"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_poltergeistBack when I was doing the Spielberg marathon somebody suggested I should review POLTERGEIST, and I thought it was a good idea. Oh shit, today is the 30th anniversary of the movie’s release! I guess we’ll do it today.

It definitely fits in with the Spielberg marathon. Tobe Hooper is the credited director, but Spielberg was a very hands-on producer and writer, and it seems way more like his directorial works than his other productions do. It has good, natural performances by kids and adults, smoothly choreographed camera moves, a suburban mid-west setting, state-of-the-art-at-the-time visual effects, people looking in awe at glowing light. Like E.T. (which came out one week later) it has a little boy with a room full of STAR WARS toys. The score is by Jerry Goldsmith, but is used similar to how Spielberg uses John Williams. There’s a group of scientists in a specialized field (like JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, even JURASSIC PARK). There’s not as much that reminds me of Hooper – just TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2’s Lou Perryman in a bit part as a guy working on the house, and a pit of rotting corpses at the end. That part seemed like something he’d be into.

I really like the structure of the story. It sets up the family and signs of something spooky going on in the house before they even have an encounter. The dad, played by Craig T. Nelson, literally goes to the other side, but it’s his daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) that gets stuck over there. They can still hear her voice on their TV – a supernatural baby monitor.

So it’s the first act and nobody in the family has to be convinced, they’ve all experienced this haunting. Now, the obvious next horror movie step is they try to get help but nobody believes them, thinks they’re crazy, etc., they have to search to find the right help. POLTERGEIST skips all that shit – it even skips the next morning “What are we gonna do?” conversation – and cuts straight to dad meeting with parapsychologists. Does he have to jump through a bunch of hoops to prove to them the case is legit? No, he just has to open the door and show them the furniture and objects floating around like they’re in a whirlwind. It’s kind of like that great gag in PHANTASM where you think the older brother won’t believe him but he just shows him a little box with a living, chopped off finger in it, and immediately everybody’s on the same page.

mp_poltergeistThere’s also not any time wasted with untrustworthy or not-good-enough ghost experts. This team has never seen anything like this, they seem out of their league, but they rise to the occasion. I remembered weird little Zelda Rubinstein as the psychic who takes charge of the rescue mission into the other side, but  I forgot all about Beatrice Straight as the leader of this team. She’s not just a ghost expert, she turns into a supportive friend. They even hug!

JoBeth Williams is really good as the mother. Shee has just the right balance of fear and crazed humor when she starts discovering weird things in the house. Maybe my favorite scene is when she figures out the spot in the kitchen where you can leave a chair and it’ll slide across the room, so she turns it into a fun game. Her whole reality has changed, better to laugh than panic. It makes sense.

It’s funny, this movie takes the very routine image of a snowy television set and tries to make it scary, like JAWS did to beaches. But modern technology has probly erased familiarity with snow. Cable prevents you from having to “tune in” to a channel, and TVs are designed to turn the sound off and fill the screen with blue when the channel goes out. So I wonder if young people understand what’s going on when a little girl touches her hands to the fuzzy TV? I wonder, how many souls have we lost to the other side while we’re using Hulu?

POLTERGEIST’s weakness as a horror movie in my opinion is that it’s a little too reliant on special effects shots for what should be the big scares. It’s the same thing as CGI now – it’s done really well, it looks cool, but it kind of takes me out of the established reality because it’s obviously animated and composited, it looks separate. There are a couple of ghost/monster apparitions that are really cool, but not scary. They would work in GHOSTBUSTERS.

I never really thought about this before, but this time I noticed it’s kind of a similar movie to THE EVIL DEAD. There is some set up, but then these ghosts get unleashed and it’s just a rollercoaster ride of crazy shit and some cool effects gags jumping out every once in a while. They even both have a character get a grey streak in their hair from facing the ghosts. But despite its way lower budget and inexperienced filmatists THE EVIL DEAD is a way more intense version, more packed with thrills and makes you feel more like it means it. Because it does.

I guess ghosts are tricky for me. I don’t believe in them, so I like when a movie puts me in a vulnerable state where I’m open to the possibility. Thinking about mortality and souls and sounds in the night in a big house. POLTERGEIST doesn’t do that for me, but it is fun to watch. And it does have the perfect ending: a long tracking shot of the family – their house having supernaturally imploded – loading into a hotel room, then pushing the TV outside.

