The gnarled tree outside the window.
The clown doll.
The huge, terrible face bursting out of the closet.
The skeletal creature guarding the door to the children’s room.
The steak crawling across the kitchen counter.
The bodies in the swimming pool.
The little girl in front of the snowy tv. A thin, smokey hand reaches out.
And that famous line: “They’re heeeere.”
Have you guessed which movie it is yet?
I first saw this movie when I was 9 or 10 years old on a rainy day at summer camp. I still remember the tv on the mobile stand. The way none of the other kids even breathed through the whole thing. The teenage counselors beginning to fidget (as they no doubt realized their mistake). The tv image going to snow as the VHS tape wound up…and all of us beginning to freak out until the counselors shut. Off. That. Snow!
And how, to this day, snow on the tv creeps me out.
Watching the movie again recently, I saw that it was every bit as scary as it was the first time around (except for maybe that face-removing scene…that looked a whole lot more…um…less convincing than it did the first time around). I was delighted to discover that the movie had stood the test of time because so many scary movies don’t. I was also surprised to discover something new…
The story had emotional depth. I cared about the characters in a way that I don’t often do in horror movies. And, perhaps because I am a parent now, I felt for the parents…for Diane, the mother (JoBeth Williams). When she screamed “That thing is in there with my baby!” and “Don’t touch my babies!” I cried (aw heck, I’m tearing up now, as I write this). And I cried again when Diane and Carol Anne, the little girl (Heather O’Rourke), were in the bathtub, having just escaped the Beast on the other side, and everyone is begging and praying for Carol Anne to breathe.
Breathe, baby, please!
And she does.
And I fell for the couple, Diane and Steve (Craig T. Nelson). When they were acting silly (and *gasp* smoking pot in their bedroom…something I never noticed when I was a kid *shrug*) and sweet. And especially when Diane is preparing to go into the Other Side and Steve is tying a rope around her waist. They look at the light and they look at each other. Then they kiss (absolutely one of the least cheesy movie kisses I’ve ever seen). When it’s time to go, Diane looks back at Steve and says, “Don’t let go!” and he says, “Never!”
And then there was the humor. Carol Anne in a helmet sliding across the kitchen floor, having fun before anybody realizes the danger they’re in. Steve and Diane goofing off in the bedroom. One of the investigators waxing on excitedly about capturing a matchbox car rolling seven feet across the floor…over seven hours. Then Steve opens the children’s bedroom door to reveal floating objects and a bright light emanating from the closet. The spiritual medium, Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) telling everyone to hang back because, “You’re jamming my frequencies.”
I’d held back from watching the movie again for so long, partly because it scared me so much as a kid and partly because I worried it wouldn’t live up to that first viewing. I’m glad I finally did rewatch it because I discovered so much more than just a garden variety horror movie (do horror movies really grow in gardens?).
If you haven’t seen this movie (*gasp*) or if it’s been a long time, I invite you to watch it again (I watched it on Netflix streaming). You might find the story surprisingly gripping and the scares delicious.
Have you seen Poltergeist? What was your first impression? Have you watched it again recently? What’s your favorite scene(s)?
Grab your tiki torches and some poi. It’s time for the…
Twitter Hashtag Hula
- Got TV? Check out Tiffany A. White’s #TeleTuesday and #WatchWed.
- For a little thrilling, chilling vote-your-own adventure, check out Jen Kirchner’s latest series Site 27 (set in the same world as her pulse-pounding The Relic). And come hang out at #Site27
- Head on over to my #FearFridayFeature where things go bump in the night. This week, we’re talking about Poltergeist.
- Coming soon: a Twitter Hashtag Hula page for all your favorite luau-worthy Twitter hashtags.