Killer Thursdays

They’re HEEEeere

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?

Poltergeist (1982, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg).

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.

tv snow

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.

Photo Credit
Day 11 / 365 – Touching static by Jason Rogers, on Flickr | CC BY 2.0

47 thoughts on “They’re HEEEeere

  1. I’ve seen it, but it’s been years. So, I guess I better go to Blockbuster, eh? I liked it the first time and although I’ve seen Paranormal Activity and read about the haunted caverns in Catie’s blog, I think I’ll rent it this “old” movie. I bet I’ll like it.
    Thanks for the reminder, Sonia.

  2. Was the first scary movie I ever watched. Me and my buddy were to sissy to watch it at night though. We saw it in the safety of the mid-day sun.

    1. It definitely scared the crud out of me when I was a kid. But it was scary for different reasons this time around. That the monsters were determined to steal the child…as a parent that was the scariest thing for me.

  3. This is a good one. Besides the face scene, it doesn’t rely on gore to produce its scares like so many horror movies do now. For me, the clown doll was the scariest part. I mean, you never know what’s under your bed, right? It had me checking under the bed for awhile.

    Also, I think you’re right about horror movies probably not growing in gardens, but I think zombie movies might grow in cemeteries 😉

    1. Zombie movies might indeed grow in cemeteries. Plenty of fertilizer there. 😀

      The clown doll from Poltergeist is probably the origin of my fear of clowns…especially any kind of clown doll.

  4. I watched it a looooooooong time ago. It was a classic even then. I really need to watch it again. I’m curious to see the change in style of writing from 1982 to 2011 in the horror genre after your notes.

    1. I think it probably stands pretty distinct from other horror movies at the time. It wasn’t a slasher flick like Halloween or Friday the 13. It had strong characters and a sense of backstory. That’s the way I’d prefer all horror stories. A little less gore and more story.

  5. Speaking of stepping into the light…nice site transition Sonia 🙂

    Loved Poltergeist and as soon as I read the title of your post I heard the little girls voice in my mind, saw the scene. Amazing how powerful a few moments of film can be in one’s memory.

    1. LOL…definitely a timely blog change. I didn’t even think about the connection. 😀

      The memory of the little girl in front of the tv and her saying that line definitely sticks in my head.

  6. I don’t think I’ve seen Poltergeist since the first time I watched it as a kid. It scared me so badly that I had nightmares for weeks! But I think I can swallow back the fear and give it a re-watch. 😉 Maybe I’ll check it out tonight; it might be fun and a bit thrilling to watch when I’m home alone.

    1. It didn’t terrify me in the same way it did when I was a kid. The scare was different, more family oriented. The writing was just so good though…something I didn’t appreciate when I was 9. 😀

  7. I read the book first; it was my first horror story. My cousin had checked it out from the library, and she wasn’t reading it. So I did. I was 11.

    Another good one that stands the test of time is The Exorcist. Still completely chilling.

    1. There’s a book? Oh great! I’m going to have to check it out. 😀

      Ah, yes…The Excorcist. That one was so effective I swore never to watch it again. Ever. LOL. Of course, I swore the same thing about Dawn of the Dead. I watched the original again finally, after 20 years. Still too scared to watch The Exorcist though. *shiver*

  8. I’ve seen Poltergeist many times, and most recently I thought, “Wow, Jo Beth Williams looks sooooo young.” And then, I felt old.

    Poltergeist got me on so many different levels – but mostly fear. I do a double take on large, old, gnarley trees now. I am not quite sure I was ever a fan of clown dolls. AND, I never leave my TV on snow. 🙂

    1. A friend of mine had a gnarly tree outside her bedroom window…I refused to spend the night unless we slept in the living room. LOL. Yep on the clown dolls and double yep on the snow. 😀

  9. Don’t go into the light, Carol Anne!!!

    I watched this movie by myself in the college dorms and was freaked out. Between this movie and The Ring, I’m terrified of that snow on the TV too. After watching The Ring for the first time, I slept with the TV on in my room all night so I wouldn’t get freaked out with it turning on on its own. That’s messed up isn’t it?

  10. Loved the movie so much, I had to buy it on blueray. I definitely can relate to the fear of clowns and the uneasiness of snow on the TV screen.

    1. I was surprised it was so good. All I had remembered were the scary parts…the stuff that was scary to a kid anyway. The adult fears went over my head. They definitely added another layer of scare to the story. That and the writing was just so good. 😀

  11. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, Sonia. I love Poltergeist! I haven’t seen it in awhile. I’ve had the DVD in my hands a few times over the years, but I have been holding out hope for the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Collector’s Edition. Lol!
    I love the Clown scene. I love the Craig T. Nelson, chewing out of his boss about moving the tombstones, but not the bodies.


  12. Loved, loved, loved Poltergeist. It’s one of my all time favorites for all the reasons you mentioned. Favorite scene? There are so many. Thanks for the memories, Sonia! I need to watch it again!

  13. Must say that when I saw it as a kid the scariest scene in the movie had to be that damned clown! Now that I’m older, it still creeps me out, but have beel looking for a replica to have one of my own (I know, me crazy 🙂 Great article!

  14. I’m late to the party on this, sorry. Poltergeist is one of my favorite scary movies. It’s definitely stood the test of time. The TV snow scared the heck out of me as a kid, and to this day that sound gives me the heebie-jeebies.

    And clowns creep me out, period.

    Fun post!

    1. Nah, not late. 😀

      It’s amazing how certain movie images or scenes from novels stick in our head, affect us so strongly. Now…if I can craft some of those for my writing….:D

  15. I saw it in my mid-teens, but I really can’t remember how scary I thought it was. I’ll have to re-watch it.

    And this is a little off topic, but I never realized how much young Craig T Nelson sounds like young Harrison Ford. At 0:57 I could have sworn it was Han Solo or Indiana Jones talking.

            1. Trust me, clowns creep me out as well I just know that’s me in the photo so I know I’m safe lol BTW, I’m a sucker for all things scary, so long as they are inanimate, hehe 🙂

  16. Poltergeist reminds me of a ghost-train ride at a fun fair- scary for all members of the family but unlikely to linger after you’ve switched on the lights.

    But clowns are still creepy. I blame the TV version of Stephen King’s “IT”!

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