The Directorial Controversy

“I don’t understand why any of these questions have to be raised. I always saw this film as a collaborative situation between my producer, my writer, and myself. Two of those people were Steven Spielberg, but I directed the film and I did fully half of the story boards. I’m quite proud of what I did…I can’t understand why I’m being slighted. I love the changes that were made from my cut. I worked for a very good producer who is also a great showman. I felt that was a plus, because Steven and I think in terms of the same visual style.” –Tobe Hooper in a May 24, 1982 L.A. Times article.

“My enthusiasm for wanting to make ‘Poltergeist’ would have been difficult for any director I would have hired. It derived from my imagination and my experiences, and it came out of my typewriter [after re-writing the Grais/Victor draft]. I felt a proprietary interest in this project that was stronger than if I was just an executive producer. I thought I’d be able to turn ‘Poltergeist’ over to a director and walk away. I was wrong. [On future films] If I write it myself, I’ll direct it myself. I won’t put someone else through what I put Tobe through, and I’ll be more honest in my contributions to a film.” –Steven Spielberg, same article

It used to bother me that people said Tobe Hooper didn’t direct POLTERGEIST. Like they figured even though he directed one of the greatest horror movies of all time he wasn’t good enough to direct a slick Hollywood family version of a horror movie. But watching it again I get it, it’s undeniably Spielbergian. I know that Spielberg and Hooper have both denied the rumors, and Spielberg even took out a full page ad in Variety apologizing to Hooper for implying it. But I wanted to read more about it to find out why people always say this.

The best resource I found is this exhaustive collection of quotes on the matter. They range from 1982 magazine and newspaper articles to random dudes posting rumors on the IMDb bulletin boards. Alot of it comes from a pretty obnoxious anonymous crew member calling himself “Ben There” who lords over everybody because of his alleged insider knowledge and dramatically drops hints like he’s the fuckin Riddler or something. Although he at times sounds like a conspiracy nut I think his version of the events seems pretty believable: Hooper did the pre-production, but on set was indecisive, Spielberg (as producer and writer) butted in and from there became de-facto boss, even though Hooper was the guy saying “action.”

Other statements from non-anonymous people seem to fit with that story, saying that cast and crew were confused by conflicting directions from the two. Everybody also seems to agree that Spielberg did all the post-production. Jerry Goldsmith says he didn’t even meet Hooper.

There are other stories on there claiming Hooper was fucking up because he had a coke problem, even that he was in rehab during post-production, but Ben There doesn’t agree with those claims. One of the drug accusations comes from a dude who says that POLTERGEIST and SALEM’S LOT are Hooper’s only good movies. So if he was claiming Hooper was on crack I would believe it because he’s obviously an expert on that topic.

Actually, if Hooper had a big drug problem maybe it would explain what happened to him. Kind of a Sly Stone situation. Maybe he’ll come back all the sudden on the Grammys with a huge mohawk. But I doubt it. I don’t buy it.

So after taking a look at the available facts my stance on The Great Poltergeist Directorial Mystery has changed. I used to think it was just a dumb rumor caused by people not knowing how good of a director Tobe Hooper was back then. Now I believe that Hooper was basically a director-for-hire, tasked with following Spielberg’s vision, maybe putting his own spin on it, but he didn’t get to do as much of the second one because a big Hollywood production on a soundstage trying to do what the producer wants is alot different from independent filmmaking in Austin, so he was kind of in over his head and couldn’t take full control (and may not have wanted to). He had only done CHAIN SAW, EATEN ALIVE and THE FUNHOUSE. Those were the kind of movies he was comfortable with, and the kind that his talents were meant for.

Whatever happened though, it turned out pretty good I think. Not a bad picture.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 4th, 2012 at 12:43 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

115 Responses to “Poltergeist”

  1. “I wonder, how many souls have we lost to the other side while we’re using Hulu?”

    That line makes me realize how fuckin´old I am for being able to relate to the scary TV in Poltergeist.

  2. I always figured that Tobe’s contributions were more in the first half of the movie, which feels a little more cynical about suburbia than the usual Spielbergian utopia. The parents smoking dope behind closed doors (definitely not something Steve would approve of), the casual passive-aggressive warfare between neighbors, the mean-spirited glee the kids exhibit when they make that guy drop his beer, that kind of thing. Maybe I’m just hoping, though. I, like Vern, always want to assert Tobe’s ownership of the picture, even when it may not be totally called for.

