Movie Rants

Poltergeist – The Certainty of the Unknown

Whether or not we think we have the world all figured out now, there is a time during childhood when we have yet to erect our defenses against a real unknown.

There is a time of the night when we feel a certainty:

We haven’t got it all figured out.

We build all protective walls of bullshit-certainty after that, and some of us have a nice little castle built by age 25.

But when young there is a time of night that we know for certain that there are things we do not know.

That time comes sometime after the covers nudge our chin, and the lightswitch has been turned off, and the house is quiet. As our eyes adjust to the dark, and a dim, grainy world swells in front of us,  we can just barely see that the closet door is open two inches.

But we shut that door.

We know for sure that we shut that door, before mom turned out the light. We know that something opened that door, and we have a desperate certainty that we don’t know what that thing was.

Poltergeist will remind you that you still know this for sure:

You don’t know what thing opened the door.

It has quite a bit of the charm of E.T., but with melting faces and horrifying slime-corpses rubbing on people. It was written and produced by Spielberg, and then directed by the guy who brought us “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” There you go.

Watch the original again, preferably in an analog video format. Laserdisc or VHS are the two ways to watch Poltergeist.

Do backpacked kids still ride circles in suburban cul-de-sacs on their BMX bikes? Do the smartphones in their pocket make them certain they have the world figured out?

Do you remember “static”? How about the dark side of “wonder,” that certainty you don’t know what opened the door?


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