"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Poltergeist, Then and Now

Spoiler Alert!
If you haven’t seen Poltergeist, shame on you. 
Go watch it first.  Then read my post.

Post Part 1:  A Trip Down Nightmare Lane
May 31, 2012

I was still in jellies when Poltergeist first hit the big screen.  I think my parents were sensible enough not to take their five-year-old daughter to see this horror flick in the theaters (even though it was rated PG, yes you heard me right), but I have vivid memories of watching it on our TV when I was still very young.  Some would say too young, but we were a hardier stock, we children of the 80’s.  Plus, if my older brother was watching it, I was surely pitching a fit to see it too.  I remember laying on the floor on a sleeping bag in front of the television being equally traumatized both by the poltergeist itself AND the creepy little lady trying to rid the house of it.

Even though I haven't seen the movie in at least 15 years, certain images are still tattooed on my brain. Little blond Carol Ann with her hands pressed against the static of the TV screen.  Her innocent little voice chanting, “They’re HERE.”  The chairs moving across the kitchen floor by themselves.  The poor kids trying to stay calm by counting the seconds between the lightning and thunder.  The giant tree that sucks the little boy out the window.  The skulls popping up in the swimming pool.  The mom's hair turning gray overnight.  (For some reason that disturbed me for years-- I think I worried (still do?) that it would happen to me).  And of course, the clown doll.  The clown doll that was disconcerting to begin with and became absolutely horrifying as soon as it disappeared from that chair and you just KNEW it was under the bed. 

The mere thought of the movie Poltergeist gives me the chills and makes me hug my arms close to my chest and look over my shoulder.   Then the other shoulder.  Then the first one again just to be sure.  And tomorrow night, on the 30th anniversary of its release, I am going to see it again.

The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is showing Poltergeist on the big screen and my husband and I will be there, clown doll in tow.  (It's actually a talking Krusty the Clown doll from The Simpsons and not very creepy at all.  But, surprisingly, when I posted on Facebook that I needed to borrow a large creepy clown doll to take with me to a horror movie at a dinner theater, no one responded.  Strange, I know.  So Krusty will have to do.  I plan to use him as a viewing shield during the scary parts.  And, if I could control the things he says, I would risk getting kicked out of my beloved Drafthouse by pulling his string at just the right moment to make him say, "I'm Krusty the Clown and I'm going to kill you!")

Anyway, I am psyched about this.  It's the last day of school tomorrow and not only that but the last day of my teaching career, and I say what better way to commemorate a school year like this than with a night of terror?  I'll be there an hour early at least.  I only hope I don't spill my beer on myself when I jump.

Post Part 2:  This House is Clean
June 1, 2012

I had predicted that I would have trouble sleeping after seeing Poltergeist again.  But I thought it would be out of terror, not giddy child-like excitement.  Don’t get me wrong—the movie is still scary.  The movie will ALWAYS be scary.  I remembered that, and it held true.  I jumped out of my skin at least three or four times, and that infuriating clown STILL got me even though I KNEW he was going to get me.  (Isn’t that the trick though?  It knows what scares you. *shiver*)  What I did NOT expect was to walk out of the theater impressed with what a great movie this is.  Don’t laugh.  If you haven’t seen Poltergeist since you were a kid, go watch it again.  It hasn’t changed, but you have.  And it still holds up.

When I was a kid, I was watching the movie from the kids’ perspective, picturing being sucked into the closet by the evil whirlwind or being so traumatized after getting eaten by a tree that you can barely even call your mom’s name even when you hear your little sister’s voice coming from the television.  But this time I am older than the parents in the movie and, even though I am not a mom myself, tonight I was seeing the experience from her eyes.  Pardon my language, but the mom in that movie kicks ass!  I love how open-minded she is about the whole thing originally and how she bonds with the first lady that tries to help them.  And then, at the end, I’ll admit it, I felt a few tears prickling at my eyes when she yelled, “Stay away from my babies!” and fought that demon with everything in her power.  She was awesome.

However, I did do the math when the dad gave the family members’ ages and was shocked to learn that they had their first daughter when the mom was only 16.  Scandalous!  It was also a little surprising that the movie was rated PG even though the parents were smoking marijuana.  Not that I am bothered by that—just surprised.  It’s not the two minutes of pot-smoking that should have earned the movie a higher rating.  It was the EMOTIONAL SCARRING AND LIFE-LONG TRAUMATIZATION OF CHILDREN that should have done that.  Sheesh.

Anyway, I loved it.  I loved the whole movie, from the Star Wars bed sheets to the steak inching its way across the kitchen counter to the headless doll that Carol Ann cuddled with in her bed.  I could go on and on (perhaps I already have?) but I will stop.  All I have to say is that if my husband (who is leaving on a business trip tomorrow) rigs our TV to show nothing but static when I turn it on (like he suggested he might) he is going to WISH there were a poltergeist in his house when he comes home.

[Side Note:  I highly recommend going out in public carrying a talking Krusty the Clown doll.  Because of Krusty, my husband and I started chatting with the two guys behind us in line for the movie.  While some people chuckled at but then ignored the clown and others did that thing where they SLOWLY rotate so that they have their backs to you and try to pretend you don’t exist, these two gents embraced our Krusty-ness.  (Poor word choice.  I admit it.  We’re powering through.)  And after talking for a bit, we came to realize that:
- New friend #1 is from the same hometown as me.
- New friend #1 now lives near where my husband grew up in Maryland.
- New friend #2’s wife was in my graduating class at my high school and I knew her sister.
- New friend #2 and my husband work at the same company.
So there you have it.   The world is, in fact, tiny.  We’re all best buds now.  We have matching friendship bracelets and are getting a time-share together.  We may all co-sponsor a baby whale.  Anyway, I reiterate, when you go out in public, you should take a talking Krusty the Clown doll with you.  Enough said.]


  1. There's a theory that the daughter was also pregnant, explaining the pickles and ice cream she was eating for breakfast early in the movie. Every time I see it, I'm surprised how well it holds up.

  2. Wow, somehow I missed the pickles and ice cream. But yes, they made it clear that she is headed down that same path via her hickies and Holiday Inn knowledge.

  3. Awesome! These Draft House experiences are a big selling point on movie to Austin (or at least visiting more).
    I own a copy of the movie (one of the original releases on VHS from when I worked at a video store) and I've watched it several times since watched it on TBS as a kid where they cut out the pot scene and the language. Although, I liked the little creepy lady then. I even did her little monologue in high school when auditioning for drama class.
    I still can't stand static on a tv and due to the sequels I'm always uneasy around mirrors.

    I once tried to show Poltergeist to some college friends who were at least 5 years younger than me. They didn't get it. They were bored. They actually asked me to turn it off and NOT because they were peeing their pants from horror!!!!!!
    I'm not sure what was wrong with these people but something changed in our friendship that night.