Poltergeist is an American 1982 supernatural horror film, directed by Tobe Hooper, produced by Steven Spielberg, and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on June 4, 1982. It is the first and most successful of the Poltergeist film trilogy, and was nominated for three Academy Awards.
The film was ranked as #80 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments and the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 20th scariest film ever made. The film also appeared on American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding movies.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Film Stills
- 4 Production
- 5 Production Stills
- 6 Deleted and Novelization Scenes
- 7 Home video release
- 8 Trivia
- 9 Reception
- 10 Reissues and sequels
- 11 Curse Assumptions
- 12 Misconceptions and Unanswered Questions
- 13 Cultural impact
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Plot[edit | edit source]
Steven and Diane Freeling are living a quiet life in a California suburb where Steven is a real estate agent selling for the development where they live with their children, Dana, Robbie, Carol Anne, and the family dog E. Buzz.
One night after all are asleep with the living room television still on, the TV station signs off for the night and goes to static. The youngest daughter, Carol Anne, hears faint whispering from the TV static. She strolls hypnotically down the stairs to the TV and begins answering the voices that only she can hear, waking up the rest of the family.
The next week all seems normal for a Sunday afternoon, Steven and friends are glued to a football game. Robbie decides to climb the tree closest to his bedroom, which he finds gruesome because part of it appears to have the shape of a head. He decides to conquer his fear by climbing it. While Diane is cleaning the room that Robbie and Carol Anne share, she finds Carol Anne's pet canary dead. Attempting to flush it, she's caught by Carol Anne and forced to give it a proper burial. After mourning, Carol Anne cheerfully asks for a goldfish.
After Carol Anne overfeeds her two fish the children are tucked into bed. Robbie seems concerned about the storm coming. In the Freelings' master bedroom Diane and Steven unwind with some marijuana and conversation while Steven reads. Diane seems concerned about the incident with Carol Anne as when she was a child she was a chronic sleepwalker. As they are building a pool Diane worries if their daughter might accidentally wander outside and into the pool. Steven assures her with his "expertise" from his diving days things will be fine.
In the children's room Robbie can't sleep and stares out the window with fear of the tree and the thunderstorm. His attention turns to his most intense childhood scare, Carol Anne's stuffed clown jester doll. In what seems to be a nightly ritual, Robbie closes his eyes as he moves towards it, takes a jacket and covers it up so he can sleep.
Steven is tickling Diane in bed when Robbie interrupts them about the storm. Steven piggybacks him back to bed and teaches him to gauge the distance of the storm by counting between when the lightning strikes and the thunder hits. This comforts Robbie as Steven leaves him and Carol Anne to count and hopefully fall asleep. After catching Dana on the phone after hours he seems satisfied that things will settle down for the night. As the children count longer lapses between lightning and thunder, lightning suddenly hits right outside, and they are next seen sleeping soundly between their parents.
That night as the family (minus Dana) sleep in the master bedroom, the television once again goes to sign off. Just as before, Carol Anne wakes up immediately to the television static and its voices. This time as she touches the screen out of curiosity, a ghostly skeletal hand connected by small orb-like shapes touches back. The touch has somehow made it possible for the form to now freely roam the physical realm. It accelerates into the wall above the bed at incredible speed and causes earthquake like movement of the entire house. The being(s) are now released as Carol Anne says, "They're here."
The next day at breakfast, while Steve tries to make sense of the fact that no one else seems to have noticed an earthquake last night, Diane asks who Carol Anne meant by "They're here." She responds that it was the "TV people", leading Robbie to conclude that she's stoned. Robbie's glass of milk suddenly breaks from the bottom and spills onto the table and Dana and her homework. After she leaves in a huff to clean up, Robbie looks down to see also that his utensils have been bent.
In the master bedroom, the family dog seems enthralled with the hole above the master bedroom from the spirits' arrival the night before, and even brings his favorite toy as an offering to play. Diane later is shocked as she sees the kitchen chairs have been unusually stacked upon themselves. She begins to realize the presence of beings in her home, which fascinates her. As Steven pulls into the driveway she rushes him inside to show him new occurrences in the kitchen. Using masking tape as a makeshift runway to mark the path, the chairs move right along from one side of the room to the other. She then lets Carol Anne slide to be caught by Stephen. As she becomes more and more excited, he is disturbed and worried. After embarrassingly asking the neighbor if he has had any incidents, Steven insists no word of it to anyone and no one is to go inside the kitchen until they know what's going on.
