April 20, 1983 [Poltergeist, The Evil Dead]

When have I had this feeling before--sitting in the theater watching Poltergeist and getting jumpy, seeing everyday things turn into Things out to get me?--Oh right: Jaws. And both of these want to be thrill-rides with teeth. Producer Spielberg takes over, it seems, in Poltergeist, making poor ferocious Tobe Hooper work under those gorgeous lights, a Jerry Goldsmith score lush in the background--and is Poltergeist "Spielberg's picture," horning in like Howard Hawks did with The Thing from Another World back in the '50s? Sort of--but I was still spooked--ha ha--the nice house, all safely modern and nicely appointed, eating up the kids and dragging Mom around like Robert Shaw in the shark's mouth--no: like those teens (a million years ago, it seems) hapless chainsaw massacre victims. Hooper had been given someone else's shoes, but he still stood up.

--More or less. For more, I had to fish around in the cellar for The Evil Dead, amused by its own hysterical laugh--but still hysterical, tearing free from all controls--budgetary, aesthetic, and all--darting around like a spoiled brat, taunting us and scaring us to death that it's gonna knock something over, you break it you bought it--with a big lantern-jawed goof--Bruce Campbell--digging in like a cannibal holocaust, his eyes and mouth as round as any silent movie star's, hoping to make a splash.

I mean, I like a good H.P. Lovecraft reference as much as the next over-the-hill nerd, but The Evil Dead takes that old New Englander to the carnival and leaves him there to bite off chickens' heads--not nearly as polite as Poltergeist, which saves everybody from the curse and lets them check in to a nice motel.


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