  3. I’m sorry but that stuffed clown can go fuck itself. Still scares me to this day.

  4. That clown scene used to scare me as well. Also that dream sequence when the guy tears his face off was fuckin shocking when you were like 8 seeing this for the first time. I don´t completely agree that its a “family version” of a horror film,although I know were it comes from. The movie centres around a family that gets torn apart by this ghost entity and its about getting back that whole family serenity.

  5. A rather solid movie, but I always thought it lacked something…and I think its that when the pseudo-scientific angle is brought into this haunted house story, I was disapointed that Spielberg didn’t dwelve into that shit as much as you would think consideirng how much he ate up the UFO shit and scientific “rules” on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.

    But still, a pretty good movie. I like how they took mundane things and tried to fuck with you on them, from clown dolls to unfinished swimming pools and static TVs, etc.

    Vern – I ‘m surprised you didn’t bring up that revelation made years later about how that scene when the skeletons pop up w/ Williams in that shallow pool, they weren’t props. Yup JoBeth was swimming and acting with REAL skeletons. For some reason, that creeps me out more than the movie itself. That is so fucked up.

  6. Knox Harrington

    June 4th, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I think Banksy directed Poltergeist.

  7. vern – you’re reviewing E.T. next week, right?

  8. I think the climax is garbage. It’s the part that relies most overtly on the special effects, which as Vern pointed out removed you from the reality of the film.

  9. Haven’t seen this one in years, and I have to admit I’m kind of afraid to. The clown, the face-tearing, all that shit scared me as a kid and I really don’t think I want to relive it unless I have to. (Also the braces and the tequila worm stuff from Part II seem jumbled in with my horrible memories of this movie) I did catch a glimpse of JoBeth Wiliams’ legs in that football jersey/nighty thing when it was on TV once and I was like “maybe I’ll reconsider”. Maybe I’ll do it as a double feature with “Insidious” since I understand that’s almost a defacto remake.

    Also: I wonder if there was any further authorship controversy re: the similarities between Poltergeist and the Twilight Zone episode “Little Girl Lost” (written by Duel writer Richard Matheson) People with Netflix Instant can check it out and see what I’m talking about.

  10. I don’t think any movie has had an effect on me quite like Poltergeist. I was six when I saw it and can’t really believe that it was a PG “family” movie. A lot of the movie’s images have been burned into my psyche (the clown, the tree, the face ripping, the maggot steak) and I love it for that. And the family seemed so much like my own that I kept asking if we built our house on an Indian burial ground.

  11. this movie scared the absolute shit out of me as a kid, I mean it really scared me bad

    you know what scared me so bad and what in my opinion is so genius about the film? the suburban setting, it’s one thing to have a haunted house movie set in some old decaying mansion or even a old hotel in the middle of the woods, but to place ghosts in a brand new modern day (at the time) suburban house? utter fucking genius, that setting really makes it feel like this could happen to YOU as a kid and that really frightened me

    has anyone ever seen the sequels? the second one is ok, not too bad as far as sequels go, but also nowhere near as memorable or scary as the first (although the floating chainsaw is cool), but the third one is Godawful and it’s best to pretend that it doesn’t exist

  12. None of the sequels come even close to the first one, but #2 has something none of the others have; Julian Beck as Kane! What a truly scary guy.

  13. Sternshein
    June 4th, 2012 at 2:12 pm
    I’m sorry but that stuffed clown can go fuck itself. Still scares me to this day.

    Truer words…I think we all need to start a support group. This movie was one of the main sources of my childhood fears and various neurotic tics. I didn’t eat Jell-O until my college years after my mother tried to calm me down by saying Carol Anne and her mom were covered in orange Jell-O. To this day, I shudder if I’m alone in a room with a snowy TV. And that motherfucking clown…

    My aunt made those things, and when I turned six a few years after this movie had been out, she made me a clown that rivals the Poltergeist one in freakiness. The damned thing was bright pink and red with a huge head topped with wild, hot pink hair that stuck out like Chevy Chase’s when he snorts the voodoo ladie’s powder in that nuclear waste movie. My aunt made it with the best intentions, but little did she know that her gift scared the shit out of me well into my teen years. I felt like I had to keep it in my room to be nice, but there was rarely a night when I didn’t hide it under clothes, a jacket, or some sort of covering. That thing could have played the monster in “It” is what I’m saying. The first day she gave it to me, I was sick with pneumonia and unable to move from the couch where she perched it before she and my mom left me alone with that Thing.

