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Poltergeist (1982)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Poltergeist (1982)

In director Tobe Hooper's and co-producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg's horror classic - about a California suburban family - the Freelings - whose home was invaded by malevolent ghosts (or poltergeists); it all began when their youngest daughter was abducted, and paranormal investigators and "house cleaning" experts were summoned to the house when ordinary objects began to turn threatening through paranormal events (for example, a TV screen, a backyard tree, a closet, and a favorite doll):

  • the family of successful real estate developer Steve Freeling (Craig T. Nelson) and his wife Diane (JoBeth Williams) lived in the brand-new Cuesta Verde housing development in Orange County, California, in a suburban tract dream home
  • young, wide-eyed 5 year-old daughter Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O'Rourke) was watching late-night TV snow when she uttered her memorable words: ("They're heeere") - special effects envisioned possession of the TV when she began to carry on a conversation with the snowy-static; she later referred to the ghostly presence as "The TV people"
  • there were many inexplicable occurrences in the house: a bursting glass of milk, bending silverware, and a view of chairs self-stacked in the kitchen
  • in an early terrifying scene, the arm branches of the gnarly backyard tree outside a bedroom window during a nighttime thunderstorm became animated, crashed through the glass, and seized 8 year-old Robbie Freeling (Oliver Robins) from his bed - and half-devoured him before he was saved by his father
Robbie Grabbed by Gnarly Backyard Tree
Carol Anne Sucked Into Bedroom Closet
  • at the same time, a ghostly apparition named The Beast emerged from the children's bedroom closet, and a swirling wind pulled Carol Anne into her bedroom's closet into another dimension
  • college parapsychologists were called to the house, including Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight), Ryan (Richard Lawson), and Marty (Martin Casella), who experienced and witnessed toys and other objects swirling around in Carol Anne's room; Dr. Lesh announced: "The determination as to whether your home is haunted is not very easy. What l meant to say was, it might very well be a poltergeist intrusion instead of a classic haunting"
Three Parapsychologists

Marty Hallucinating The Deterioration of His Face
Swirling Objects in Bedroom
  • in a ghastly scene, para-psychologist Marty, after raiding the Freeling's refrigerator late at night, spotted a left-over beef-steak moving on its own and a chicken drumstick infested with maggots - and then he looked into a bathroom mirror and had a morbid, hallucinatory experience - his face deteriorated as he clawed at his face and peeled back the rotting flesh with his fingers, pulling off gobs of skin down to the bone
  • a crucial clue was spoken by Steve's boss - community real-estate developer Lewis Teague (James Karen), about future construction and project plans for the area and why there might be a problem with the Freeling house in Cuesta Verde: "We've already made arrangements for relocating the cemetery....Oh, don't worry about it. After all, it's not an ancient tribal burial ground. lt's just people. Besides, we've done it before (in Cuesta Verde)...All three hundred acres. Well, let me tell you, it was quite a deal!"; Steve reacted by considering the whole thing "sacrilegious"
  • there were further attempts at exorcism and house-cleansing by short-statured, eccentric clairvoyant Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) - including her spellbinding monologue about Carol Anne's relation to the unseen spirits that had pulled her into their sphere: "There is no death. There is only a transition to a different sphere of consciousness. Carol Anne is not like those she's with. She's a living presence in their spiritual, earth-bound plane. They're attracted to the one thing about her that's different from themselves. Her life-force - it is very strong. It gives off its own illumination. It is a light that implies life and memory of love and home and earthly pleasures, something they desperately desire but can't have anymore. Right now, she's the closest thing to that, and that is a terrible distraction from the real light that has finally come for them. Do you understand me? These souls who for whatever reason are not at rest are also not aware that they have passed on. They're not part of consciousness as we know it. They're in a perpetual dream state, a nightmare from which they cannot wake. Inside this spectral light is salvation - a window to the next plane. They must pass through this membrane with friends who are waiting to guide them to new destinies. Carol Anne must help them cross over, and she will only hear her mother's voice. Now, hold onto your selves. There's one more thing - a terrible presence is in there with her. So much rage, so much betrayal. I've never sensed anything like it. I don't know what hovers over this house, but it was strong enough to punch a hole into this world and take your daughter away from you. It keeps Carol Anne very close to it and away from the spectral light. It lies to her. It says things only a child can understand. He's been using her to restrain the others. To her, it simply is another child. To us, it is the Beast. Now let's go get your daughter"
  • another amazing scene was Diane's attempt to extract Carol Anne from the other dimension, by tying a rope around her waist before she entered the portal in the bedroom closet to grab her daughter; she emerged into the other dimension where the Beast was confronted face-to-face, and Diane successfully brought Carol Anne back - both were unconscious and covered in ectoplasm after falling through the living room ceiling; Tangina prematurely declared: "This house is clean"
  • another scare-moment was of the frightening, evil-grinning clown doll in Robbie's room that vanished from its customary chair, grabbed its owner Robbie, strangled him with its elongated snake-like arm, and pulled him under the bed where Robbie fought off the doll
Robbie's Evil Clown Doll
  • an unseen, malignant and forceful poltergeist also attacked Diane (to keep her from coming to Robbie's rescue); it bounced her on the bed, hurled her against the bedroom wall, moved her up the wall and dragged her across the ceiling; another slimy portal opened up in Carol Anne's closet and attempted to pull them in
  • in the concluding scene, after distraught suburban California mother Diane Freeling confronted the Beast a second time, she then ran outside into the yard for help - in the rain - and made a wrong step - she slipped into the muddy, excavated pit next to the house that had been dug for their swimming pool; she slid down the slippery slope into the dirty water, and surfaced with skeletal faces of corpses (with silent, screaming expressions), tombstones and coffins rising and erupting behind her
  • the ghost story's key point was that the home had been built over a local cemetery - where developers had never removed and relocated the corpses as promised, but had only removed the headstones - and the angry spirits had sought retribution; in the terrifying climax, the muddy corpses were being unearthed
  • Steve strongly rebuked his own boss, Lewis Teague, who was responsible for the catastrophe: "You S-O-B. You moved the cemetery but you left the bodies, didn't ya? You S-O-B. You left the bodies and you only moved the headstones. You only moved the headstones. Lies. Lies!"
  • in the film's final moments, the enraged Beast sucked the imploding house through the portal into another dimension until there was nothing left
  • after the family was checked into a Holiday Inn, Steve wheeled the TV out of the room onto the balcony to prevent any further mishaps

"They're here"

Projection From TV into Bedroom Wall

Bent Silverware

Stacked Chairs

Developer Teague to Steve: Admitting The Relocation of a Cemetery in Cuesta Verde

Tangina's Monologue

Tangina's Last Words: "Now let's go get your daughter"

The Beast

Carol Anne Extracted by Diane

Poltergeist's Attack on Diane

Another Portal Opening Up in Bedroom Closet

Skeletons Rising Up in Pit Next to Diane

Steve's Rebuke of His Boss

House Imploding

Removal of TV from Family's Hotel Room


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