Film / Poltergeist

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They're Here...

Poltergeist (1982) is a horror movie directed by Tobe Hooper and co-written and produced 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 (1986) and Poltergeist III (1988).

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 remake, co-financed between MGM and 20th Century Fox, was released May 22 2015, with Sam Raimi as producer and Gil Kenan as director.

If you are looking for a trope about mischievous ghost vandals, you can see it under the "Main" tab.

These movies contains examples of:

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    General 

    Poltergeist (1982) 
  • Bloody Horror:
    • There's the scene where Marty hallucinates ripping his face off in the bathroom, and dripping blood into the sink.
    • There's another scene nearing the end of the film, after rescuing the daughter the mother and the daughter come out of the ghost's world, and fall into a bathtub full of blood.
  • Collapsing Lair: The ghosts fail to take any of the family back to the other side, so they settle for taking the house instead.
  • Cool Gate: The ghosts 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Steven has his moments.
  • Dissonant Serenity: After Carol Anne is taken, Steven becomes emotionally catatonic, speaking entirely in monotone. in a kind of Heroic B.S.O.D..
  • The Doll Episode: The clown doll again.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Carol Anne's sojourn to the other side.
  • Drugs Are Good: Diane and Steven are shown smoking a marijuana cigarette together and having a great time.
  • 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!"
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: There are some hints during the film, stronger during the second half, that Dana goes on dates with guys and has sex with them, without her parents knowing: Just the day after they recover Carol Anne from the other side of the closet, Diane tells Dana that later, they'll go to a hotel, when she tells which one, Dana just goes like "oh, yes", and giving some fun smile, looking like she's daydreaming, letting us know that she knows it and that something special for her happened there and Diane saying "what is it?", or something like that. Then Dana changes subject and leaves and we don't know anything of her until the very end of the movie, when she gets out of the car screaming "WHAT'S GOING ON??!!". Look for her neck, to the left and to the right of it, you can see lovebites.
  • Go Into the Light: DON'T go into the light! GO into the light! Make up your mind, Tangina!
  • Happily Married: Diane and Steven which carries into the second movie.
  • Hearing Voices: Carol Anne first hears the ghosts whispering to her through television static in the television set.
  • Imaginary Friend: ...Nope. The Freelings wished it was, though.
  • Indian Burial Ground: Averted, but Cuesta Verde was built on top of an improperly relocated Christian cemetery (the bodies were still there).
    Steve: You son of a bitch! You moved the headstones but you left the bodies, didn't you? You left the bodies and you only moved the headstones! YOU ONLY MOVED THE HEADSTONES!! WHY?! WHY??!!
  • Instant Thunder: Averted, the time between the lightning and thunder showed that the storm was getting closer.
  • Light Is Not Good: The light is good; it's just not good for things that don't need to go there, like the living.
