The Freeling family have a good life. Steve and Diane have three children. One evening they are awakened by their youngest, Carol Anne, who is talking to the TV.
As days go by they notice unusual phenomena and not just Carol Anne watching static on the television. The dog responds to something nobody can see, the son is sure the tree outside his window is alive.
After a traumatic night which results in Carol Anne being taken by the spirits she has been communicating with. When paranormal researches come in, they are floored by what they find. It is decided they need the help of an exorcist to try and get Carol Anne back.
There are two things people likely recall most vividly. Cute little Carol Anne turning to the camera to say (eerily) “They’re Heeeeere” and Zelda Rubinstein as Exorcist Tangina. Her most famous line has been quoted in many films and TV shows…”This house is clean.”
Rubinstein is memorable in both appearance and performance. A small older woman, she brings an otherworldly vibe, and at times, her purposes almost seem at odds with the Freelings.
The effects still stand up, with only a few exceptions. The most obvious being a sequence with a character clawing his face off and it is obviously a dummy head. But otherwise, the ghost effects still work very well.
There is a longstanding belief that Spielberg is the director of Poltergeist, and it appears he was on set, though so was Hooper. He was filming E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at the same time (a movie he offered to Hooper to direct). Hooper is the only credited director, but according to at least some individuals who were there, it was primarily Spielberg. It sounds like this was not one of those situations where Hooper was being replaced, and he had some creative input. It would appear they got along fine and Hooper was providing Spielberg cover in regards to contractual rules with E.T.
Regardless of who directed it, Poltergeist is an entertaining and somewhat unique horror film with a terrific cast.