It was the first horror movie with lots of expensive effects, after Poltergeist, horror movies were expected to have a lot of effects. As a Spielberg production (he also ghost directed) it is a bit Disney-ified, and not the scariest horror movie, but I also think it's scarier than its naysayers give it credit. Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) has signed to direct the remake.
It's not scary at all. I don't understand how anyone was scared of this. Boring as hell too. Sam Raimi? Oh, good lord. That guy should be banned from directing anything.
It was scary. Some people nowdays mix up the terms 'scary' and 'gory'. Scary movies set up a nice scary and mysterious mood without having to actually show a horrible creature, corpse, or severed body parts every two seconds. Sure, nowdays movies like Poltergeist look more camp than scary, but back then people did have a different attitude and weren't as spoiled entertainment-wise as we are now.
I think one of the best scary movies of recent time is 'The Woman in Black' starring Daniel Radcliffe.
Exactly, r3. I love scary, while gore-fests bore me.
I can watch a blood/gore movie every now and then (Wolf Creek for instance), but R3 and R4 are right, the best scary movies are all about atmosphere and that sense of foreboding and disquiet.
It was PG. It was summertime. A lot of parents just wanted their kids out of their hair, a lot of kids go to the movies. If you see the trailers, Steven Spielberg's name is much more prominent than director Tobe Hooper's. And since Spielberg did ET that summer, kids all wanted to see his other movie, the ghost story.
And a whole generation of kids who were scared of closets and clowns and dolls and kidnapping and the tree outside their window had all their fears come to life. VERY effective.
So yeah. Scary.
Spielberg actually directed Poltergeist, there was just some technicality where he wasn't allowed to direct two movies at once. But he did, he'd rush over from the ET set to direct Poltergeist, but was only credited as producer for the latter.
They found it scary because Spielberg told them to.
It's more thrilling than scary but does have very, very effective moments. Especially when you're ten and the world hasn't been saturated by zombies, vampires, "found footage" and lame exorcism films.
Watching it on DVD at home, 30 years after, sure it's probably not scary. Many films aren't. But my brother was only six when we saw it and to this day, will never watch horror.
It was a nice roller coaster ride. Was it horrifying, no, but there were some thrills such as the clown under the bed and the Paranormalist ripping his face off. There were laughs too. Audiences ate it up.
Not to mention it has warmth that so much other horror doesn't. Every time I watch it and Carol Anne's soul passes through Diane on the stairs, I get teary-eyed. Plus, the wonderful, motherly rapport between Beatrice Straight and JoBeth Williams was spot on.
"I felt her...I can smell her...."
I have a love/hate relationship with that line/scene.
I sympathize with Diane, but want to slap her at the same time.
At the time it was considered intense enough that it helped creae the PG-13 rating (along with Temple of Doom. Do they even use that rating anymore?
What made it scary was that it was emotionally engaging. People who we cared about were in danger.
Films that do not make you engage with the characters have to use gore effects in excess to get a response.
Gremlins 2 and Temple of Doom are what influenced the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating.
[quote]At the time it was considered intense enough that it helped creae the PG-13 rating (along with Temple of Doom. Do they even use that rating anymore?
Yes. PG-13 is the holy grail for big summer blockbusters because it's the difference between teenage boys being able to get in on their own or not.
The Voice of the Night
No it was GREMLINS not Gremlins 2, R17.
insidious ripped it off
PG-13 is a crock of shit. Look at The latest Batman movie. How the Fuck did that not get an R rating?
[quote]It was scary. Some people nowdays mix up the terms 'scary' and 'gory'.
No, honey. I don't mix the two up. I'm all for psychological horror. This film was just dumb.
[quote]insidious ripped it off
Not even close. lmao
Insidious was far creepier and scary. I was watching it alone at night while babysitting a nephew at his house. Scared the shit out of me. Their house is big, dark and has lots of uncovered windows. I kept thinking I was seeing things in the shadows and shadowy figures outside looking in.
People were just easier to scare in the 1980s when everything became so conservative and family friendly (thanks Reagan!). The shit that was put out in the 1970s for horror was brutal. The 1980s horror was lame, and so Disney.
The early 80s decor in that house was TERRIFYING, OP.
Craig T. Nelson was one fine hot daddy in this pic.
I love the family dynamic in the movie. It has interesting and involving characters, something many horror flicks don't bother to include. It's one of those movies I will leave on if I come across when I'm channel surfing. It's a very good movie.