Shortly after, during a second storm, the gnarled tree comes to life and grabs Robbie through his bedroom window. However, this is merely a distraction used by the ghosts to get Carol Anne's parents to leave her unattended. While Diane and Steven rescue Robbie and the tree is consumed by a sudden tornado that suspected vanishes as quickly as it appeared. Carol Anne is sucked through a portal in her closet. After a thorough search of the house, the horrified Freelings realize she has been taken after they begin to hear her communicating through a television set.
A group of parapsychologists from UC Irvine, Dr. Martha Lesh, Dr. Ryan Mitchell and Dr. Martin Casey, come to the Freeling house to investigate. Steven gives them the rundown on the situation as they ask to see the entry point of the incident, the children's bedroom. As Steven prepares to unlock the door, Ryan proudly boasts that he has video of a child's toy matchbox vehicle taking 7 hours to roll across a floor, and how incredible it is on time lapse. Steven nods uninterested as he opens the door to complete chaos. The ghosts aren't amused with their first time on display. One bed is spinning while Carol Anne's clown doll is laughing manically, A floating lamp plugs itself in, Several toys approach the group to either tease or threaten and A math compass flies towardsDr. Lesh before using it's needle to play a child's record.
They determine that the Freelings are experiencing a poltergeist, rather than a true haunting. Poltergeists who are known to center themselves around an individual rather than a location and for chaotic activity opposed to simply "roaming the halls". Dr. Lesh explains that the spirits have not moved on to "the light" after death, but are stuck between dimensions. They have taken Carol Anne, Lesh says, because as an innocent 5-year-old girl, her "life force" is as bright to them as the light, and they believe she is their salvation.
In the living room, as it gets dark (Presumably chosen being signals of any kind are strongest at night.), Diane turns to the channel she can hear Carol Anne's voice can transmit best. After a few unsuccessful tries she coaxes Carol Anne to say hello to her father. Diane knows that Carol Anne is naive about what's happening and attempts to get any clues from the girl using a motherly soft demeanor. The mood in the room changes when Carol Anne mentions being afraid of a light. As Diane believes it's a portal home Dr. Lesh informs her it's dangerous and the way permanently to the other side. Marty, strangely still unconvinced after all he's seen, investigates the television and thinks there may be a chance it's a CB radio transmission and a hoax while Dr. Lesh refuses such an idea.
After Marty leaves for upstairs a flash of white flame appears from the ceiling directly above the living room, dropping watches and jewelry covered in dust. Steven on top of wanting his child back is becoming more and more disgusted at the behavior of the spirits. Carol Anne speaks and tells them their is someone close by her and asks if it's her mother. Steven replies no and has a look of concern. Carol Anne screams into a state of panic and at this point is obviously running. The sound of something unearthly is chasing her. After several moments of panic from both sides the sound of her screams and of the entity suddenly go quiet. Diane begins to slowly ascend the stairs when suddenly a breeze passes through her. Carol Anne being in the world between the living and the dead could only escape to downstairs in invisible spirit form. Even then being drawn back into the other realm. Diane breaks into tears of both joy and sadness as she realizes Carol Ann's soul passed through hers. Not long after, the sound of the unknown force chasing her follows her path, also invisible. It lets out a horrendous roar and wind to warn the group from anymore tampering.
As Diane panics that Carol Anne's no longer transmitting, Dr. Lesh sternly asks her where Carol Anne was when she disappeared. Diane takes a guess as her bedroom closet. Dr. Lesh has had enough of standing by and is determined to get into the room despite Steven's warning. Just as she and Ryan head upstairs Marty runs down sweating and holding the right side of his abdomen. Lifting up his shirt revealing a large circular bite mark with teeth punctures and saliva. Steven attempts to convince Diane to take Dana and Robbie and leave. Diane refuses to go anywhere with Carol Anne as Dana pleads to go to her friend Lisa's for the night. Steven insists he's staying no matter what.
Later that night Robbie and Dr. Lesh have an in depth, enlightened discussion about death, and what the spirits want. Robbie's side of the conversation suddenly is caught by Steven as Robbie describes a childlike (but feasible) plan in which they tie a rope around him to go and grab Carol Anne from upstairs. Diane tells Robbie to get some sleep. He tells them all goodnight, including Carol Anne as quiet static murmurs on the TV set.
