Year: 1982
Directed By: Tobe Hopper
Written By: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor


This is a movie I would have normally waited until Halloween season to review but I just wanted to watch it too much to let it wait till October. I didn’t see this movie until sometime within the last year and it left quite an impression on me. I never watched it growing up and can’t figure out why. I was much too young for it throughout the 80s and in the later 90s my teenage self probably turned my nose up at a horror film with a PG rating. It was actually ABC’s The Goldbergs that got me interested in it when an episode featured the film. When I watched it for the first time I realized I had missed out on something because I found it interesting for so many reasons.

First of all, this is a movie for adults. That seems like a lost cause in the horror movies of today made for teenagers and young dating couples. This movie catered to those of us in full adulthood with children and responsibilities. I love that about this movie because it makes it honest. These are normal and responsible parents who are drinking, getting high, and just trying to get their kids to go to sleep for crying out loud. Sometimes getting your kids to just finally go to sleep feels like a regular losing battle too and we see that in this movie. Despite great efforts, in the end the kids still sleep in their parent’s bed and it’s something most parents can relate to. For whatever reason I feel like I don’t see this honesty in movies today. Parents are either really good or really bad but never honest. In this movie the parents do so many things considered taboo today. At one point the mother watches her oldest daughter get heckled by construction men before the daughter gives them an obscene gesture in response.  The mother just smiles as she looks on without making a fuss herself and just lets her daughter deal with it and go about her day. Such a thing would never be seen on screen today, that mother is supposed to be angry, she is supposed to run out there and tell those dirty men to go straight to hell. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, just go straight into the fires of hell and burn. The PC world we live in today drives me crazy and it is all encouraged over time by the media. This movie shows us an example of how things were different before the media got into our heads with what we were supposed to think about things.

Another thing that gets me about this movie is simply that it doesn’t really try. So many horror movies that have come out since are trying to convince us that they’re scary. They are trying too hard and it’s obvious. This movie is scary enough without trying. It didn’t have to try, it didn’t need buckets of blood or even nudity to get our attention. It just told an interesting story that was scary and brought us along for the ride. This movie also didn’t need supermodels to fill in the cast. Aside from the stars we see in this movie we don’t see freakishly good looking children but simply children that you might see in any ordinary family. It all makes this movie strike home harder as it is just simply honest in a way that so many movies aren’t.

This movie is scary by being subtle. For me it’s all in that look on the face of Craig T. Nelson after everything gets started. As he sits behind the table smoking deeply on his cigarette and looking at these college people through very hollowed eyes you can see plainly they don’t believe him. They think he’s crazy but he doesn’t care, it continues as he leads them to his home. Beer in hand, he just has this look of exhaustion on his face that can’t go unnoticed, and he has tells them everything in this tired and nonchalant tone that conveys he doesn’t care if they are skeptical or not. I’m a big fan of Coach, and in this movie he is just the real deal. Not a fake dad like you might see in any typical film but the real life dad that you might see when you travel home. Mr. Incredible is as good as it gets for playing dads. I’ve never watched Parenthood but Amber has and I hear great things about it. I am actually excited at the news that Coach is coming back to TV and can’t wait to see it. The big time TV networks might be getting desperate these days in their efforts to combat Netflix and other channels that used to not matter but there has been a hit here and there. I think too much is being brought back but some of it has worked and if it is bringing Craig T. Nelson back to his keynote character I can’t complain.

This movie has been remade and the remake will be coming out soon. That makes me angry, as so many remakes do. There is no way this new movie will be able to scare or intrigue us like this one did. You can’t recreate Spielberg and it is foolish to try. This man was on a role in the early 80s, a mind exploding with all the creativity possible in his field. In this era he brought us Indiana freaking Jones, E.T. phone home, and in his spare time he wrote this, and The Goonies. Steven Spielberg was/is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. One of the men who shaped the industry into what it is today. A man who opened our minds to the possibilities of cinema and even until today continues to blow us away with what he is able to make.

Another thing I find interesting about this movie, fresh off the heels of the Reese’s Pieces success of E.T., there is product placement everywhere in this movie. Budweiser, Cheetos, Holiday Inn, and it goes on and on. I find it interesting to look back on a time when this was all a fresh new thing. Today product placement in films is just part of the process and a key element in advertising. Something done in everything, and excessively in something expected to be really big. It was different back in the early 80s but big waves had happened when E.T.:The Extra Terrestrial set records in the box office and was hugely popular. M&M’s had famously turned down a chance to be E.T.’s candy of choice and Reese’s Pieces was happy to reap all the benefits of that bad decision. Obviously, with so much product placement here, you can see how companies were flocking to Steven Spielberg with his next en devour.

This is a really cool movie and if you haven’t seen it don’t waste your time by seeing the crap coming out later this year. It’s a travesty to remake classic films. There is nothing to be improved upon in this story and it’s just a lazy effort to make a few bucks. I have made this argument plenty of times and won’t dig any deeper here. The remake disappoints me, as they all do, because all they do is make their source material forgettable. Movies like this shouldn’t be forgotten because there is too much to appreciate about them. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and it is worth your time to see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Poolhall Junkies (2002)


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