So begins the ordeal of a family in small town USA when their daughter hears ghost/spirits coming out of their TV set.
I am of course talking about the classic Steven Spielberg film Poltergeist. Another of our Halloween selections, this movie from 1982 is truly a horror story. I had somehow never seen it, and found it to be much more scary than it’s PG rating would suggest it to be.
Diane (JoBeth Williams) and Steve (Craig T. Nelson) are the caring parents of three children. Steve is involved in real estate and Diane appears to be a full time mom. They are swept into a maelstrom of supernatural happenings when their daughter disappears.
Steve asks for help from a parapsychology department at a university, and a team visits the home, surprised by the prolific activity of the poltergeists, which translated means “noisy ghosts.” They in turn call in someone to “clean” the house, an interesting little lady, Tangina, played by Zelda Rubinstein; she is like someone’s bizarre grandmother. She gives a beautiful speech in way of explanation about the departed, and what could be happening in the family’s home.
These few scenes with Tangina were the most beautiful part of the story that Steven Spielberg wrote; the screenplay was written with the help of a team. I know something about this paranormal subject, and both my husband and I commented that the movie was confusing ghosts and poltergeists, two different types of spirits. Ghosts more commonly are from those who die and don’t know they’re dead and hang around appearing to the living.
Poltergeists, on the other hand, are frequently associated with teenagers, especially female teenagers, because their energy is so intense. Intense emotions can trigger objects being picked up and hurled, things moving, silverware being bent, etc.
This movie mashed it all up together. It was still a good film, but not entirely true to the field of parapsychology.
There were special features on my DVD entitled They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists; Part I Science of the Spirits and Part II Communing with the Dead. We watched both of these which featured interviews with professional ghost hunters and parapsychologists.
If you’d like to read a really good book about real life poltergeists, pick up a copy of Unleashed, of Poltergeists and Murder, the Curious Story of Tina Resch by William Roll, Ph.D. and Valerie Storey.
I’d also say little kids might be pretty scared by this film. It freaked me out, but then I don’t like amorphous monsters that can suck children into other dimensions. They were evil looking. It would make kids say their prayers at night, that’s for sure.
Finally, I wonder about Steven Spielberg and his beliefs in otherworldly phenomena. What has he encountered? Four otherworldly films to his credit may not be just coincidence. If I could invite anyone to dinner for an engrossing night of wine and chitchat, it would be him. “They’re here.”