After most of the group in the living room are fast asleep, Marty informs Ryan that he's going to forage for something to eat in the kitchen. After finding a steak, he places it on the counter. Moments later it starts to move and then burst open from the inside into shreds. A chicken leg Marty was eating falls from his mouth and puts him into shock to see maggots along with it on the floor. He rushes to the bathroom and vomits in the sink and splashes water on his face to compose himself. The bathroom light gives a strange color and hum as Marty looks into the mirror and sees a sudden bloody gouge on his face. For no known reason then his own he decides to claw at it. He continues and gradually is tearing apart his own face to the bone. His exposed skull gives a hiccuped growl and then suddenly after a flash of light, Marty looks to his reflection and realizes he was hallucinating.
Ryan meanwhile monitors the equipment for any sudden changes in the houses environment. He is oblivious to a sudden flux on the meters as his Walkman and sketching pad preoccupy him. An EKG like meter starts erratically giving readings. A computer controlled video camera programmed to focus on disturbances begins to scan up the stairway as the children's bedroom door opens. Light and mist start to appear. Marty, still in trembling fear as he returns to the living room, motions to Ryan. A brilliantly lit and almost angelic female apparition surrounded by bright orbs begins to descend down the stairs very slowly. Everyone in the room rouses and are frightened except for Ryan, who has a look of wonder and excitement in his expression. It ascends up into the ceiling and vanishes. Ryan, very excited and impatient, rolls it back just far enough to discover that the orbs following the "Glowing Woman" were on closer view spirits of human beings. Although distorted almost like a photo negative, they can make out the orbs have faces and bodies, and even clothing of different time periods. As they walk past the camera, they are seen acting curious and observing the living group and the surroundings. Dr. Lesh comments that they are "So lonely, so alone." Being a curious visit without any sign of anger as the earlier invisible apparition, and none of their "shenanigans", it might be a cry for help.
After these series of paranormal episodes, Robbie and Dana are sent away for their safety. Dr. Lesh informs Diane that she's leaving Ryan with the family for support and that Marty (obviously petrified after being the most victimized of the group) won't be returning. She embraces Diane and tells her she will be back, and with help. Later that day, Steven is approached by his boss, Lewis Teague, about a promotion. The new project will involve selling lots on a newly acquired hilltop parcel of land that currently houses a cemetery. When Steven balks at the idea of relocating the graveyard, his boss shrugs it off, explaining that the company had done it before, in the very neighborhood where Steven now lives.
Dr. Lesh soon returns with a renowned spiritual medium, Tangina Barrons, a little person who immediacy Steve makes jokes about her size and psychic ability, and is humorously proven that he's wrong about the latter. He and Diane soon respect her for her knowledge. She asks the group to huddle to her, so she can explain the true meaning of what has been occurring in the house.
She informs Diane that Carol Anne is alive and in the house. And her life force is very powerful, but keeping the kind-hearted ghosts from passing on. The souls for whatever reason are not at rest. They look to her living presence as a way of remembrance of life, and the joy it gave them. (Mr.Teague mentions earlier in casual that Carol Anne was born in the Freeling house. A plot exposition that reenforces why the spirits are attracted to her.)
She then describes the entity behind the darker deeds of the house. While the spirits have been mostly curious and playful, the sinister deeds (the skeletal hand, the growling wind, the possession of the tree, and Marty's attacks) have been orchestrated by a "lone wolf" spirit Tangina calls "The Beast". It has been corrupting the others to use their spiritual being for power. (Explaining their ghostly orbs connecting his skeletal hand (connect-the-dot style) to aid his escape to the living realm using the empty television transmission.) Bribing them with the promise of the presence of Carol Anne.
The assembled group discovers that while the entrance to the other dimension is through the children's bedroom closet, the exit is through the living room ceiling. They send Diane to rescue Carol Anne, tying her to a rope that they've managed to thread through both portals. As Tangina coaxes the agonized spirits away from Carol Anne and instead to the light, Steve suddenly panics and attempts to pull Diane back to him, causing the enraged Beast to manifest through the portal in front of him as a giant, roaring skeletal face. Diane retrieves her daughter and they emerge through the living room ceiling, falling to the floor and covered in pre-natal ooze. Tangina announces, "This house is clean."
