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Poltergeist is an American horror film series distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during the 1980s. The films revolve around the members of the Freeling family, who are stalked and terrorized by a group of ancient ghosts that are attracted to the youngest daughter, Carol Anne. The original film was co-written by Steven Spielberg. The Poltergeist films collected a total of approximately $132 million in the United States box office.
|Poltergeist (1982)||Tobe Hooper||Michael Grais, Mark Victor, Steven Spielberg||Frank Marshall and Steven Spielberg|
|Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)||Brian Gibson||Michael Grais and Mark Victor|
|Poltergeist III (1988)||Gary Sherman||Gary Sherman and Brian Taggert||Barry Bernardi|
|Poltergeist (2015)||Gil Kenan||David Lindsay-Abaire||Roy Lee, Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert|
Poltergeist is the original film in the trilogy, directed by Tobe Hooper and co-written by Steven Spielberg and released on June 4, 1982. The story focuses on the Freeling family, which consists of Steven (Craig T. Nelson); Diane (JoBeth Williams); Dana (Dominique Dunne); Robbie (Oliver Robins); and Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), who live in a California housing development called Cuesta Verde. Their home is eventually invaded by ghosts. The ghosts communicate only with Carol Anne through the family's television set, and are under the control of a demon known as the "Beast." The ghosts, attracted to Carol Anne's life force and believing she will help lead them into the "Light", abduct her through her bedroom closet, which acts as a portal to their dimension. Most of the film involves the efforts to rescue her on the part of her family, a group of parapsychologists and a spiritual medium named Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein). Carol Anne is eventually retrieved from the other side and, following a second attack by the Beast that reveals the ghosts had originated from an improperly relocated cemetery underneath the neighborhood, the family flees Cuesta Verde, while the house caves in on itself and is sucked into another dimension.
The first sequel Poltergeist II: The Other Side, directed by Brian Gibson and released on May 23, 1986, is set a year following the events in Poltergeist and offers an alternate explanation of the ghosts' origin. The film also develops the identity and backstory of the Beast, who had lived during the 19th century as a religious zealot named Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck). Kane was the leader of a utopian cult, who had sealed themselves in an underground cavern in anticipation of the end of the world, located directly below what later became the Freelings' property. Kane is anxious to possess Carol Anne in order to continue manipulating his followers after death. The ghosts follow and attack the Freelings at their current household. Aided by an American Indian shaman named Taylor (Will Sampson), the Freelings manage to escape from Kane and his followers a second time.
The final film in the original trilogy, Poltergeist III, was directed and co-written by Gary Sherman and released June 10, 1988. In order to protect Carol Anne, the Freelings have sent her to temporarily live with her skeptic relatives, Pat and Bruce Gardner (Nancy Allen and Tom Skerritt) and their daughter Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), who reside in a Chicago skyscraper. However, Carol Anne's recollection of her experiences during her psychiatric sessions enable Kane and his followers to locate her and make contact through the building's ubiquitous mirrors. After the ghosts abduct Carol Anne, Donna, and her boyfriend Scott (Kipley Wentz), Pat and Bruce enlist the help of Tangina to retrieve them, who eventually sacrifices herself to save the family by escorting Kane into the Light.
The new version of Poltergeist, according to a press release, will be directed by Gil Kenan, and will center on "a family struggling to make ends meet [that] relocates to an outdated suburban home." Like the original, the youngest daughter is kidnapped by the spirits possessing the house. In July 2013, Rosemarie DeWitt was cast as the matriarch, and that September, Jared Harris was cast as Carrigan, the host of a paranormal-themed TV show.
|Film||Release date (US)||Budget||Box office revenue||Reference|
|Poltergeist||June 4, 1982||$10,700,000||$76,606,280||$45,099,739||$121,706,019|
|Poltergeist II: The Other Side||May 23, 1986||$19,000,000||$40,996,665||N/A||$40,996,665|
|Poltergeist III||June 10, 1988||$9,500,000||$14,114,488||N/A||$14,114,488|
|Poltergeist||87% (53 reviews)|
|Poltergeist II: The Other Side||39% (18 reviews)|
|Poltergeist III||13% (15 reviews)|
The following table shows the cast members who played the primary characters in the film series.
|Poltergeist||Poltergeist II: The Other Side||Poltergeist III|
|Carol Anne Freeling||Heather O'Rourke|
|Steven Freeling||Craig T. Nelson|
|Diane Freeling||JoBeth Williams|
|Dana Freeling||Dominique Dunne|
|Robert Freeling||Oliver Robins|
|Dr. Martha Lesh||Beatrice Straight|
|Ryan Mitchell||Richard Lawson|
|Dr. Marty Casey||Martin Casaella|
|Tangina Barrons||Zelda Rubinstein|
|Jessica Wilson||Geraldine Fitzgerald|
|Bruce Gardner||Tom Skerritt|
|Pat Wilson-Gardner||Nancy Allen|
|Donna Gardner||Lara Flynn Boyle|
|Dr. Seaton||Richard Fire|
|Reverend Henry Kane / "The Beast"||(Mentioned only)||Julian Beck|
Nobel Craig (Vomit Creature)1
Corey Burton (Voiced)2
The "Poltergeist curse" is a rumored curse attached to the Poltergeist trilogy and its crew, derived from the fact that four cast members died in the six years between the releases of the first and third films. The rumor is often fueled by the fact that real skeletons were used as props in various scenes of Poltergeist and Poltergeist II. The rumor and the surrounding deaths were explored in a 2002 episode of E! True Hollywood Story titled "Curse of Poltergeist".