Reviewed on 2007 November 1
This is a somewhat corny, somewhat dated horror flick, but it’s still a lot of fun. It may even get your kids to turn off the TV and read a book.
The Freeling family lives in a lovely house in the peaceful California suburb of Cuesta Verde. Everything seems like a nice, normal existence and the Freelings are likable from the beginning. Diane (JoBeth Williams) is a loving mother, and father Steve’s (Craig T. Nelson) one personality quirk we see is even kinda cute — he likes to nod off in front of the TV after a hard day’s work. He’s not the only one fond of television — their adorable little girl Carol Ann (Heather O’Rourke) wakes up and pads downstairs to sit next to daddy and stare at the static-y TV screen.
Things start to deteriorate when the TV appears to be as interested in Carol Ann as she is in it. At one point Diane hears her having a conversation with it. Any hope of it being the overactive imagination of a bright five-year-old are gleefully dashed as the whole family is menaced. What is threatening them, and why?
Steven Spielberg and Toby Hooper are the ginger and garlic of the film industry — you’d never think the softie that made E.T.: The Extraterrestrial and the deve that brought us The Texas Chain Saw Massacre could agree to make something that worked, and yet in the right proportions, they did. Speilberg helped give us a decent enough family to worry about, and Hooper added some genuine scares. With movies like Hostel and Saw in theaters nowadays, it’s hard to believe this was almost slapped with an R rating, but for the time it was pretty scary. Oddly, the low-key bits are what worked on me. The flickering, strobe-like effect of the TV when Heather O’Rourke is crawling towards it in one beginning sequence is particularly creepy.
Three chocolate morsels.