Poltergeist is probably the scariest PG-rated movie you’re ever going to see. It’s one of the first horror movies I ever saw and it still scares me to this fucking day. That scene with the tree reaching out into the bedroom is my fucking nightmare. Oddly enough, if the wind is blowing from a certain direction, it pushes a branch to scrape the outside wall of the apartment I live now. Although now I would welcome my tree friend to take me from this existential nightmare we call life.
And then there’s the iconic scene with the television set. I could go on and on, basically talking about most of the scenes in the movie and proving to you that this is a masterpiece but I won’t. I’ll just say that the scariest scene in Poltergeist was the one with the tree and leave it at that. Just to be perfectly clear, this is a movie that stood the test of time. You can watch it now, almost thirty years after it was released and still find it captivating and scary. Just make sure you get the new, 4k version.
That’s probably down to the cooperation between director Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Steven Spielberg who wrote and produced the movie. They knew how to set up the scenes and build tension. And the spine-chilling dialogue only amplified the terror you were already feeling. When I heard “they’re here”, I really felt that. And that booming soundtrack kept ramping up the tension to the point of breaking. That’s why it was so satisfying to hear the famous line: “This house is clean”.
The Freeling family is loving their new home in the Cuesta Verde, a planned little part of the town where everything is just perfect. However, underneath all the perfection, there’s something lurking and waiting for its chance to manifest itself. And that time is now!
Another thing I like about this movie is that it wastes no time as the opening scene immediately puts us on high alert. Everybody is asleep and this innocent young girl walks up to the television set and says hello. After a brief introduction to the sleepy suburb setting and our family, we carry on with nasty scenes as the storm starts stirring up all kinds of shit. And then we have the whole scientific approach to the problem to make things even better!
Of course, when counting all the scary scenes from Poltergeist, we shouldn’t forget the ones with the clown. It’s the eighties and scary clowns were all the rage back then. I mean, clowns are scary but I would also add that John Wayne Gacy, a notorious serial killer who used to dress up like a clown was caught in 1979. If you’re wondering what Poltergeist means, it is German for “noisy ghosts”. The fuckers were noisy, you’ll have to admit. And they looked pretty good for 1982.
ILM was in charge of special effects so this comes as no surprise. The cast did a terrific job, especially the kids were great. Keep in mind that Heather O’Rourke playing Carol was just six years old when the production began. Craig T. Nelson was the classic eighties dad while JoBeth Williams cemented my love for white panties after I was first initiated during Alien.
Did you know that there’s a Poltergeist curse? Two people lost their lives immediately after the end of the filming, while Heather O’Rourke, the star of the franchise died sometime before the premiere of the third part. The set of Poltergeist II was exorcised by Will Sampson, who played Taylor the Native American shaman. He also died. Finally, Poltergeist spawned two more sequels out of which I recommend you check out only the first one, Poltergeist II. The third part is kind of boring with serious signs of milking.
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writers: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Richard Lawson
Fun Stuff: In the swimming pool scene the skeletons you see are real human skeletons. The production thought it would be easier to use the real ones and they didn’t bother telling JoBeth Williams about their decision. She found out only after the shooting was over.