It along with ET both dealt with the supernatural in a way that hadn't been done before, in a nuclear family with young children, in the exurban suburbs - these vast areas of tract housing carved out of the desert or farmland, where every house looks like the next one (if I'm not mistaken, that's actually a line in the Poltergeist trailer). Poltergeist, ET, Jaws, Close Encounters, The Goonies and Back to the Future were all very much films about the baby boomer middle class, a huge sociological phenomena that had never really seen itself reflected onscreen, especially not in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror realm. If you were a parent or a kid in the suburbs, you could not really relate to being a treasure hunter in a boobytrapped temple, or being stalked on a spaceship by an alien; but you [italic]could[/italic] relate to something going wrong on a day at the beach, or all the toys in your bedroom suddenly coming to life, or the idea that there was some sort of malevolent force in the dark areas beyond your house (scariest image in Close Encounters is in the beginning, when his mother sees Barry running away from the house into the dark night - horrifying from a parent's POV I can imagine.) But anyway back to Poltergeist, millions of Americans living in these new suburban subdivisions, all new construction, the furthest thing from the "haunted house" that we're used to seeing, so the idea that they could be haunted was novel and spooky - and how did the ghosts get in the house? Through the television set! What was more middle class than the family room television set? Or the backyard swimming pool?
I still love "Poltergeist" and yes, it scared the pants off me back in 1982. Whoever compared it to a roller coaster is spot-on. Maybe it's not so much scary as full of great thrills.
Beautiful score by Jerry Goldsmith.
It was REALLY scary when I first saw it in the theater. Obviously by today's standards it's not at all scary.
I saw this at a drive-in at age 11 and never thought it was scary (except fot that clown), just a lot of fun.
That clown was creepy R32 as are all clowns imo. I don't why so many adults think kids like them.
Thank you, R30. Indeed.
Jerry don't get no respect.
R29 gets it.
As a kid who grew up in the era when nobody believed Big Bird that Snuffleupagus was real even though we knew he was and when countless TV shows and movies always had the kids separate from the adults who never believed the kids that something was going on (and this STILL goes on today in films), it was nice to see a movie where the parents were in on it from the beginning and never had that long, long period of not believing.
All are welcome! All are aelcome! Go into the light
I don't think I've ever seen a horror movie that actually scared me, but I love Poltergeist and have since I first saw it in June of 1982 (it was released the same day as Star Trek 2-The Wrath of Khan and my buddies and I saw them both back-to-back that day). It was a very well made movie and I still enjoy watching the blueray every once in a while.
The horror in Poltergeist is that you were not safe in your own home. Your parents could not protect you, or you could not protect your children. That's an enormous part of our cultural psyche (gun control laws anybody?).
Additionally, the suburban tract home is arguably the most important cultural signifier in postwar America - and remember this was made in 1982 - when Reagan was ushering in this neo-Eisenhowerian era of "Morning in America." So the idea that this sunny world of parents and children (beautifully illustrated in the opening montage) could be the victim of malevolent forces was novel, to say the least.
Poltergeist really isn't about ghosts. It's about the 1980's.
Dominique Dunne's death overshadowed the film - the beginning of "The Poltergeist" hex. The shots of messy, middle class Boomer parents - still sexy - smoking pot in the bedroom without being judged for it was mind blowing cinema imagery in a studio-made U.S. film. It would be considered scandalous today and would most likely be cut out. Or they would have to be "punished" for it. My brother explained to me that when they went next door to the fat guy's house that they were stoned after I suspected the ghosts were making them act strangely. I made a mental note to try that shit some day.
The son's orthodontia situation, among other small quirks, added non-Hollywood reality.
Relying on an initially laughable little lady to rid the house of evil was a nice touch. The "Indian burial ground" conspiracy was a true revelation back then. "Poltergeist" made shitty suburbs suddenly mysterious, no mean feat.
It was a thrill ride that had a real sense of place, which is overlooked in the sterile green screen product of today.
Poltergeist scared the crap out of me, and it still does!
[quote]Poltergeist really isn't about ghosts. It's about the 1980's.
"Go toward the light, Carol Anne!" "No, sweetie, run away from the light!" - don't they give her conflicting advice in that scene?
R43, Tangina is in a trance, directing the restless spirits to go into the light and not Carol Anne. Steve misunderstands and pulls too soon, breaking Tangina's trance (and leaving half of the job undone) and then the Beast pops out.