However, while the spirits have moved on to the afterlife peacefully, the Beast has not. Now wanting revenge after losing the life force of both the ghosts and Carol Anne. On the family's final night in the house, the Beast ambushes Diane and the children. Locking the children in their room and attacking Robbie with the thing he fears most, the clown doll. The Beast then attempts to sexually assault Diane. After breaking free she makes her way to the children's room. Blocking the door to the room, The Beast finally finally reveals it's appearance. That of a ghostly skull with 4 praying mantis like legs. She panics and rolls down the stairs while The Beast manages to electrify the railings to prevent her from ascending back up. Diane runs to her neighbors for help, and in the process, slips and falls into the unfinished swimming pool, from which coffins and rotting corpses erupt. Her neighbors, terrified by the ghostly energy blazing from the house, refuse to help. Meanwhile In the children's room, the closet has imploded and turned into a monstrous oesophagus-like structure that threatens to suck in Carol Anne and Robbie. Diane nonetheless manages to pull Robbie and Carol Anne out from the house, as Dana returns from a date to find coffins and dead bodies exploding from the ground throughout the neighborhood.
As Steven returns home to this mayhem, he realizes that, when Teague relocated the cemetery under the subdivision, he'd done it on the cheap and only moved the headstones. Teague appears soon after, joining the Freelings' neighbors in their horror at the Freeling house's explosive possession. An enraged Steven confronts him with the fact that by leaving the bodies in unmarked graves and building houses on top of them, Teague had desecrated their burial grounds. As the Freelings drive away in terror, the house itself implodes into another dimension, to the astonishment of onlookers, while Teague becomes aware he faces a dark future because of these events.
The family flees from town and check into a Holiday Inn for the night outside the town. Taking no chances, Steven puts the television outside on the balcony.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Craig T. Nelson as Steve Freeling
- JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling
- Dominique Dunne as Dana Freeling
- Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne Freeling
- Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina Barrons
- Beatrice Straight as Dr. Martha Lesh
- Lou Perryman as Pugsley (AKA Bluto the coffee thief.)
- Oliver Robins as Robbie Freeling
- William Hope as Dana's Boyfriend In Car (cameo) (uncredited)
- Michael McManus as Ben Tuthill
- Virginia Kiser as Mrs. Tuthill
- Martin Casella as Dr. Martin Casey
- Richard Lawson as Dr. Ryan Mitchell
- Clair E. Leucart as the Bulldozer Driver
- James Karen as Mr. Teague
- Dirk Blocker as Jeff Shaw
Film Stills[edit | edit source]
Production[edit | edit source]
Creative relationship[edit | edit source]
A clause in his contract with Universal Studios prevented Spielberg from directing any other film while preparing E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Time and Newsweek tagged the summer of 1982 "The Spielberg Summer" because E.T. and Poltergeist were released a week apart in June. As such a marketable name, some began to question Spielberg's role during production. Suggestions that Spielberg had greater directorial influence than the credits suggest were aided by comments made by the writer/producer:
"Tobe isn't... a take-charge sort of guy. If a question was asked and an answer wasn't immediately forthcoming, I'd jump in and say what we could do. Tobe would nod agreement, and that become the process of collaboration."
The Directors Guild of America "opened an investigation into the question of whether or not Hooper's official credit was being denigrated by statements Spielberg has made, apparently claiming authorship." Co-producer Frank Marshall told the Los Angeles Times that "the creative force of the movie was Steven. Tobe was the director and was on the set every day. But Steven did the design for every storyboard and he was on the set every day except for three days when he was in Hawaii with Lucas." However, Hooper claimed that he "did fully half of the storyboards."
The Hollywood Reporter printed an open letter from Spielberg to Hooper in the week of the film's release.
"Regrettably, some of the press has misunderstood the rather unique, creative relationship, which you and I shared throughout the making of Poltergeist.
I enjoyed your openness in allowing me... a wide berth for creative involvement, just as I know you were happy with the freedom you had to direct Poltergeist so wonderfully.
Through the screenplay you accepted a vision of this very intense movie from the start, and as the director, you delivered the goods. You performed responsibly and professionally throughout, and I wish you great success on your next project."
