“They’re here.” Almost everyone is familiar with the legendary haunting film, Poltergeist. We all watched in abject horror as little Carol Anne Freeling was abducted by the spirits known only to her as “the TV people.” Written by the brilliant Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974), this film is a part of American popular culture and is a must-see for any horror fan. Here are some interesting facts about the production and making of the film:
Poltergeist is German for “noisy ghost.”
Drew Barrymore auditioned for the role of Carol Anne. It was that audition that gained her the role as Gertie in E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.
The infamous roar of the MGM lion was taken from the sound effect used at the end of the film when the poltergeist is attacking the Freeling home.
JoBeth Williams, the actress who portrayed Diane Freeling, was very apprehensive about filming the pool scene with all of the electrical equipment surrounding the pool. To put her at ease, Steven Spielberg got into the pool with her.
The first scene to be filmed was the one where Diane opens her children’s bedroom door and is shouted at by the poltergeist.
Steven Spielberg used his own childhood fears as the inspiration for the fears that plague Robbie in the movie: clowns and a tree outside the bedroom window.
In the scene where Marty is having a hallucination in the bathroom, it is Steven Spielberg’s hands that peel the skin off of his face.
Spielberg simultaneously worked on Poltergeist and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. They were released on June 4th and 11th, 1982 respectively.
To make the ghosts seem more eerie, the actors walked slowly up the stairs backwards and the film was played in reverse.
Towards the end of the film, Diane Freeling says, “Mmmm… smell that mimosa.” That line was borrowed from The Uninvited (1944).
In the pool scene, the skeletons that emerge from the muddy water are real. JoBeth Williams was unaware of this until the scene had already been filmed.
To make the chair zip across the kitchen, a wire was attached to the leg of the chair and then dragged.
Dominique Dunn, the actress who portrayed the teenage daughter, was strangled by her boyfriend the same year that Poltergeist was released, 1982.
Heather O’Rourke, the adorable girl who played Carol Anne, died in 1988 at the age of 12 of congenital intestinal stenosis. She was on a break from filming Poltergeist III at the time and a replacement was used in parts of the film.
Ironically, Dominique Dunn and her on-screen sister, Heather O’Rourke are buried in the same cemetery.
During the filming of the scene in which Robbie was being strangled by the clown, the young boy was really unable to breathe. Spielberg and Hooper thought that the boy was improvising when he cried that he could not breathe. His face became cyanotic and Spielberg rushed over to remove him from the clown’s clutches.
The rating of the film was changed from R to PG at the request of the makers of the film.
Unlike other films in the horror genre, there were no deaths or murders shown in the movie.
The filmmakers managed to shoot the scene of the chairs arranging themselves on the kitchen table in one take.
In both E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and Poltergeist, Spielberg featured Star Wars paraphernalia in the children’s rooms as a tribute to his friend, George Lucas.
The movie was filmed in a house in Simi Valley, California. The family who owned the house during the production of the movie, still lives there to this day.
The movie that Carol Anne ends up watching in the scene where her mother changes the channel on the television is Go For Broke (1951).
The American Film Institute voted the quote “They’re here” number 69 out of 100.
Stephen King was asked to write the screenplay, but artistic differences got in the way.
Heather O’Rourke was frightened terribly while filming the scene where she is holding the headboard of her bed as the contents of the bedroom are being sucked into the closet.
The last scene of the movie to be filmed was the one where the investigator has a morbid hallucination in the bathroom.
Hooper and Spielberg felt that the film would be more scary and realistic if unknown actors/actresses were cast.
The film that is featured in the beginning of the movie is A Guy Named Joe (1943), which was remade by Spielberg in 1989 as Always.