No idea what Nelson did to get himself into that state but that look on his face when the Beast pops out is pure, genuine terror.
Maybe he was thinking about all the people getting government handouts.
There is the barest mention in the screenplay that Steve and Diane were hippies. But considering Dana is 16 and Diane 32 and there is no indication that Dana is a stepdaughter...
I thought that was the moment they realized Tangina was in over her head. She wasn't as knowledgeable as she presenthed herself. Or am I wrong?
[quote]Every time I watch it and Carol Anne's soul passes through Diane on the stairs, I get teary-eyed.
Seriously? I can't even "MARY!" this. Are you a pregnant woman? Do you cry at coffee commercials?
It's the lamest part of an already pretty stupid movie.
Okay Tobe at R47, we know that you certainly didn't direct THAT scene.
Seriously, watch the 1982 trailer. It lays out all the signifiers within the first thirty seconds.
I would group "Poltergeist" (the Eightes) with "Rosemary's Baby" (the Sixties), "The Exorcist" (the Seventies) and "The Sixth Sense" (the Nineties) as kind of companion pieces in which the cultural stresses of each era are examined by the introduction of a supernatural force that threatens the home/family.
There's an office frau at my workplace who looks like Tangina. She has a serious hygiene issue.
her house is NOT clean
Poltergeist was the result of its time period, and signaled the need for movies to be blockbusters! and action-packed, and filled with special effects. Stephen Spielberg was one of the main culprits for this.
Like so many, many other things, the '80s absolutely ruined the intelligent horror film (and cinema in general; and people's intelligence in general; and America in general).
I always laugh at gaylings who worship the '80s as some type of "cool" time. They have no idea what a cornball cheesefest that whole decade was; not to mention racist, Republican and homophobic. I've always said that I'd love to relive the '60s and '70s again, only on the condition that I can fast-forward past the '80s straight to the '90s.
Who is Tangina?
Tangina is what happens when fat men sit out in the sun too long.
[quote]They have no idea what a cornball cheesefest that whole decade was
I don't think you understand nostalgia: that is EXACTLY why people love the 80s, it was like a flashback to the 50s in that way. A very earnest yet colorful decade that looks quaint and silly (ironically, of course) in retrospect.
I think there's a generational divide over 80s nostalgia. Boomers tend to hate it because they saw the obvious backlash against the liberal 60s and 70s. Gen X and later seem to love it, though, because they didn't live through the 50s and 60s and had nothing to compare it to.
It's such a distinctive decade visually and culturally, a sharp departure from the disco and grunge eras that bookend it.
Tangina was the name of Zelda Rubinstein's character.
I knew a midget that worked at Walt Disney World as Donald Duck that looked like Tangina. No one knew if he was a guy or a girl. He was a guy!
Poltergeist 2 was fairly scary as well with the introduction of that creepy Reverend Kane character. His face alone could give you nightmares.
There are some genuinely scary moments, due in large part to the fine acting of Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams: "The swimming pool... theswimmingpool, THESWIMMINGPOOL, MY GOD SHE'S IN THE SWIMMING POOL!!!" being the classic example.
It's been rumored Spielberg did a fair amount of the directing because Tobe Hooper was a mess, and there are some sequences that are timed very well so as to be scary (e.g. the clown doll attacking Robbie, the tree coming in through the window to get Robbie, the technician pulling his face off in the mirror).
R45, I always wondered about that. Was the eldest daughter supposed to be Diane's biological daughter?
[quote]There is the barest mention in the screenplay that Steve and Diane were hippies.
Steve and Diane are also seen smoking weed in bed.
In many ways, the film can be seen as a comment on weak parenting: the Freelings (the name alone!) are very permissive and inattentive parents (e.g. Diane doesn't realize that Dana is having sex with older men at the motel on the freeway), and they have to be instructed by Tangina to get Carol Ann to respond to them by threatening to give her a spanking (which they are loath to do).
One really effectively chilling moment is when Tangina is giving her speech about "the beast." As she does the music gets darker and darker and when she says, "to her it simply is another child; to us it is the beast," the camera shows an utter look of pure horror in JoBeth's teary eyes.
..."The Sixth Sense" (the Nineties)"
Scream was way more influential horror wise for the 90s than the Sixth Sense. It brought back comedy horror and more negatively it set up the whole beautiful anonymous/vapid teens in danger thing that ran through the whole decade into the 2000s.