    I think my mom finally sold it at a garage sale to some old granny who probably passed it to an innocent grandchild who is now suffering nightly torture due to that sadistic piece of crotcheted hell.

  14. Knox Harrington

    June 5th, 2012 at 2:33 am

    I feel kinda sorry for the kids of today. They don’t have a Poltergeist clown or that fucked up Superman III robot lady.

    What will they talk about when they grow up? “Dude, do you remember that scene in Twilight when… uhm… Edward glittered?”

    Okay, maybe they’ll talk about how scary Joker was in The Dark Knight or something.

  15. Knox Harrington

    June 5th, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Shit, I used the B-word, didn’t I?

  16. Know – yeah I think The Joker in Dark Knight is about the closest kids will have these days to what we had growing up. I can see kids being afraid of him coming in the room and sticking a pencil in your eye.

    I can’t see kids being traumatized by the scary parts in POTC, The Mummy series or even Harry Potter. Maybe Beowulf – a PG13 cartoon that really shouldn’t have been PG13 and wasn’t really a big hit anyway. But I bet any kid who saw it was terrified.

  17. Man, Knox. You and me are sympatico. When I read the review and the comments about how scary the clown was, I immediately flashed to the scariest thing I had seen in a movie when young and it was exactly that scene in Superman 3. How the hell that scene was even created, let alone in of all things, a Superman movie is beyond me.

  18. The number of times I’ve heard people mention being scared as kids of that scene in Superman 3 means it is no coincidence. There is something primally disturbing to the young mind about being sucked into a machine and being turned into one, with no control of their own body.

    I guess it’s not so scary for kids now…

  19. I think Don Bluth should make another movie. Nobody can traumatize kids better than him.

  20. Vern, please delve into Hooper’s three picture deal Cannon that came about from Poltergeist. They wanted a Chainsaw sequel, but two sci-fi movies? I guess Hooper’s Rick Springfield video showed his love of the genre. Chainsaw DP Daniel Pearl was one the top guys in music videos at the time and shot Billy Idol’s Dancing with Myself with Hooper; Invaders From Mars was a favor to Hooper hence the cool rock show lighting in the spaceship

  21. Wow, Gunther – i had no idea Hooper did the Dancing with Myself video. It’s a great one, parodied later in the David Lee Roth “Just a Gigalo” video too.

    Also you know what movie also traumatized me as a kid? Krull. The giant glass spider. The cyclops guy getting squashed. The long fingernails to the back of the neck. That weird shrieking sound the bad guys made when they died, and that horrible slug thing that crawled out of them like The Hidden. I know LOTR had monsters (including a big spider) in it too, but again, I can’t see kids being traumatized by it.

  22. Mr. Majestyk — I’d say that negative view of suburbia is always lurking under the surface in Spielberg’s films, *because* he has such a utopian vision of it. He’s disgusted that the real thing can never match his romanticised image. The scenes where Richard Dreyfuss deals with his family in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS are uglier than anything in POLTERGEIST, and you’ll see touches of the same sort of thing in stuff from JAWS to JURASSIC PARK to A.I. In CATCH ME IF YOU CAN he finally got around to a movie about a fantasist who’s in love with the American dream but doesn’t want to deal with the grubby reality, and it’s almost a self-portrait.

  23. Yeah, I think you’re probably right. POLTERGEIST’s version of the suburbs isn’t appreciably different than E.T.’s, what with the divorces and the bullies and the penis breaths. They could be happening right down the street from each other. I was just reaching for some kind of Hooperian input since I’m always pulling for the guy.

  24. LIFEFORCE rocks.

    That Is all.

  25. I never really dug POLTERGEIST all that much, and I think it’s because as a true blue horror movie fan, it just doesn’t feel enough like a horror movie to me. Obviously it’s got a horror movie premise and scattered horror movie-ish sequences (pulling the skin off the face, the clown, etc). But the tone (and this seems to be the Spielbergian influence) feels way more like 80’s adventure to me. It’s more driven by kinetic energy than it is by atmosphere or suspense; it’s got a big rousing 80’s movie score; it focuses more on flashy special effects as opposed to graphic or creepy special effects. It feels way closer in spirit to something like THE GOONIES than it does THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.

    It’s not a bad movie, by any means, just not really satisfying or interesting as a horror movie.

