Film: Poltergeist

aka: Poltergeist II The Other Side

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 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 remake, co-financed between MGM and 20th Century Fox, is in the works and is set to be released in Summer 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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  • 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. Here is probably the best summary and explanation of the whole issue.
  • Bloody Horror:
    • There's the scene where one of the characters 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 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Steven has his moments.
  • Dissonant Serenity: After Carol-Anne is taken, Steven becomes emotionally catatonic, speaking entirely in monotone
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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).
    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".
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Carol Anne's long blonde hair (and blue eyes) are iconic.
  • 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 a guy tearing his own face off, 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.
  • 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 spirits 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 spirits 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 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 hallucinates that he pulls off his own face.
  • Vertigo Effect: Helloooo, stretchy hallway of doom...
  • 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 II 
  • Action Insurance Gag: The father is trying to explain to the insurance company how his house (which vanished in the first film) has completely disappeared without a trace.
  • 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.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: 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.
  • Cool Old Lady: Diane's mother.
  • Daylight Horror: Kane's first appearance. And his second, if you don't count the rain.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Steven again.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The power of the Freelings was their love, and Kane hated them for it. He is expelled from Steven immediately when Diane says "I love you." It's probably not an emotion he felt in life.
  • Ironic Echo: "We want the angel"
  • 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.
  • Novelization: By James Kahn.
  • 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
  • Vampire Invitation: Reverend Kane repeatedly tries to convince the family to let him in because of this.

    Poltergeist III 
  • Idiot Ball: Dr. Seaton clearly saw poltergeist activity in the scene where a coffee cup is flung through a one-way mirror, but he continued to insist that everything was a result of Carol Anne's manipulation. This leads to a plot line where definite poltergeist activity is happening all over the place but blame continues to be put on 'manipulative' Carol Anne for being the cause of all the problems. After Dr. Seaton proposes this theory, it seems to be aunt Pat who believes it most in her attempts to place blame:
    Pat: Your daughter's upstairs, a shivering, emotional wreck. Then you run out on me to chase after that evil little brat again. Don't you understand? Don't you see what [[Carol Anne]]'s doing? It's just like Dr. Seaton said.
    Bruce: Nothing Seaton said explains what happened tonight.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Lara Flynn Boyle's shower scene.
  • In Memoriam: The film was dedicated in memory of Heather O'Rourke, who tragically and unexpectedly died a few months before the film was released.
  • Parental Substitute: In this film, Carol Anne had been sent by her family to live with her aunt and uncle in a different part of the country. Her aunt, being her mom's sister, is a bit colder towards her in comparison to her uncle, who in spite of only being related to Carol Anne by marriage ironically fills this role better of the two parental substitutes.
  • Technology Marches On: If the 80's fashion doesn't date the film to the modern-day viewer, surely Carol Anne playing with a Speak & Spell will.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Bruce, Carol Anne, and Donna all come back safe from the Other Side, but what happened to Scott?
    • According to the actor who played Scott (Kip Wentz), he wasn't contacted by the director when reshoots were done (this was the second ending, filmed a month after Heather O'Rourke passed away) and he didn't find out that a new ending was shot until shortly before the film opened.

Alternative Title(s):

Poltergeist II The Other Side, Poltergeist III