  • Locked into Strangeness: After rescuing Carol Anne from the Other Side, Diane develops a white streak of hair at each temple. She is reluctant to dye the streaks back, speculating to her older daughter that they look "punk".
  • Mama Bear: Diane is willing to go through absolute hell to keep her children safe.
    Diane: NO! NOT MY BABIES!!!'
  • Mood Whiplash: From a horrific scene of exploding raw steak, maggoty chicken and Marty tearing his own face off ( He's hallucinating, we segue into a near-mystical manifestation of gracefully-glowing light. Justified when it's revealed that there's an insanely-malign ghost sharing the house with a bunch of inoffensive/trapped ones.
  • Monster Clown: The evil clown doll, One of the ghosts' distractions in order to kidnap Carol Anne.
  • No-Tell Motel: The motel the family heads to at the end of the film has a reputation for this, according to Diane's eldest daughter. (Hopefully, said daughter will be able to avoid Diane's fate of becoming a mom at age 16.)
  • Novelization: By James Kahn.
  • Offscreen Reality Warp: The ghosts demonstrate their "Mad Skillz" at chair stacking during a brief period when the camera is not on them.
  • Orphean Rescue: For Carol Anne.
  • Peek-A-Boo Corpse: Steve has a few things to say to his realtor about his new neighbors.
  • Shout-Out: While Diane and Steven are in bed, we see they are watching the film "A Guy Named Joe." This is a movie from 1943 where a dead Air Force pilot comes back to Earth as a ghost to pass his knowledge onto an up and coming rookie. Strangely enough, Spielberg would go on to remake this film later in his career under the title "Always."
  • Skunk Stripe: See Locked into Strangeness, above.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: The ghosts first communicate with Carol Anne through an untuned television set.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The first twenty minutes of this film are very light-hearted, like when Steve and his neighbor and dueling with their remotes. After Carol Ann utters "They're here." the film becomes considerably darker.
  • The Soulsaver: The psychic Tangina helps a group of friendly yet lonely ghosts (lost souls) trapped in the astral plane go into the Light.
  • Tempting Fate: After the Freelings rescue Carol Anne from the other side, the spiritual medium Tangina says "This house is clean". A short time later the ghosts re-appear and try to grab Carol Anne again.
  • Tear Off Your Face: The psychic's assistant, Marty hallucinates that he pulls off his own face.
  • Third Act Stupidity: Steven and Diane Freeling act with reasonable intelligence throughout most of the movie - not perfectly, but then they had idea that it could be so dangerous. However, after managing to rescue Carol Anne from a demonic ghost, they decide that Diane, Robbie and Carol Anne will stay in the house overnight. Not only that, but they let Robbie and Carol Anne stay alone in the same room that Carol Anne was originally stolen from. Would you take that kind of risk with your kids?
  • True Blue Femininity: Carol Anne's nightgown is blue and very feminine.
  • Vertigo Effect: Helloooo, stretchy hallway of doom...
  • Whole Plot Reference: To "Little Girl Lost", an episode of The Twilight Zone.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Carol Anne's very feminine frilly blue nightgown trimmed with satin ribbons.
  • When Trees Attack: It nearly eats Carol Anne's brother.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: "This house is clean." Nope - it's regrouping... and it's PISSED...

