Horror Education Of The Week: ‘Poltergeist’

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“Some people believe that when you die there is a wonderful light. As bright as the sun but it doesn’t hurt to look into it. All the answers to all the questions you want to know are inside that light. And when you walk to it… you become a part of it forever. Now, some people die, but they don’t know they’re gone…”

Poltergeist is brilliant and beautiful. The events in the 1982 film almost seem like they could truly happen, and perhaps they have without the world knowing. Set in perfect suburbia, five year old Carol Anne Freeling awakens her family one night, yelling into the static of the television.

Little does the Freeling family know that Carol Anne, having been born in their perfect house in Cuesta Verde, has a light within her that is a gateway to the afterlife. A light which will let the spirits, or the “tv people”, into our world – starting with two little words:

“They’re here.”

The scares in Poltergeist come from subtle everyday occurrences or objects that turn menacing and horribly frightening. The believability and natural ease of the actors that portray our main characters, and our commonplace landscape, make everything that much more awesome.

It’s these little everyday things made to be terrifying that make Poltergeist so damn good. Here are a few of them to note:

- It all begins with little Carol Anne. Talking to the tv, answering unheard questions.

- How often do we see children talking to themselves or to an imaginary friend? Carol Anne’s answering questions being asked of her by an unseen entity is spooky because it is incredibly realistic.

- Older brother Robbie is awkward and has a sweet room decorated with numerous Star Wars toys, posters and sheets, an Alien poster and a clown doll. That f***ing clown doll…

- How many of us had some sort of toy as a child that looked far more menacing than it really was? The use of this doll is brilliant in this respect. Something so inanimate can take on a life of its own with the right mindset.

- Diane Freeling blames her daughter’s activities first on sleepwalking, as she herself did it when she was 10 years old.

- Again, how many of us have experienced this? Apparently my mother found me many times in our kitchen, staring at a wall. If she tried to nudge me to go back to bed I’d either start talking to her in incoherent message “I have to get toys for the boys” was one line, or I’d walk in circles. I remember nothing of this.

- Diane and Steve are seen smoking pot before all of the weird occurrences begin.

- While this isn’t a common everyday thing for most people, the idea that they’re “bad” parents by doing drugs is something to note. Perhaps their “troubles” could be seen as stemming from this act.

- The creepy tree. Steve tells Robbie to not be afraid, it’s just an “old tree” that has been around since before the company he works for built the neighborhood. He tells Robbie the tree is there to protect him. Robbie’s response? “It looks at me. It knows I live here.”

- Trees ARE creepy. If you stare at a tree long enough, its bark inevitably becomes a tough skin, any knots or holes become a face. And perhaps it is just sitting there, waiting to eat you.

- The closet is the portal to the other side. It opens up and sucks Carol Anne inside.

- Come on, do I have to explain the disturbing nature of closets?

- Ebuzz, the dog, is seen barking at the wall, ultimately bringing a toy to an unseen playmate. And he sits, patient, waiting as Diane nervously looks on.

- I have two cats that will suddenly both stare at the same spot in the room. No, there was no sound, there is no bug, there is nothing there I see that could cause them to do so. Maybe it is movies like Poltergeist that bring attention to something more malevolent that could be taking place, or it could be that Poltergeist is making something out of nothing. Either way, it’s great.

- THE SWIMMING POOL! After Carol Anne is sucked away while the family is distracted by Robbie and the tree, Diane’s first instinct after a furious search is the pool.

- I’ve had many moments very recently while watching my nieces and nephew where I turn around and they’re gone. Where are they? Where did they go? Immediately a mothering mind goes to the worst case scenario in that brief second. The idea of an open watery grave in the backyard is simple and terrifying.

- The entity, the Beast, tricks Carol Anne, speaking to her, as Tangina states, as a child. Confusing her to the point that she thinks it is another child.

- How often in real life are children lured in some way by someone who can speak on their level? Predators do this in many forms – more prominent now with the internet – with the ultimate wish of harming the innocent child in some way.

- Steak. Something as innocent as steak is made to be terrifying. Marty just wants a snack and well, that steak is a bad choice. He feels sick and runs to the bathroom…only to tear his face off.

- I don’t know about you, but the steak still grosses me out to this day. And following it up with the face scene? Sheesh. It’s a reminder to not eat raw meat and to never look in the mirror when on hallucinogenics. Not that I take hallucinogenics…

- In the end, we learn that a greedy Mr. Teague is to blame, ultimately. He removed the headstones from the cemetery that Cuesta Verde was built on, but did not remove the bodies. “It’s just people. We’ve done it before.”

- Greedy bastards. They’re everywhere. And they’re just another simple occurrence shown in Poltergeist that are just a reflection of everyday life.

 
  • Darkness69

    Dead are not to be messed with! Great article again – might I suggest Pet Sematary as the next one?

