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'Created’ by Steven Spielberg yet officially directed by Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist (1982) can be best described as ‘family horror movie’ both in its target audience and in its narrative context, the story of an All-American suburban family, the Freelings, whose home suddenly becomes the site of a spectacular haunting, apparently summoned by their young daughter. The film is somewhat of an anachronism and this Devil's Advocate explores this in both the scope of production and narrative.

The book discusses the duality of the text highlighting debates surrounding both Spielberg's somewhat saccharine portrayal of middle-class Americana and his more subversive cinematic endeavours. The duality of the text also will also be discussed in the context of the film's production – with both Spielberg and Hooper on set for much of the time, the result was a movie with the production values, effects and marketing of a high budget mainstream cinema blockbuster apparently directed by a subversive 'grindhouse' cinema auteur. Yet Poltergeist is neither nor both of those things, instead being a unique hybrid of genres and styles taking the best and worst from both aspects of family blockbuster and cult horror film, and as such can be seen as a text that is something unique – a classic modern take on the traditional haunted house story.

Author Information

Rob Mclaughlin is a lecturer at Birmingham City University whose specialism is in media and film theory with an emphasis on industry contextualisation, business and marketing. His areas of research are in cult television and film, and he has written conference papers and book chapters on vampires, VHS culture and 'video nasties'.