Several members of the Poltergeist cast and crew have over the years consistently alleged, that Spielberg was the 'de facto director' of the picture, while other actors have claimed Hooper directed the film. In a 2007 interview with Ain't It Cool News, Rubinstein discussed her recollections of the shooting process. She said that "Steven directed all six days" that she was on set: "Tobe set up the shots and Steven made the adjustments." She also alleged that Hooper "allowed some unacceptable chemical agents into his work," and at her interview felt that time "Tobe was only partially there." In an interview with Deadpit Radio, Lou Perryman stated "Tobe directed me and everything I saw while I was there, he directed". Oliver Robbins (who played Robbie) said that Tobe Hooper was the director. Craig T. Nelson also confirmed Hooper as the director, strongly influenced by Spielberg.
Production Stills[edit | edit source]
Deleted and Novelization Scenes[edit | edit source]
- In a deleted scene, the form of The Beast was originally revealed in Ryan's video footage. The face of a cruel old man most likely known later as Reverend Henry Kane evolves into The Beast. In the original trailer, Diane is watching the screens and yelling "That thing is in there with my baby!"
- In the same scene, Dr. Lesh in a concerned voice says "There are hundreds of them!", referring to the spirits.
- At the university, after Lesh shows the video for the first time to a class, a colleague, Dr. Anthony Farrow is truly astonished. While browsing through the jewelry and watches that had fallen from the ceiling portal he convinces Dr. Lesh to take a pair of earrings for herself as a "volunteer's pay". She smiles and names him an accessory to the crime. He then finds an interesting piece. A jaw clamp for funerals that prevents the mouth from suddenly dropping open when the body is in repose. This scene was not only written, but filmed, developed and still exists, possibly in MGM's vault. It was most likely deleted for being a spoiler for the cemetery reveal.
- In the novelization, Robbie is having a birthday party and his mother sends him on a treasure hunt. In his search he reaches inside their brick barbecue to be bitten by what he discovers is the clown doll, no longer upstairs and mysteriously hiding there.
- In the novel, the spirit in the staircase is known as "The Lady in Waiting".
- Also in the novel, Tangina is featured much more prominently and even has a one on one battle with the Beast on the other side. It includes a moment where the beast grows horns and buries them in Tangina's eyes. To no avail as her Psychic powers are extremely potent in his realm.
- In a filmed scene, the hole in the master bedroom grows a spider-like array of tentacles that grab Diane instead of the finished shot of the invisible "manhandling" she receives.
Home video release[edit | edit source]
In 1997, MGM released Poltergeist on DVD in a snap case, and the only special feature was a trailer. In 1998, Poltergeist was re-released on DVD with the same cover and disc as the 1997 release, but in a keep case and with an eight page booklet. In 1999, it was released on DVD again by Warner Home Video in a snap case with the same disc, but a different cover. Warner Home Video tentatively scheduled releases for the 25th anniversary edition of the film on standard DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray in Spain and the US on 9 October 2007. The re-release claimed to have digitally remastered picture and sound, and a two-part documentary: "They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists", which makes extensive use of clips from the film. The remastered DVD of the film was released as scheduled but both high-definition releases were eventually canceled. Warner rescheduled the high definition version of the film and eventually released it only on the Blu-ray disc format on October 14, 2008.
The Blu-ray disc release still had the "25th Anniversary Edition" banner even though this particular release was a full year behind the actual anniversary of the film. The Blu-ray disc release was packaged in collectible, non-standard Blu-ray disc packaging Warner Home Video calls "digibook" which is supposed to resemble a coffee table book and contains pictures from the film on its pages.
A six disc prototype, from the abandoned 20th Anniversary Special Edition, surfaced on eBay a few years ago and still crops up from time to time. Special features included The First Real Ghost Story and The Making of Poltergeist featurettes, screenplay, several photo galleries and Fangoria interviews, and the documentaries E! True Hollywood Story, Hollywood Ghost Stories and Terror in the Aisles. The 6th disc was a copy of the original motion picture soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Obviously a tongue-in-cheek move, The Beast's roar is the exact same sound file as the MGM lion.
- The dog`s name "E. Buzz" comes from a sketch on Saturday Night Live with Dan Akyroyd as "E. Buzz Miller", a pimp who critiques naked Victorian art.
- In reality, Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams were only 14 and 11 years older than Dominique Dunne, who plays their teen-aged daughter.
- When Diane tells Carol Anne to stop watching the static on the kitchen television and turns on a movie, a war film called "Go For Broke" (1951), the film clip has a famous audio bit called the Wilhelm Scream.
