This film is definitely an example of classic horror filmmaking. It is good at building suspense and creating an eerie atmosphere without tremendous amount of blood and gore or frequent jump scares, which is being lost in modern horror cinema. That being said, the film is still extremely flawed.
The film's writing, while interesting and creative, is still very much that of a horror film. Characters make extremely stupid decisions that cause the events of the film, such as the family staying in the house for a ridiculously long amount of time. The writers were good, however, at creating scenes that are truly unsettling to the viewer, such as the tree scene and the clown scene. (The tree in "Poltergeist" is the second creepiest tree in film, next to "Evil Dead".)
The acting of the film is pretty good, especially the child actress Heather O'Rourke, who gives an amazingly creepy performance as Carol Anne. The film's technical elements, however, are not so flattering. I do realize that this is from the 80's, so technology wasn't what it is now, but most of the special effects are cheesy and laugh-worthy. The tree scene did actually had pretty good special effects, though.
So "Poltergeist" is an absolute must for horror fans if they have not seen it already. This can also serve as a good first horror film, as it is pretty clean and isn't ridiculously scary. It is interesting to compare it to the remake to see how much technology has developed since the original.
Big Tuna's Rating: A-
How Did I Watch It?: DVD/Blu-Ray in a class.
Had I Seen It Before?: Yes.
Would I Watch It Again?: Yes.