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What a combo! Tobe Hooper, the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, teamed up with family-oriented producer Steven Spielberg to make Poltergeist. The film is about a haunted suburban tract home in a development very much like the Arizona one in which Spielberg was raised. (Because it came out the same summer as Spielberg's E.T., it was tempting to see both movies as representing Spielberg's ambivalent feelings about childhood in suburbia. One was a fantasy, the other a nightmare.) Spielberg also cowrote the screenplay, which taps into primal, childlike fears of monsters under the bed, monsters in the closet, sinister clown faces, and all manner of things that go bump in the night. At first, some of the odd happenings in the house are kind of funny and amusing, but they grow gradually creepier until the film climaxes in a terrifying special-effects extravaganza when 5-year-old Carole Anne (Heather O'Rourke) is kidnapped by the spooks and held hostage in another dimension. Though not nearly as frightening as Hooper's magnum opus, or the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, which came along two years later, Poltergeist is one of the smartest and most entertaining horror pictures of its time.
A group of seemingly benign ghosts begin communicating with five-year-old Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O'Rourke) in her parents' suburban California home via static on the television. Eventually they use the TV as their path into the house itself.
First, there are a few signs that the ghosts have arrived: Carol Anne's pet bird dies; an earthquake occurs that only the Freelings feel; Carol Anne announces, "They're here." The next morning, glasses break at breakfast, forks bend by themselves, and when the mother, Diane (JoBeth Williams), asks Carol Anne, "What did you mean? Who's here?" she answers, "The TV people." At first the ghosts play harmless tricks and amuse the mother, including moving and stacking the kitchen table chairs. Of course, Diane must convince Steven (Craig T. Nelson) that night by showing him. He then announces that "Nobody goes into the kitchen until I know what's going on." Carol Anne's elder sister Dana (Dominique Dunne) leaves to stay with friends.
During a terrible thunderstorm, the ghosts distract the family with a tree coming to life and grabbing Robbie (Oliver Robins), Carol Anne's brother, through a window, and then getting what they really came after. Like a wind tunnel, they take Carol Anne through her bedroom closet into their dimension. With Robbie rescued, and the belief that the tornado caused the trouble, the family can't find Carol Anne. They search the entire house including the new swimming pool until Robbie hears Carol Anne through the T.V.
Steven reluctantly calls on a group of parapsychologists from UC Irvine: Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight), Ryan (Richard Lawson), and Marty (Martin Casella), who are awestruck by the manifestations they witness. With the parapsychologists present, the Freelings show them things they've never before seen. They open the door to the children's room to reveal toys and other objects flying around by themselves and disembodied laughing voices. Previously, one of the parapsychologists described a Matchbox car taking seven hours to move seven feet, calling it "fantastic. Of course, this would never register on the naked eye." After they see the Freelings' house, they are all humbled.
Over coffee (and a coffee urn that moves by itself), the parapsychologists explain to the Freelings the difference between a poltergeist and a haunting. They determine that indeed, it is a poltergeist they are experiencing.
It turns out that the spirits have left this life but have not gone into the "Light." They are stuck in between dimensions, watching their loved ones grow up, but feeling alone. Carol Anne—born in the house and only 5 years old—gives off her own life force that is as bright as the Light. It distracts and confuses the spirits, who think Carol Anne is their salvation. Hence, they take her. (A different explanation was given in the second film).
What is also in the other dimension is a malevolent spirit, what the parapsychologists call "The Beast". It likes that the spirits are confused and lost, and uses Carol Anne as a distraction so they cannot move on into the Light. After witnessing a paranormal episode where they hear Carol Anne talking to Diane through the TV, see spirits, and hear the pounding footsteps of the spirit, the parapsychologists leave, admitting they need more help. When they return, they bring a spiritual medium, Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein), who informs Diane that her daughter is "alive and in this house." She also explains the malevolent spirit in the house to Diane, saying "it lies to her and tells her things only a child can understand. To her, it simply is another child. To us, it is the Beast."
They realize the entrance to the other dimension is through the children's bedroom closet. By tying a rope around a live person who can enter, and presumably exit the other side, with enough time to grab Carol Anne, they could bring her back. Diane is the only choice to go. What happens next is a terrifying sequence where Diane gets Carol Anne and Tangina coaxes the agonized spirits away from Carol Anne to the real Light (during this, Steve panics and pulls on the rope, causing the Beast to appear right in front of him). Diane comes through the living room ceiling clutching Carol Anne and bearing new streaks of grey hair, presumably from fright, both Diane and Carol Anne are also covered in ectoplasm. Tangina pronounces that "this house is clean."
Unfortunately, though the spirits have seemingly moved on, the Beast hasn't, and wants revenge. On their final night in the house, when they are almost packed up and ready to go, the Beast returns to reclaim what he believes is his: Carol Anne. This time, the Beast does his own dirty work and comes after Carol Anne personally.
While Robbie and Carol Anne are getting ready for bed, Robbie's clown doll comes to life and pulls him under the bed. Diane, in the other room hears her son's screaming voice and tries to investigate but is pulled against the wall and ceiling by an unknown force. Robbie manages to defeat the clown doll but a strange, mouth-like portal appears in Carol Anne's closet and attempts to suck the children in.
Diane tries to get to her son and daughter but runs into the Beast himself, in the form of a snarling, skeletal demon. He blocks Carol Anne's and Robbie's door and lunges at her, causing her to fall down the stairs. Trying to find another way into her childrens' room, Diane runs to the backyard and slips into the new pool which is infested by skeletons. Two neighbors who have sneaked into the backyard to see what is all the commotion help Diane out and she runs back into the house to get Robbie and Carol Anne.
Through skill and luck, the Freelings finally escape the house, but not before the anger of the Beast reveals the reason for the spirits being there in the first place—coffins and bodies begin exploding out of the ground throughout the neighborhood. When the neighborhood was first built the real estate developer Steven worked for moved a cemetery that was on the location, but in reality in order to save money they moved the cemetery headstones but left the bodies, building houses right on top of them. As the Freelings flee down the street in their car, the Beast is so angry that the house implodes into the other dimension as stunned neighbors look on. The movie ends with the family checking into a Holiday Inn for the night, pushing the television set outside their room.
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The Horror Movie Network provides links and embedded content to and from external resources on the Internet and do not have any direct or indirect relationship with content publishers and will not be held responsible for the content of any third party source. Please contact the resource owner in regards to their hosted content if you have any legal concerns.
Copyright Â© 2011 Horror Movie Network. All Rights Reserved.