What I miss from horror now is the ubiquitous titty shot. Breasts were almost as important to 80s horror as the gore. There's a whole scene in Demons III where 2 topless girls discuss their tits. So gratuitous but also such a snapshot of an era.
In addition to what you're saying, R63, people don't give Scream enough credit for beginning the ironic and meta comedy movement. It's a bit played out now, yes, but the original film was groundbreaking. It highlighted how much more sophisticated teens were in the 90's than their 80's counterparts.
Several surviving cast members of Poltergeist have come forward to reveal that Spielberg had directed several key scenes in the film.
However if you're familiar with credited d irector Tobe Hooper's work you'll realize that his style is all over Poltergeist.
There's the counterculture hippie charcters that is a throwback to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
There is also the sinister clown element that was all over his previous film the underrated 1981 slasher The Funhouse.
I think the movie feels much more Spielberg than Hooper. It feels a lot like Spielberg and nothing like Hooper has directed before or sense.
Liked "The Funhouse" a lot, Sylvia Miles is funny in it. "Cross over, children, all are welcome!"
What part of "supernatural force that threatens the home/family" did you fail to grasp?
Loved Poltergeist. Great movie!
"What part of "supernatural force that threatens the home/family" did you fail to grasp?"
The part where your whole post turns into some sort of pedantic semiotics thesis.
One very underrated thing about this movie was JoBeth Williams' and Zelda Rubinstein's incredible acting performances. As far as Poltergeist's acting goes, both of these women really knocked it out of the park.
Do you mean Beatrice Straight, R71?
Love JoBeth, she's good in "Big Chill" as well. Love the line: "What's wrong with you? What happened to you?"
Beatrice Straight gave a very nuanced, respectable performance as well, R72. But I think JoBeth and Zelda (mom and midget) are what really stood out the most in Poltergeist's acting department. I think JoBeth's acting ran circles around the husband and kids, anyway.
[quote]Want to eat out Craig T. Nelson's hairy butthole.
NOW were talking horrifying.
I'm partial to Poltergeist III
Can I get a goldfish now?
Mommy that burns
"Do mosquitos ever suck on you son?"
"I don't know Dad".
I love the fat chili eating father and son neighbors.
[quote]It was the first horror movie with lots of expensive effects
saw it when I was 4-5 years old, and it ruined me for years. Like literally ruined me. That movie should never be shown to small children. I have no ability to objectively assess how scary it may or may not be, because I just remember it being the one experience that taught me what fear was.
"It knows what scares you. It has from the very beginning. Don't give it any help, it knows too much already."
No, we just thought it was fun. A thrill ride. It was summer. There was air conditioning.
HA! [R79] What about his wife when she screams "What's going to happen to us!?" as the corpses are coming out of the swimming pool.
How did you manage to see it at such a young age, R81?
When I was little and it was on HBO constantly, I used to run in the middle of the road when I was playing with my friends and scream, "What's happening? What's happening?" like Dana does at the end. They all loved it. (I know, "MARY!!!")
I remember reading that Shirley MacLaine was offered Beatrice Straight's role first, but didn't want to take it because what happened to the children in the movie disturbed her. She sais something like, "How can you do that to those children?" or something to that effect.
This movie was basically every kids nightmare. Ghosts, something in the closet, the scary clown doll coming to life, thunder and lightening, the scary tree pulling the kid out of bed through the window, and something under the bed. I thought it was really good at the time, and it made you lie the family characters. The bodies floating in the swimming pool and caskets coming up through the floor was pretty cool.
R86 I did that once in the middle of a thread here and got W&W for it. Don't remember the details, but I remember the nod.
REALLY irresponsible babysitter, r85
Those weren't high-tech effects r80, nothing comparable to Poltergeist. Poltergeist was the first time summer blockbuster effects were applied to a horror movie.
It's obvious that Spielberg directed the entire movie, with Tobe Hooper acting as a mere assistant director, or less. I watched Hooper's "The Funhouse" last night and it's just terrible.
Spielberg' best movie. A.I. had a chance but it's last 15 minutes ruin it.
Poltergeist's most epic musical passage, courtesy of good old Jerry.
Another great, mind-game detail about Poltergeist: every one of Jerry Goldsmith's musical pieces would start out sooo gentle, sensitive and tender.... then the music always slowly changed and mutated into raging, epic, utter, cold-blooded horror that chills the viewer to the bones. That's the fierce magic of Poltergeist's music score.