- The house used to film this movie is located in Simi Valley, California where it still stands today. The family who owned it still live there today.
- The swirling, flickering lights coming from the closet during the rescue scene were achieved using a very simple effect by having an aquarium full of water in front of a spotlight. Then a fan blew on the surface of the water to make it swirl.
- The Rams (then Los Angeles Rams) vs. Saints football game seen near the beginning of the film is taken from a Monday Night Football game in 1980.
- During the scene where Robbie is being strangled, the clown's arms became extremely tight and Robins started to choke. When he screamed out, "I can't breathe!" Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper thought that the boy was ad-libbing and just instructed him to look at the camera. When Spielberg saw Robins`s face turning purple, he ran over and removed the clown's arms from Robins' neck.
- JoBeth Williams was hesitant about shooting the swimming pool scene because of the large amount of electrical equipment positioned over and around the pool. In order to comfort her, Steven Spielberg jumped in the pool with her to shoot the scene. Spielberg told her, "Now if a light falls in, we will both fry." The strategy worked and Williams got in the pool.
- To make the stair spirits movements seem more ethereal when they appeared on the monitor, the director had the actors walk very slowly backwards then reversed the film. The same effect was used for the entire family in the opening scene.
- JoBeth Williams revealed that the production used real human skeletons (usually used in medical schools) when filming the swimming pool scene. Many of the people on the set were alarmed by this and led others to believe the "curse" on the film series was because of this use. Craig Reardon, a special effects artist who worked on the film, commented at the time that it was cheaper to purchase real skeletons than plastic as the artificial ones involved labor in making them.
- 2008 paid an homage to Poltergeist (1982) in a DirecTV commercial. Craig T. Nelson reprises the role of Steve Freeling, complaining to Carol Anne and the audience that the static on the TV set is just bad cable reception and quips "Not getting rid of cable. THAT'S gonna come back to haunt me!" Heather O'Rourke's family were pleased with the ad, for keeping her memory alive.
- The theme music is known as "Carol Anne's theme". It was originally titled "Bless this House" and was written like a lullaby as a contrast to the horror in the film. There are lyrics which can be found on the Internet.
- The crawling steak was done by using a real steak which was laid over a slot cut between the tiles in the counter top. Two wires were fastened to the bottom of the steak and a special effects operator, hidden under the counter, simply moved the wires to make the steak crawl like a caterpillar.
- For the chairs that move across the room by themselves. A wire was fastened to one of the chair's legs under the set. An operator first wobbled the chair with the wire, then dragged the chair across to its destination.
- On top of the master bedroom television set sits an Atari Video Computer System console with its two joysticks; later known as the Atari 2600.
- The cemetery Steve and Teague are talking in front of has a tree identical to the one that tried to eat Robbie; a subtle clue that the Freeling house was built over a cemetery.
Reception[edit | edit source]
Poltergeist was a box office success worldwide. The film grossed $76,606,280 in the United States, making it the highest-grossing horror film of 1982 and 8th overall for the year.
Poltergeist was well received by critics and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1982. Douglas Brode compares the "family values" in Poltergeist to the Bush/Quayle 1992 reelection campaign. Andrew Sarris, in The Village Voice, wrote that when Carol Anne is lost the parents and the two older children "come together in blood-kin empathy to form a larger-than-life family that will reach down to the gates of hell to save its loved ones." In the L.A. Herald Examiner, Peter Rainer wrote:
Buried within the plot of Poltergeist is a basic, splendid fairy tale scheme: the story of a little girl who puts her parents through the most outrageous tribulation to prove their love for her. Underlying most fairy tales is a common theme: the comforts of family. Virtually all fairy tales begin with a disrupting of the family order, and their conclusion is usually a return to order.
Over 30 years after its release, the film is regarded by many critics as a classic of the horror genre and maintains an 86% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Poltergeist was selected by The New York Times as one of The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made. The film also received recognition from the American Film Institute. The film ranked number 84 on AFI's 100 Years…100 Thrills list, and the tag line "They're here" was named the 69th greatest movie quote on AFI's 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes.
Reissues and sequels[edit | edit source]
The film was reissued on October 29, 1982 to take advantage of the Halloween weekend. It was shown in theaters for one night only on October 4, 2007 to promote the new restored and remastered 25th anniversary DVD, released five days later. This event also included the documentary "They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists," which was created for the new DVD.
