Twelve Things about Poltergeist
12. Now that I really think about it, how perfect is it that the Freeling family's home never gives them any trouble until the day the family canary dies and they bury it in the backyard?
Sadly, the utter meaningfulness of that totally escaped me during my last viewing, thanks to the scheduling *genius* who put this movie on right after The Birds. (LOL!)
11. Some fans believe that director Tobe Hooper (who gave us the still-unparalleled original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) isn't the only one who should be credited for working on this movie. They make a reasonable case for Steven Spielberg taking much more creative control than he would have as a producer, writer and editor--and indeed, before I came across their speculations, I already agreed with them. Until I actually looked at the credits, I totally took for granted that this was a Spielberg film.
10. And apparently, what happens when Spielberg tries to do scary is a movie I'd classify as "Family Horror": a film with something frightening for every member of the family.
9. I guess I relate to the little boy Robbie the best: I was more terrified of his clown doll than of anything else.
I have this freaky doll to thank for the biggest "willy-inducing moment" I enjoyed from the entire movie!
8. But that's partly because I was in the bathroom during the famous "face peeling" scene . . .
What a hospitable haunted home, to be kind enough to tap into the fears of even these unexpected guests!
7. But maybe "haunted" isn't the world. The parapsychologists in the movie draw a distinction between a "poltergeist intrustion" and a "classic haunting: the latter is connected to a place; the former is connected to a person.
6. I suppose the person attracting the disturbance is Carol Anne. And given all the people who say they grew wary around their built-in closets or wardrobes after seeing Poltergeist, I guess most child viewers relate best to the youngest Freeling.
5. Yet we do find out later on that the spirits are very definitely connected with the place they are disturbing.
It does make sense that "Family Horror" would have something to do with both the members of a family unit and the home they live in. Especially when it's such a nice home. =P
4. Now, what is it with Hollywood's obsession with finding evil buried in the heart of suburbia? Or it is simply the new "American Gothic", which I have yet to appreciate properly?
That is, while I appreciate the cross-over potential of Horror for the whole family, I don't get why the Freelings are being disturbed the way they are. Yes, their home was built over a cemetery, the father works for the company that did it, and they bulldoze the family pet's final resting place the day after its improvised funeral so that they can have a fancy new pool . . . Oh.
Okay, I get it now. =P
3. By the way, that scene with the bulldozer and the box/coffin is perfect. It is so meaningful. It is both foreshadowing and whatever the term for "after-shadowing" is.
2. Most pointless line in the movie: "Now, will you do everything I ask, even if it runs contrary to your beliefs as a human being and a Christian?"
There is nothing that the "house cleaning" psychic Tangina asks any of the Freelings to do that would run contrary to the beliefs of a reasonable human being and a mature Christian. (Someone will never make a reconsidered Top 5 Priest Figures in Horror list--not even as the bad example. That's the problem with a lot of Horror: they have psychologist figures instead of priest figures, despite the fact that evil does not just exist in the mind, but in reality.)
1. Now I wonder why there isn't more "Family Horror" out there, especially when you think of the box office potential. It's not as if children never get scared. Aren't Robbie's and Carol Anne's stories built on common childish fears: the scary tree outside the window, the toy that looks different with the lights off, the boogeyman in the closet?
There are other Horror movies which seem to be about families (such as The Others . . . and my recently reviewed Orphan, to name two), but they use children as mere vehicles of whatever adults find frightening. We're about thirty years too late for wishing, but perhaps Spielberg should have done more Horror.
Image Sources: a) Poltergeist DVD, b) Poltergeist clown, c) Poltergeist cemetery