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 They're Here...

Poltergeist (1982) is a horror movie directed by Tobe Hooper and co-written by Steven Spielberg, chronicling the terrifying paranormal events that surround the Freelings, an ordinary suburban family, whose home is invaded by spirits that show a special interest in their five-year-old daughter, Carol Anne.

It was followed by two sequels. Poltergeist II: The Other Side attempted to explain in greater detail why Carol Anne was targeted, and introduces the sinister Reverend Kane. Poltergeist III shows the malevolent spirits following Carol Anne to the high-rise apartment building where she has been sent to live with her aunt and uncle.

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. The first film is also known for persistent rumors that Spielberg directed most of the movie.

This 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.

A reboot is forthcoming, produced by Sam Raimi


These movies contains examples of:

General

  • Adult Fear: Hi. We're a bunch of dead spirits who want to be friends with your five-year-old daughter... and we're all being controlled by what is essentially the Anti-Christ. Sweet dreams.
  • Creepy Child: Carol Anne has her moments.
  • Forgotten Trope: In the 80's, analog television sets would produce a screen of static when not tuned to a specific channel. Nowadays, not so much.
    • Also in the 80s and earlier, networks would stop broadcasting late at night. Younger generations have grown up with 24 hour television, so they won't catch the significance of the television turning to static, then commonly known as "dead air"...
      • The static-screen did make a reappearance in the United States, with the discontinuation of analog TV broadcasts. These days, it's a channel showing anything else in the absence of a cable or dish hookup that's incongruous.
    • Nowadays, hotel televisions are typically tied in place with cables to prevent theft, so the final shot of the father evicting a TV from their hotel room is also dated.
  • Helium Speech: Tangina, all the time.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The opening theme.
    • God Is In His Holy Temple in the second film. Brrrr.
  • It Got Worse
  • Last-Note Nightmare: The opening theme starts out with children singing... And then, at the end, disturbing laughter is heard.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The "angry at the living" type.
  • Reality Subtext: Dana Freeling was entirely absent from the second and third movies, and in fact not mentioned at all. Her actress, Dominique Dunne, was murdered in 1982.
  • Recycled: the Series: Poltergeist: The Legacy had little to do with any of the movies in the franchise.
  • Red Herring: The Indian burial ground has nothing to do with anything.
  • Say My Name: CAROL ANNE! CAROL ANNE! CAROL ANNE!
  • Soundtrack Dissonance

Poltergeist

  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: By way of Popcultural Osmosis; the line is "This house is 'clean'" not "'clear,'" thank you, Mr. Ventura
  • Big Eater: Marty, when he goes for a midnight snack, munches on chips, crackers, and a chicken wing before trying to heat up a steak.
  • Body Horror: The face-peeling scene.
  • Butt Monkey: Marty, out of all the parapsychologit’s, is targeted by the spirits the most and winds up refusing to return to the house.
  • Collapsing Lair: The ghosts in the first film fail to take any of the family back to the other side, so they settle for taking the house instead.
  • Cool Gate: The entity creates one in Carol Anne's closet, with the exit in the living room ceiling.
  • Creepy Doll: The clown doll was a bit unsettling before it starts grabbing kids, too.
  • The Doll Episode: The clown doll again.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Carol Anne's sojourn to the other side.
  • Evil Is Visceral: Carol Anne's closet turning into a squidgy, pink, mucous throat-esophagus sort of thing with a tentacle reaching out to grab her and pull her in.
  • Extreme Melee Revenge: The clown comes to life, sneaks up on Robbie and attempts to suffocate him. Robbie overcomes the clown, throws it on the bed, and tears it apart, screaming, "I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!"
  • Fatal Method Acting: Averted. The scene with the clown nearly choked Oliver Robbins to death but Steven Spielberg saved his life when he realized that something wasn't right during the filming of the scene. The next take had the clown prop not be as tight as before.
  • Foot Focus: Both Dana and Diane go barefoot. Diane is barefoot for the entire climatic sequence.
  • Go Into the Light
  • Hearing Voices: Carol Anne first hears the ghosts whispering to her through television static.
  • Hot Mom: The scene of Jobeth Williams being tossed around the ceiling wearing only an overgrown football jersey and panties was not necessary but it was appreciated!
  • Imaginary Friend: ...Nope. The Freelings wished it was, though.
  • Indian Burial Ground: Averted, but Cuesta Verde was built on top of an improperly relocated cemetery (the bodies were still there).

  "You son of a bitch, you moved the headstones but you left the bodies, didn't ya? You left the bodies and you only moved the headstones! YOU ONLY MOVED THE HEADSTONES!"

Poltergeist II

  • Adult Fear: Carol Anne gets separated from her mom at the store, at which point Reverend Kane approaches her...
  • And I Must Scream: Kane and his cult sealed themselves into a cave because he was predicting the end of the world. The date for the supposed apocalypse came and went, but Kane didn't let them leave. Judging by the placement of all the skeletons in the cave, they were trapped down there until they starved to death.
  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Well, they were fine until the wires tried to eat him.
  • Brother Chuck: Dana is not in the second film because the actress playing her was dead and no explanation is given for where she is. The original script had a line mentioning that she was away at college but the scene never made it to the final film.
  • Characterization Marches On: The original film implied that the Beast was some sort of demon or otherwordly creature, not the ghost of a Sinister Minister.
  • Magical Native American: Taylor.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Julian Beck was one of the most loving people on Earth. One of the saddest things about Poltergeist II was that Beck was literally dying of cancer during the filming, and it shows.
  • Orifice Invasion: The second movie shows why you never swallow the tequila worm.
  • Retcon: The second movie reveals that the angry ghosts weren't from the desecrated cemetery under the Freelings' house, but rather from a cavern, containing the remains of an ancient religious cult, located UNDER the desecrated cemetery under the Freelings' house.
    • This troper had figured that the souls from the cemetery were indeed present and pissed, because the grave goods that came through the ceiling were of recent origin. It's the monster ghost, Kane, whose backstory the second film filled in. So, no Retcon, just expanded history.
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Kane. He is the Beast

Poltergeist III

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