If your TV set swallowed your daughter and your house became possessed, what would you do? Silly question, sure, but then that's the problem facing parents JoBeth Williams and Craig T Nelson, as their slice of suburbia becomes the setting for a muddled Spielberg epic.
"Poltergeist" contains many good elements but the assembly of them is haphazard and the overlong running time allows the film to dawdle when it should be racing. The actors are excellent, the special effects are good, and the premise suitably weird. But the combination of director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg lends the film a schizophrenic nature that sometimes translates into cold nastiness.
This disjointed feel is evident from the beginning where the camera follows two speeding toy cars causing mayhem in a quiet street. We arrive at the house of the damned only to find an argument raging over the use of the remote control. This is classic Spielberg as he paints his take on suburban life.
The film then cuts to a shot of the hideously deformed tree outside the house. This chilling imagery is Tobe Hooper territory. His eye so effectively turned objects into instruments of fear in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and he uses the same skill well in "Poltergeist".
This wrestling of ideas is so obvious throughout the movie as Spielberg injects comedy where Hooper is laying down fear. Added to that, an enthusiastic special effects team breaks up any tension with overlong displays of their talents.
Despite all this, there are many fine moments of dark humour and some memorable shots. But this is a film that tends to annoy, as if it had been more taut and consistent, it could have been far more exciting.
"Poltergeist" is on BBC1, 11.05pm, Friday 27 October 2000.