Horror Movie Revew: Poltergeist (1982)

“They’re here…”

Poltergeist was directed by Tobe Hooper and written/produced by Steven Spielberg, and Domini que Dunne’s only movie (Dana Freeling). The film series has several deaths associated with it, this one specifically has two involving the two main sisters. Of course the most famously known is Heather O’rourke (Carol Ann), she died after the last film in the series in 1988 from congenital stenosis. She’s said to have insisted she was feeling okay up until she collapsed and was taken to hospital. The second death was a few months after this films release, in November 1982, Dominique Dunne was strangled to brain death by an abusive boyfriend after she ended their relationship. One of the saddest aspects to her murder is that this is only film she was ever in, and what some would say was a debut: who knows what other roles she could have gone onto play? Trivia about the movie and it’s cast add another level of creepiness to this movie and some of it is so strange it could almost make you believe in the supernatural…

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Steven and Diane Freeling live a quiet life in a California planned community called Cuesta Verde, where Steven is a successful real estate developer and Diane is a housewife who cares for their children Dana, Robbie, and Carol Anne. Carol Anne awakens one night and begins conversing with the family’s television set, which is transmitting static following a sign-off. The following night, while the Freelings sleep, Carol Anne fixates on the television set as it transmits static again. Suddenly, an apparition blasts from the television screen and vanishes into the wall, triggering a violent earthquake in the process. As the shaking subsides, Carol Anne announces “They’re here.”

Bizarre events occur the following day: a drinking glass spontaneously breaks; silverware bends; and furniture moves on its own accord. The phenomena seem benign at first, but quickly begin to intensify. That night, a gnarled backyard tree comes alive and grabs Robbie through the bedroom window. While Diane and Steven rescue Robbie before the demon tree swallows him, Carol Anne is sucked through a portal in her closet. The Freelings realize she has been taken when they hear her voice emanating from a television set.

A group of parapsychologists from UC Irvine — Dr. Lesh, Ryan, and Marty — come to the Freeling house to investigate and determine that the Freelings are experiencing a poltergeist intrusion. They discover that the disturbances involve more than just one ghost. Steven also finds out in an exchange with his boss, Lewis Teague, that Cuesta Verde is built where a cemetery was once located.

After Dana and Robbie are sent away for their safety, Dr. Lesh and Ryan call in Tangina Barrons, a spiritual medium. Tangina states that the spirits inhabiting the house are lingering in a different “sphere of consciousness” and are not at rest. Attracted to Carol Anne’s life force, these spirits are distracted from the real “light” that has come for them. Tangina then adds that among these ghosts, there is also a demon known as the “Beast”, who has Carol Anne under restraint in an effort to manipulate the other spirits.

The assembled group discovers that the entrance to the other dimension is through the children’s bedroom closet, while the exit is through the living room ceiling. As the group attempts to rescue Carol Anne, Diane passes through the entrance tied by a rope that has been threaded through both portals. Diane manages to retrieve Carol Anne, and they both drop to the floor from the ceiling, unconscious and covered in prenatal-like fluids. As they recover, Tangina proclaims afterward that the house is now “clean”.

The last 20 minutes of the film are the craziest and definitely not worth spoiling if you haven’t seen it. But if you thought the house was really “clean”, well…

Until writing this review I’d never seen Poltergeist, but I felt as if I had due to so many films using similar ideas and the many parodies of it. Firstly, this movie holds up incredibly well for being 32 years old; the effects are still really well done and mostly believable. I would confidently say that Poltergeist is one of the most important and distinctive horror movies ever made, it was so original with many of its ideas – many ideas that have been included in a variety of horror films since. It has countless famous scenes; Carol Anne’s “they’re here”, Carol Anne’s voice through the television, *spoiler* the house being sucked into a portal, Diane retrieving Carol Anne and many more. Some may dislike the slow build up but it shows the warmth and love the family have for each other, and encourages the viewer to feel for the family as they go through this nightmare. Despite it being in the horror/thriller genre, there isn’t a single death shown. The film was filmed by Spielberg concurrently with E.T, but I think I know which film I prefer…

Finally, as I said at the beginning there’s many strange trivia associated with this film but this one I thought was incredibly coincindental: “Robbie has a poster in his room for Superbowl XXII, which would not take place for another six years. Heather O’Rourke died in San Diego the day after Superbowl Sunday of 1988 which was played in San Diego as well.”

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