The film spawned two sequels, Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III. The first retained the family but introduced a new motive for the Beast's behavior, tying him to an evil cult leader named Henry Kane, who led his religious sect to their doom in the 1820s. As the Beast, Kane went to extraordinary lengths to keep his "flock" under his control, even in death. The original motive of the cemetery's souls disturbed by the housing development was thereby altered; the cemetery was now explained to be built above a cave where Kane and his flock met their ends.
Carol Anne is the sole original family member featured in Poltergeist III, which finds her living in an elaborate Chicago skyscraper owned and inhabited by her aunt and uncle. Kane follows her there and uses the building's ubiquitous decorative mirrors as a portal to the Earthly plane.
In 2008, MGM announced that Vadim Perelman would helm a remake, to be written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White. The film, directed by Gil Kenan, was released on May 22, 2015.
Curse Assumptions[edit | edit source]
The franchise is often said to be cursed, because several people associated with it, including stars Dominique Dunne and Heather O'Rourke, died prematurely. "The Poltergeist Curse" has been the focus of an E! True Hollywood Story. It's known to be nothing more than an urban legend seeing as Dunne was murdered in a domestic dispute much later. The other two actors died of natural causes filming the sequel and not the original film, one of them, Julian Beck, was well aware of his illness and died while filming.
Misconceptions and Unanswered Questions[edit | edit source]
- The film has long had a wrongly misconstruing plot detail that the land was Indian burial ground and not a graveyard. This is most likely in part to Teague's line to Steven about relocating the cemetery up the hill from the Freeling house, "Besides, it's not ancient tribal burial ground, it's just people."
- Another often and rather amusing mistake is some people believe Carol Anne's spirit was actually trapped inside the television and not just communicating through it.
- Since Steven worked for Cuesta Verda Estates and high up in the company, why couldn't he tell Ben to "kiss his ass" and move his TV set because of the remote interference?
- Why was the ATARI 2600 in the parents room and not where the kids could play it?
- While explaining the thunder and lightning game to Robbie, Carol Anne interrupts saying that he has a call on her toy telephone, Steven playfully says to take a message. Was this just Carol Anne toying with him? Or were the visitors on the phone? The latter might be possible as Henry Kane ("The Beast") distracted Steven the same way in the sequel.
- While activity with the kitchen floor, the hole above the master bedroom, and the dining room just above E. Buzz are shown, only the bedroom hole's purpose is explained, and that in in a deleted scene. (See Deleted Scenes.)
Cultural impact[edit | edit source]
Poltergeist has been referenced in several films, television shows and music videos.
- An episode of Family Guy called "Petergeist" parodied the events in Poltergeist. Peter builds a multiplex in his backyard and discovers an Indian burial ground. When he takes an Indian chief’s skull, a poltergeist invades the Griffins’ home. The episode also used some of the same musical cues heard in the film. Composer Ron Jones "spent months" studying and recreating the original music sheets from the 1982 horror film Poltergeist. The photocopies of the music sheets cost Jones US$400. The show recreated five scenes: Stewie saying, "They're here," the portal in the closet, a hallucinating Peter ripping his face off to reveal that of Hank Hill from King of the Hill, the house imploding, and Stewie being able to communicate through the TV. However, the clown is replaced with Ronald McDonald, and after Lois leaves the television outside, Peter pushes the television back and leaves Meg outside.
- In the American Dad! episode "The American Dad After School Special", Francine discovers a pool filled with food, just like Diane's discovery of the pool hole filled with coffins and dead bodies. Hayley yells, "What's happening?!", just as Dana in the film.
- At the end of the first Simpsons Treehouse of Horror installment, "Bad Dream House", the house in which the Simpsons move turns out to be haunted. After repeated failed attempts to scare them away, it implodes in a way similar to that of the house at the end of Poltergeist, rather than spend life with the Simpson family. In Treehouse of Horror VI's Homer³, Homer enters the third dimension and communicates with his family in a reverberating voice similar to that of Carol Anne's when she speaks through the television. In an attempt to rescue Homer, Bart enters the dimension with a rope tied around him, similar to the manner Carol Anne is retrieved by Diane.
