Film / Poltergeist

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 One Hundred Scariest Movie Moments and the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 20th scariest film ever made.

A remake, co-financed between MGM and Twentieth 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.

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  • Anonymous Author: A notorious Hollywood subject. The identity of the one true director of this film is one of the great Hollywood either-legends or barely-hidden-truths, depending on whom you ask and what you read. Many sources, in particular Zelda Rubinstein, have openly stated that Hooper was actually little more than a stand-in on the set, and the film was, for all intents and purposes, directed by Steven Spielberg. Harlan Ellison has denounced that story as "a rumor that time has proved to be utterly false and destructive to Hooper's reputation." Here is probably the best summary and explanation of the whole issue.
  • 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 BSOD.
  • 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: The family chooses to spent one more night in the house instead of at a hotel before they can move into the newer house. The mom then chooses to leave her children unattended in their room, where Carol Ann had previously been abducted. Sure, Tangina said it would be okay but would you take a chance with your children's lives?
  • Tear Off Your Face: The psychic's assistant, Marty hallucinates that he pulls off his own face.
  • 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...