Starring Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O’ Rourke
Directed by Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg (the latter uncredited)
Rated PG: Frightening Images and Peril
The Freeling Family lives uneventfully in a quiet suburban neighborhood, until strange things start to happen. Lights flicker, furniture begins to move by itself and before malevolent spirits abduct their youngest daughter, Carol Anne. Driven to their whit’s end, the Freelings hire a team of paranormal investigators to bring her back.
The pacing is perfect. The film baits us with small feats to feed our paranoia before delivering the big thrills then giving us time to breathe in lighter, quieter scenes that contain Spielberg’s lighter “life force humanity” moments guided by Jerry Goldsmith’s kind and twinkling score, before elevating back to excitement. Each fright we are presented with escalates over the previous. Even though the movie has some very well known scares like the monster tree, the killer clown or the cadavers in the swimming pool, they are still quite startling. But despite all the amazing technical elements, the backbone of the story is the shock and grief at the unexplainable disappearance of Carol Anne and the desperate need to see her returned safely. The danger is ever present, as is the reason to stay, a perfect Catch-22.
Every element works like clockwork. The identifiable characters, the frightening situations, the precise music and special effects that still look amazing after twenty years.
5 out of 5. Superb.