  26. And yes, LIFEFORCE does indeed kick ass.

  27. Guys, Poltergeist is readily available on home viewing formats and can still frighten children should their parents be discerning enough to show it to them.

    When I was a child, it was the scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when Christopher Lloyd turns into a toon. In a bout of unbelievably poor judgement my ma said something like “oh this is too scary” and covered my eyes during the scene…. but I could HEAR that shit … “you remember me eddie? when I killed your brother? I sounded JUST….LIKE…THIIISSS!” A disembodied voice that I had just been told embodied something truly horrifying. Dude, the images my imagination cooked up to go with that voice magnified the fright factor a hundred fold.

  28. Knox Harrington

    June 5th, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Daniel Pearl was here in Cape Town some years ago to shoot some music video or commercial or something, and the local crew who worked with him still make fun of him to this day.

    Apparently he showed up acting like he’s a rock star, wouldn’t even look at the light meter when lighting shots. The gaffer and focus puller kept telling him that the light here in South Africa really isn’t the same as back home (it’s way more harsh) and that he should compensate accordingly. Well, the rock star wouldn’t listen and fucked a bunch of shots.

    That’s the story, at least. Still love his work on the original Texas Chain Saw, though. His work on the remake, not so much.

  29. “I guess ghosts are tricky for me. I don’t believe in them”
    Implying that you DO believe in zombies, vampires, Giant Crocodiles and such from other movies?
    “has anyone ever seen the sequels? the second one is ok, not too bad as far as sequels go, but also nowhere near as memorable or scary as the first (although the floating chainsaw is cool), but the third one is Godawful and it’s best to pretend that it doesn’t exist”
    Don’t forget POLTERGEIST: THE LEGACY, the tv series spinoff about the parapsychologists group, reimagined as a long-spanning secret organisation that battles all sorts of supernatural threats, including Succubi, Demons and um, The Undertaker:

  30. Stu,

    I get what you’re saying. None of those things exist, yet you never read a movie review where someone complains about it. I think where ghosts are a little different is that in real life, for some reason there are lots of people who do believe in ghosts, and there’s generally less of a sense of disbelief in movies about hauntings. Hence all the ghost movies that obnoxious claim to be based on “true events.”

    Also, ghosts movies have an annoying habit of including psychic mediums and ghosts hunters and acting as if those are legitimate professions, when in real life those people are just charlatans. That always kind of irks me, for some reason.

    My other personal beef with a lot of ghost movies is that, unlike your vampires or werewolves or zombies or what have you, ghosts rarely seem to operate under any clearly defined rules. One moment they are incorporeal, the next the are picking things up. They can appear anywhere, yet sometimes people outrun them. They can change form. They do all sorts of random shit like appearing in mirrors or making inanimate objects move for no discernible reason, often when none of the characters in the movie can see them. They are like omnipotent gods with Alzheimer’s disease: they can apparently do whatever they want, but forget what they are capable of half the time.

  31. I don’t believe in ghosts, and that’s why ghost movies are the only ones that scare me. If I ran into a monster or a dude with a big knife, my biggest worry would be surviving. If I saw a ghost, it would fuck with my entire world view. All of a sudden, I gotta deal with idea of life after death, which leads to the idea of an immortal soul, which leads to God, which leads to my whole belief system crashing down around me. I gotta start reevaluating everything. Is there a heaven? Is there hell? Which one am I going to? So ghost movies (the creepy, suspenseful ones, not special effects extravaganzas like POLTERGEIST) spook me because no matter how committed an atheist I think I am, there’s always that nagging doubt: What if I’m wrong? Good ghost stories play on that doubt, keeping things nice and realistic so that I can dread that moment when the world I thought I understood splits open and this whole other, infinitely less knowable world comes spilling out. That’s a kind of existential terror that no slasher movie would hope to replicate.

  32. Is the Undertaker playing himself in that clip?

    I always wish we’d seen more of him as a film personality, I know WWE was talking about doing a HHH vs Undertaker western, but that was many years ago now. Would love to see a remake (reworking, whatever) of Shadow of the Vampire starring Undertaker and Vince McMahon as themselves.

  33. Mr Majestyk,

    It’s funny because, also speaking as a non believer, the idea of ghosts causes me no existential dread. It would mean that I’m wrong and there is an afterlife, which is comforting on some level.

    I get a much deeper sense of existential dread from horror movies and thrillers that seem to support my world view, a la NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. The idea that death is thoughtless, abrupt and meaningless and that in the blink of an eye I could turn from something into nothing is a lot more terrifying to me.