    • Lauren Taylor

      I’ll definitely put it on my list!! Thank you!

  • kropecius

    Nice article. This movie is an absolute classic. It’s creepy as shit and has great personality.

    • Lauren Taylor

      Agreed. It has always been one of my favorites!

      And Thank You!

  • Zombie-Killa

    Another great read Lauren. Along with Halloween 4, Poltergeist is one of those films that scared the shit of me as a kid. It’s a creepy and chilling horror flick, that features some memorable moments.

    • Lauren Taylor

      Thanks a ton! :)

  • clegrow

    What a great movie. I saw it in theatre with my brother and cousin when I was 8 years old. Freaked the shite out of me. They don’t make them like that anymore.

    • Lauren Taylor

      Agreed.

  • TrackRecord162

    One of the GREAT films of the 80′s. One of the major hurdles they face when they re-make this is the cast. I’d say it will be impossible to have a cast that will outshine the original. Jobeth Williams, Zelda Rubinstien, Craig T. Nelson, c’mon,they along with the rest of the cast were simply outstanding!!!!

    • Lauren Taylor

      They really are what make it. They’re terribly convincing. Completely natural! On a side note, I think that’s why I liked Insidious, the family seemed normal!

  • clegrow

    What a great movie. I saw it in a theatre with my brother and cousin when I was 8 years old. Freaked the shite out of me. They don’t make them like that anymore.

  • denversigmon

    Is very horror and i like skeleton with woman . and you are always writing rocking .
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20121018210432AAwSksR

  • clegrow

    Poltergeist is just awesome. Its in my top 10 for sure.
    As far as remakes are concerned I’ve become immune to their effects. I have done this simply by not giving them any attention what so ever. People need to try this.

    Unfortunately I am just not hyped for any new movies these days. I did see Looper and lets just say that I’ve seen more cohesive time travel stories in the Simpsons. Although really I think time travel was the secondary story. The primary story was just another one about mutant powers which I really don’t care for.

    I’m now looking to the past for hidden gems missed the first time out. Just saw “The Asphyx” which was a pretty good British early seventies movie. Some parts kind of reminded me of Ghostbusters in a strange way. But don’t assume its about trapping ghosts. Well…okay its got some of those aspects but you will have to see it for yourself.

  • BelaManiac

    Great article. That damn clown. Still creeps me out

    • Lauren Taylor

      Totally.
      THANKS!

  • Trixxxster

    LT, got a great one for ya: Phantasm! Not necessarily ‘entry level’ horror, but definitely one of those early viewings (I was about 13 or 14 I think) which turned me into a confirmed genre fan. BTW, keep up the good work!

    • Lauren Taylor

      Phantasm scares the crap out of me. Literally ten minutes ago I went, “Oh crap, is Phantasm on bluray?! Must get!!” as I am now stockpiling everything since I have a new superb high def setup at home.

      It can totally go on the list for future articles, indeed!

  • slayer20

    Something about little kids and ghosts have always freaked me out. This movie totally does it for me. Not to mention that damn childrens choir song that just creeps the hell out of me…

    Great article!

    • Lauren Taylor

      That theme is downright creepy indeed!

      Thank you!!!

  • TRS66

    Great article Lauren do you think you can do Scream or A Nightmare On Elm Street or The Hills Have Eyes or The Last House On The Left all Wes Craven originals though not the remakes. They are my favourite movies and it would be really interesting to see you disect them and to see what someone else thinks of them.

    • Lauren Taylor

      A Nightmare on Elm Street will DEFINITELY be on the list. I have so much adoration for it – and most of the series!

      On some movies, it takes a rewatch to see things I may not have seen even a few months ago, so just hang tight! More dissection is on the way!

  • niceguyeddie1971

    Nice work. I often wonder if the tragedy surrounding that film is directly related to Speilberg using real cadavers in the muddy pool scene.Did he disturb the dead? Love to hear your thoughts….

    • Lauren Taylor

      You never know, right?
      It could be just Spielberg’s need for control in general that initially disrupted the universe and led to multiple tragedies. Or it could have been a huge string of bad luck. That is an entire other article!

  • EnzFab

    I absolutely love this film and it was one of the first to disturb me as a child (I was 10 when I first saw this). I remember I couldn’t get the screams and images of skeletons and coffins out of my head for days. What I love about this film is that it uses childhood fears as tools to scare the children, as you mentioned in your very good article, such as the clown doll, the tree (I had a creepy tree in front of my window too), the fear of water-swimming pool, the closet and darkness. I also liked how Tangina explains some of the phenomena but does so with subtlety .. such as the part you mentioned when she states “it says things only a child can understand” … and “to her, it simply is another child” (just got a chill typing that).

    I am disappointed that they are remaking this because the cast and the original story and spirit will be very hard to beat. I wish them luck.