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A little girl unlocks a portal to a demonic world by playing around with a television set, unleashing all manner of evil forces upon the suburbanite homestead.


With its lightshow effects, you tend to be left with a more expensive version of those innumerable TV movies—Spielberg himself directed one, Something Evil — in which young couples move into a haunted house and are pestered by spooks. Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are fine as Mom and Pop Freeling, the ideal suburban couple, and the family scenes have the same affectionate clutter Spielberg brought to the contemporary E.T., but the script is a fairly loose excuse for stringing together a succession of conjuring tricks.

The film's modern housing development features a limbo beyond the television set into which the youngest daughter (the late O'Rourke) is absorbed, a snarling tree with killer branches, animated and sinister playthings, rotting corpses in the half-dug swimming pool, lots of bright lights (a Spielberg trademark), a few boo-shouting monsters and a plethora of parapsychological phenomena.spIt still holds the attention, but really could do with a stronger storyline, and one suspects that it's not really serious about trying to be scary. For one thing, it may be the only successful horror film ever made in which no-one gets killed.

A surprisingly yet successfully restrained lesson in how to haunt a house.