- South Park has referenced the film several times. In "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson", Cartman makes Dr. Nelson say "Carol Anne - don't go into the light" during the fight with him. In the episode "Spookyfish", a pet store built over unmoved bodies in a former cemetery causes a vortex behind a closed door akin to the rift in Carol Anne's bedroom closet. In the episode "The Biggest Douche in the Universe", Chef's mother exorcises Kenny's soul out of Cartman then states, "This child is clean," a parody of Tangina's line, "This house is clean" in the film. The episode "Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes", the boys are told to break a mirror to bring down the Wall-Mart store. Once Stan and Kyle break the mirror, the store implodes and disappears into another dimension just as the Freeling house does. A doctor resembling Tangina Barrons appears when Ike is possessed by Michael Jackson in the episode "Dead Celebrities".
- In The X-Files episode "Shadows", Mulder and Scully were discussing what had taken over their car and caused them to crash. Mulder believes that a young woman they had just visited had caused the crash via psychokinetic powers. When Scully questions Mulder's beliefs, Mulder also says it could be a poltergeist. Scully then mocks him by saying, "They're here!" Mulder replies, "Yes, they just might be."
- In the Wonderfalls episode "Lying Pig", Jaye's brother declares "This trailer is clean, kind of" after helping her remove all of the talking objects à la Tangina.
- In the Chilly Beach episode "Polargeist", a direct spoof of the first film, Dale discovers ghosts in his house and is abducted into the spirit world through his beer fridge.
- In the music video for the Spice Girls song "Too Much" Emma Bunton recreates a scene from the movie.
- In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Jim Carrey having just diagnosed that Roger Podactor was murdered instead of having committed suicide remarks: "I have exorcised the demons!" He quotes the film, though spoken incorrectly as "This house is clear.".
- In the Supernatural episode "Hollywood Babylon", Dean explains to his brother the curse of the set of Poltergeist. Also in the first season episode "Home", Dean makes a reference to Missouri Mosley cleaning out their old house of a poltergeist as doing her "whole Zelda Rubinstein thing", a reference to the actress who portrayed Tangina Barrons in all three Poltergeist films. In the fifth season episode "Dark Side of the Moon", Castiel tells Sam and Dean "Don't go into the light" and Dean then refers to Castiel as Carol Anne.
- In an episode of Roseanne, Roseanne's sister Jackie cleans the house thoroughly to get it ready for the homecoming of Darlene's baby. After cleaning, she says, "This house is clean" in a voice that imitates Tangina's when she says the line in the movie.
- Scary Movie 2 parodies the clown scene by having Ray (Shawn Wayans) sexually assault someone under the bed. It also parodies the scene with the tree that grabs Robbie, but replaces the tree with a giant cannabis plant.
- Comedian and actor Eddie Murphy references the film in his stand-up HBO special, Delirious. He jokes about being in Steven's place and going to confession about Carol Anne possibly just being in the TV and simply changing the channel to get her out.
- "Virtualodeon", an episode of The Garfield Show, includes references to Poltergeist, including the presence of an alien-hunting female character who says a famous line from the film and the emergence of alien creatures out of Jon's television.
- Fashion designer Marc Jacobs has a tattoo of the film's poster on his upper back.
- Former Mystery Science Theater 3000 founders, under Rifftrax, released a commentary. Although under newer alumni to the site Cole Stratton and Janet Varney, it was met with positive results.
References[edit | edit source]
- "Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments". web.archive.org. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "Chicago Critics’ Scariest Films". AltFilmGuide.com. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills". American Film Institute. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "Click over, children! All are welcome! All welcome! Quint interviews Zelda Rubinstein!!!!". Ain't It Cool News (2007-10-02). Retrieved on 2008-01-06.
- "Live Chat with Warner Home Video". Home Theater Forum (2007-02-26). Retrieved on 2008-01-06.
- Poltergeist on Bluray at WBshop.com
- (as seen here: http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/movies.php?id=540)
- "Box Office Information for Poltergeist". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 2010-05-21.
- "The Greatest Films of 1982". AMC Filmsite.org. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "The 10 Best Movies of 1982". Film.com. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "The Best Movies of 1982 by Rank". Films101.com. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- cited in Brode, p. 111
- "Poltergeist Movie Reviews, Page 2". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "Poltergeist Movie Reviews, Page 3". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "Poltergeist Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills". American Film Institute. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes". American Film Institute. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
- "Petergeist". TV.com. Retrieved on 2007-06-25.