Even though this classic haunted house entry was directed by Tobe Hooper, it’s got Steven Spielberg’s Americana touch all over it. From the suburban setting to the operatic score by John Williams to the strong presence of traditional family values throughout (minus a little bit of pot smoking), this is Spielbergian movie magic at its finest. For the first half, the movie’s use of encroaching supernatural presence is genuinely unsettling, and there are a number of bone-chilling scares along the way, while the juxtaposition with the pronounced wholesomeness of the family structure is truly effective in subverting the lived-in unity and serenity of the movie’s setting. There are also impressive performances scattered throughout, in particular JoBeth Williams, whose gregarious matriarch remains both an underrated horror heroine and a consistently, regrettably overlooked performance in the annals of horror. The climax is a funhouse of horrors that still manages to get a rise out of the audience more than three decades since its release, which ultimately ends solidify the movie as one of the most effective and genuinely scary haunted house entries ever made.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)