Throwback Thursday – Poltergeist
The original Poltergeist came out in 1982. It was a frightening story of a family of five and the house that they live in. If that were it though, the movie would largely be forgotten. Yes, it is a good movie but there are many haunted house movies, so what sets this one apart? Today, we will look back at Poltergeist and its impact.
Poltergeist is the story of the Freeling family. Father (in that he is the dad, he is not a priest) Steve Freeling (Craig T Nelson) works as a salesman for a real estate developer and he does a great job as we will find in the movie. Mother Diane (JoBeth Williams) is a stay-at-home mom to their three kids; Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke.) Strange happenings begin…happening. It begins with some of your more classic hauntings like chairs being stacked and furniture shaking. Things get kicked up a notch when Robbie is yanked through his window by a tree monster. This is a diversion is seems because at the same time, Carol Anne is being sucked into a limbo land, caught between the living and the dead. I don’t want to give much more away about the movie, plot wise.
For parents that saw this movie as children when we were younger, as I did, I was surprised at how effective the scares still were in this movie. I was also mostly happy with the movies content. There is one semi-gory scene and little objectionable language although there is some implied drug use by the parents. Keep in mind though, this movie is scary and there are some frightening images and visuals. It is probably acceptable for a teen and some pre-teens but would not recommend for viewers much younger.
“Hey Nathan? At the beginning of this article you mentioned the movie’s impact. Tell me more about that.”
This movie has been cemented in pop-culture and nerd-culture for several reasons.
First we look at what we see on the screen. Not only does this movie aptly play up on many of the haunted house clichés, it goes beyond that and created some new ones. Little Carol Anne’s line early in the movie, “They’re here” became an iconic moment in movie history. This was also the movie where we were really first introduced to Zelda Rubinstein as the psychic Tangina.
Next there is the story of how the movie was made. While technically Tobe Hooper was the director, many believe that the writer/producer, Steven Spielberg, was the real creative force behind this movie. Story goes that Spielberg wanted to direct this movie himself but was not allowed to because he was making E.T. at the same time. Not only was he making E.T. at the same time, he was making it in the same area.
Last, there is the curse of The Poltergeist Trilogy. After making Poltergeist, the actress Dominique Dunne was murdered by her boyfriend at the time. She died on Nov 4 after the movie was released in June. After the making of Poltergeist 2, two actors, Will Sampson and Julian Beck, both passed away. Will Sampson had received a heart-lung transplant in 1987 and Julian Beck succumbed to stomach cancer. Then in 1988, after the filming of Poltergeist III, Heather O’Rourke died on the operating table in an attempt to remove a bowel obstruction that the doctors had originally thought was the flu. She was 12. So of the four deaths, two were unexpected while the other two were somewhat expected. So why is there still talk of a curse around the Poltergeist movies? It’s because the skeletons used in the filming of the first Poltergeist movie were not props. They real skeletons. Evidently, the spirits of the skeletons did not like their bodies being used that way. At least, that is how the story goes. Believe what you will.
Looking past all that though, it is a good movie and one that I recommend, especially as we near the Halloween season.
And trust me, you will never look at a static-y TV the same way again.