[quote]Hello? What do you look like? Talk louder, I can't hear you! Hey, hello! Hello, I can't hear you! Five. Yes. Yes. I don't know. I don't know.
The "five" is evidently in response to being asked how old Carol Ann is, but has it even been mentioned, perhaps in a script or treatment, to what other questions she's replying to?
I still think this movie is what triggered my OCD.
[quote]Like literally ruined me.
You keep using that word--I do not think it means what you think it means.
Love Poltergeist and the sequel. Even 3 has some memorable moments. I also love the soundtrack.
I loved it. More intriguing and thrilling than scary, save for a few isolated moments.
I love the scene where JoBeth Williams excitedly is showing Craig T. Nelson how the kid is being slid across the kitchen floor and chairs are being stacked by some unseen force. She's so genuinely thrilled, while Craig T. Nelson is totally confused, scared, and dumbfounded.
[quote]That's the fierce magic of Poltergeist's music score.
This is going to be one of those iconic DL phrases for me, I think. Up there with 'dats da suck job.'
I love this movie...I consider it more of a thrill ride than a scary ghost story. JoBeth Williams should have been nominated for an Oscar and the entire cast has amazing chemistry and believability.
Now for a creepy,chilling,quiet haunted house film check out "The Changeling" starring Geroge C. Scott.
[quote] "The Changeling" starring Geroge C. Scott.
Yes. I like Poltergeist but I LOVE The Changeling.
Insidious,Paranormal activity et al. are pieces of shit.
Trish Van Devere should have gotten an Oscar nomination for Poltergeist.
I think it was scary. It played on lots of childhood fears, which are probably the strongest fears we have in life.
I met Heather O'Rourke at Disneyland back in 86. She was so nice, but even as a kid I noticed she looked so pale and her hair was like sawdust
By the way, what was the deal with Heather O'Rourke's death? Did it happen exactly as reported, or was there something else to the story (i.e. a cover-up)?
She had a misdiagnosed intestinal blockage, R112. Her mother sued the hospital and won.
Even though Poltergeist II was inferior, I do have to mention that old Reverend Kane and his whole desperate "let me in" scene at the family's front door was brutally unnerving and extremely well-done. I think that was the most deeply nerve-racking scene in the whole movie.
I had assumed that Julian Beck looked the way he did in the sequel as he was ill and dying. No, Julian Beck always looked like that.
r113, Heather's mom in my opinion was neglectful. She knew her daughter had something wrong and waited till the next day to take her to doctor and she died that morning. Heather was throwing up and had diarrhea all day. The other thing was Heather's grave with the headstone reading "Carol Ann Poltergeist one, two and three" How tacky and exploitive
"God is in his holy temple / earthly thoughts, be silent now / aiding all the good endeavors / as we call upon his name."
The evil clown and something under the bed - 2 fears that EVERY kid has, and 2 things that every kid believes are true. Those scenes awakened all sorts of horrible feelings, even though I saw this movie as an adult.
The maggoty meat and the guy tearing his face off were just gross, not necessarily scary in any way. But that fucking clown.....
I agree with R114 in that the Rev. Kane scenes in PII were so much more scary than anything in PI. He used to scare the shit out of me.
I love how when that beast comes out of Craig T.'s mouth in that clip that it looks like a cock and balls. How in the hell did they do that effect, anyway? Was something really in his mouth?
The funny thing about Poltergeist II's vomit monster: any time I've drink too much tequila and start hangover-vomiting the next morning, I totally picture this Poltergeist-monster erupting out of my digestive system. I can't help it.
This movie did scare me as a kid. I remember E! did a True Hollywood Story episode about the Poltergesit movies in the late 90s or early 00s. The curse was discussed quite a bit and I recall the producers of one of the movies always had a medium/psychic around during filming. Heather O'Rourke's mom was interviewed and I always got a weird vibe from her. These movies don't really scare, but I do still like to watch I and II whenever the pop up on TV.
Poltergeist III is an underrated camp classic.
CarolAnne! How many times did they say her name in the godawful P3? If you play a drinking game based on how many times it's said, you'd be in a coma within a half hour.
There's a remake that's being cast right now. Only there's no character like the one Zelda Rubinstein played. And the family all have different names. Carol Ann, for instance, is named Madison in this version.