as usual. Anyways, this film is a keeper and at least the two of them will always live on in cinema. The effects here are really varied and diverse, from corpses bubbling up from a muddy swimming pool to tree coming alive, but my favourites has to be the weird spindly spider ghost thing that materializes at the top of the staircase and hovers like an emaciated spectre. You can tell The Duffer Brothers took more than a few inspirational cues from this one for Stranger Things, their tunnel to the upside down looks almost identical to the gooey wall orifice used here. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is appropriately jumpy and jittery, especially great in the extended prologue that sets up impending disaster while quaintly showing lazy Sunday life in suburbia with a nostalgic flavour. Sometimes there’s a little too much commotion and chaos, like later on when a weird midget clairvoyant (Zelda Rubinstein seems like the Oompa Loompa who left the factory and made it big in Hollywood) shows up and there’s a lot of yelling, whooshing and noise where there could have been more quiet hallways and suspense, but it’s all good. This one is a treat and I see why it has become timeless.. I’ll weigh in on the sequels when I get around to them.
Incredible really is the word for Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2, a thoughtful, intelligent, hilarious and visually stupendous sequel to Disney Pixar’s first superhero adventure. It was always a curiosity how this was going to do; so many sequels that arrive a decade after their beloved predecessor can feel vague or disjointed by the gulf of time. This one jumps right back into the hot seat like it never left, feeling both new and organic as a continuing story and reminiscent of the first outing’s magic. Literally dropping us right back near the ending we remember where a little mole dude called the Underminer creates new trouble for our heroes, a gigantic bank robbery sequence sets the stage for the film to come as well as the ongoing and and now more complex issues that superheroes face in the eyes of the public and in the favour of the government. The real joy of the film comes from the family dynamic though, particularly between Bob ‘Mr. Incredible’ Parr and the kids. When an influential tycoon (a peppy Bob Odenkirk) and his techie sister (silk voiced Catherine Keener) develop a new promotional program to put supers in the positive spotlight, they recruit Susan ‘Elastagirl’ Parr (Holly Hunter) as their front runner. This pus Bob in the stay at home Dad seat, and in those sequences the film really finds a fresh voice, showcasing some hilarious and poignant sequences. The visual fireworks come full blast as Elastagirl battles a mysterious enemy called the Screenslaver and runs about the city with all kinds of gadgets including a souped up new motorbike. Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone is back too, and there’s a whole new gallery of interesting supers all brought into the fold by Odenkirk’s character. Edna Mode returns too, still hysterically voiced by director Bird himself. The magic of these films is that they’re not just flashy gloss or simply Disney fireworks, there’s actually themes to work through and things to ponder on their journey. I admire the addressing of media manipulation and collusion in how the supers are represented in the news, something that’s commonplace in the states today, as well as the raw angst of being a parent and trying to protect your young while simultaneously saving the world and rocketing around between very dangerous situations. This one is a winner, a little more dense and story heavy than the first was, but still knows how to have a great time in the action department, from chases aboard both a runaway subway train and a massive luxury ocean liner in the fast paced third act. Still feels as classy, cool and entertaining as the first, with a retro futurist vibe, striking tactile animation and a script packed with wit and innovation.