    Poltergeist (2015) 
  • Amicable Exes: Brooke and Carrigan.
  • Ascended Extra: He's not really an extra, but Griffin, the counterpart of Robbie from the original film series, is essentially the reboot's main protagonist and hero. He has the most focus of the Bowens, and is actually the one who saves Maddie from the other dimension, as opposed to the original's Diane (the counterpart of the reboot's Amy).
  • Big Brother Instinct: Griffin to Maddie, especially after leaving her to guard herself which causes her to be taken to the other dimension. While the others are busy offering themselves to go to the other dimension and become Maddie's guide, Griffin wastes no time to do it himself. His mom is apparently very supportive of him to have this instinct, too.
    Amy: Be brave. If you're scared, Maddie's going to be scared too. You're her big brother. You have to be an example to her.
  • Big Sister Bully: Kendra is initially this to Griffin and Maddie (or at least just Griffin). She softens up throughout the film due to all they go through.
  • Cassandra Truth: Griffin's pleas about the poltergeists are denied all the time. At least until Kendra experiences it first-hand and Maddie goes missing.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Two of the gifts the dad buys (the cell phone and the camera drone) play a role detecting the ghosts and then Maddie, respectively.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Kendra is a fan of Carrigan Burke, an occultist and the host of a paranormal investigation reality show. Carrigan himself is later called by Brooke to help rescue Maddie.
  • Creepy Doll: In all its terrifying glory. And there's a closet full of them.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The Bowens are almost heading to this territory at the start, due to Eric losing his job while continuously preventing Amy from seeking job so she can write a novel. Losing a job means that the family have to move in to a lower-class neighborhood that their children dislike. Ironically, the problem that should have been the worst influence on the relationship, the poltergeists, actually ends up making them reconcile and team up to repel it, though Maddie's disappearance might have something to do with it, too.
  • Eldritch Location: The other dimension.
  • Everybody Lives: Should be no surprise, since the series is known for this trope despite being a high-end horror fiction.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Knowing that the Bowens will always be hunted by the spirits because of their attraction to Maddie, Carrigan ends up deciding to enter the other dimension to guide them to the light instead. However, the ending implies that he survives, which The Stinger outright confirms.
  • Here We Go Again: The house the Bowens are looking into at the end gives off the same vibe as their previous haunted house, complete with ominous tree. They respond by driving off before the realtor has a chance to finish her sales pitch.
  • I'm Your Biggest Fan: Kendra and Boyd say some variation of this while meeting with their favorite idol, Carrigan. He just brushes it off.
  • If We Get Through This: Surprisingly subverted. Carrigan promises Griffin to reveal how he got the scar on his forehead once Maddie is rescued and if Griffin survive. Since all of them make it through the night, Poltergeist style, Griffin does indeed reveal how he got that: it's completely mundane and not related to the supernatural at all.
  • I Will Find You: All of the Bowens after Maddie's gone will do everything to have her back. Exemplified best with Griffin when he denies Boyd's suggestion to use the paranormal activity for profit.
    Griffin: I just want to have my sister back.
  • Layman's Terms: Not stated outright, but Brooke's Techno Babble explanation about the other dimension definitely doesn't suit Kendra and Griffin well. Sophie ends up having to explain it through papers.
  • Manly Tears: "I don't care about that whole supernatural thing. I just want to have my daughter back." Well said, Eric, well said.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Griffin thinks he has this complex. He's not old enough to be given responsibilites like Kendra, and he's not young enough to warrant extra attention like Maddie. Plus, he's the only son of the trio.
  • Momma's Boy: A positive example. It's obvious that out of all her children, Amy adores Griffin the most, probably because he's the only boy.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Specifically averted. Because he's unsure whether he will survive going to the other dimension, Carrigan says this to Brooke beforehand. Fortunately, he survives.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: Said ad verbatim by Maddie to Griffin. He regrets it later, since that's the last words he heard before Maddie goes to the other dimension.
  • Primal Scene: Griffin walks in while his mom is lying half-dressed on bed and his dad undoing his trousers (but not underwear, thankfully).
  • The Remake: With some refreshing change in details.
  • Satellite Character: Out of the three members of the Department of Paranormal Research, Sophie stands out the least, since she barely gets lines other than those related to explaining the paranormal thing. Brooke gets the distinction as leader and ex-wife of Carrigan, and Boyd is Carrigan's fan and even has a certain independent opinion that establishes his money-hungry nature, but Sophie's defining trait is being an investigator and nothing more. It is particularly significant since she's also the Token Minority of the film.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Rather than tempt fate and spend the night in their "cleaned" house, the Bowens pack up what they can after they retrieve Maddie from the other side and get the hell out of Dodge only to find the ghosts haven't been exorcised and really want their guide back.
  • Squee!: Kendra and Boyd, but especially Kendra, when Brooke calls in Carrigan. If you look closely in some scenes where Kendra is not the focus, you can see that she's locked in a perpetual smile while looking at Carrigan.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Not quite, but Eric disapproves of Amy seeking a job so she can pursue her dream: writing a novel.
  • The Stinger: Confirms that Carrigan does indeed survive after having entered the other dimension.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: It takes some time to convince Eric that nothing makes sense in the house, and the poltergeists are real.
  • Token Minority: The only non-white person in the film who has a major role is Sophie, a member of Brooke's Department of Paranormal Research, who is black. There's also Kendra's Black Best Friend, Lauren, but she has a very minor role and only appears in webcam video.
  • Wham Line: After they flee their house, Kendra gets Carrigan to say his Catch Phrase that the house is clean. Then...
    Kendra: I can't believe he said it. "This house is clean."
    Maddie: But it's not.
  • Working with the Ex: Brooke and Carrigan were formerly married, but separated because Brooke wanted to pursue formal education. They remain on good professional terms, though.

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