10 April 2010
It's Steven Spielberg's companion piece to E.T. (which I plan to watch soon as well), but it plays out a lot like Jaws. I can't help but point out, the special effects here remind me more than anything of Ghostbusters (which came two years later), and the funnest parts are the parts with the least prosthetics, when it's just flashing lights, intrusive soundtrack, and dramatic acting. Though the big monster things and the Cronenberg-lite doorway stuff all look pretty good, too.
The Spielberg flavor of monster movie tends to involve a slow build followed by a big confrontation followed by a bigger, almost outlandish confrontation, followed by a quick (and in this case, charming) denouement. (I know it's a Tobe Hooper film, but it's really a Spielberg one.) Actually, it's interesting because the characters don't feel one-dimensional or anything, but they do lack the usual flaws and personal weaknesses that drive most narrative. Here they are loving, patient parents; they aren't too busy, they aren't selfish, they aren't negligent or short-tempered. Steven even balks when he has to say the words "I'll spank you" to his daughter. These are the nicest people in the world who just happened to get the shittiest deal in real estate history. Steven was complicit in the crimes that made the story happen, but unknowingly, and is clearly remorseful for his part and reproachful toward his boss about the whole thing. So here we have a story of a largely flawless, morally problem-free family against a mean-old demon and a haunted house. (When I put it like that, you'd think Clint Eastwood directed it.) It's just not a story about the people, I guess.
These posts have gotten even more unfocused than ever. I'll see what I can do about that.