  34. In fact, when I was a little kid, I found the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies kinda scary and weirdly profound because they sort of made me contemplate the finality of death. Jason doesn’t scare me any more, but he represents a much scarier idea to me than some pale Japanese kid with long hair.

    Then again, I also would get really freaked out when I was a kid trying to wrap my brain around the idea of an afterlife, because eternity seemed like a terrifyingly long time to exist.

  35. See, I’m perfectly happy just winking out of existence. It’s not like I would notice, would I? It’s existing in some strange new form for eternity that scares the shit out of me.

    You know what movies actually kind of play on that fear? The PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series. Everybody in those movies is always trying to escape a fate worse than death. It’s like the afterlife is all around you so you can see how much it sucks.

  36. Dan — I’m with Mr. M on this one, the thing that is legit scary about ghosts is how incomprehensible they are. Jason, you know what he wants. Ghosts are so weird and alien that you can’t really feel like you can understand or predict what they’re up to. They’re completely beyond our ability to understand or even react to. Physical threats aren’t especially scary to me, but metaphysical threats? You bet your ghostly ass.

    Stu — I actually love POLTERGEIST 3. It’s filled with clever ideas and good setpieces and feels much better constructed than POLTERGEIST 2. Gary Sherman, who directed RAW MEAT and DEAD AND BURIED, does a good job putting his own spin on the POLTERGEIST universe and neatly combining the mythology in part 1 and 2.

  37. POLTERGEIST 2 has that one scene (you know the one) that is legitimately frightening and disturbing, but that’s it. It comes out of nowhere and departs just as abruptly, having no effect on the plot or tone of the movie at large. But man, is that scene fucked up. Craig T. Nelson really channels something evil, and the H.R. Giger tequila beast is exquisitely hideous.

    As for POLTERGEIST 3, I like that all of the mirror gags were done in-camera. Trying to figure out how they did it keeps your mind off of other, less pleasant things, like how poor Heather O’Rourke is fucking dying right before our eyes.

  38. Hey, here’s the POLTERGEIST trailer.


    I like how that trailer does its damn best to sell this as a Spielberg movie, as if he directed it (wink wink!) and his credit is big and bold while “A Tobe Hopper Film” is lowercased and no bigger than the DP’s credit it feels like.

    (But it worked.)

  39. I’m 100% behind Mr. Subtlety and Majestyk on the ghost issue. Physical threats can create suspense, but ghosts/satans keep fucking with you after you run away, even sometimes after you do the research and find out why they’re lingering/pissed, etc.

  40. who’s to say there’s no such thing as ghosts? my aunt and uncle and cousins once lived in this creepy old farmhouse that they claimed was haunted

    my uncle is an especially no bullshit kind of guy, so if he says that some weird shit went down, I believe him

  41. I think the Evil Dead 2 gag where Ash gets the grey streak of hair was a direct riff on Poltergeist. Actually, that entire closing sequence in Evil Dead 2 feels like a goof on Poltergeist, with the giant head bursting through the door and the trees coming to life.

  42. Griff,

    I am very comfortable saying there’s no such thing as ghosts. If ghosts were real, I’m fairly certain that in this point in human history we would have gotten some concrete, documented evidence of their existence. Instead of just endless anecdotal “proof” that can’t be tested or confirmed.

    I’m sure your uncle isn’t lying about what he experienced, but believing that you lived in a haunted house is not the same thing as having lived in a haunted house. People believe all sorts of things that aren’t true.

  43. my little pet theory about ghosts is that they’re not something that can tangentially be picked up by a camera or any piece of technology, but are instead something that can only really be sensed by the human brain and are thus both real and not real at the same time, metaphysical huh?

  44. I wouldnt say a ghost is the actual soul of someone floating around though, more like a “memory” of a time or place or person

  45. Aww, Griff, come on buddy. So you’re willing to say that ghost sightings are just subjective experiences that can’t be proven to ever take place, but you can’t just take that final leap to acknowledge that they probably just aren’t real? I mean, you really think that the more likely scenario is that when we die, somehow our memories escape our brains and then somehow end up in other people’s brains and that’s what ghosts are? Isn’t it more likely that people just sometimes subjectively experience strange things they don’t understand, and that ghosts are a shared cultural myth that helps them explain it?

    And sorry if I’m coming off as shitting on your beliefs or something like that. I’m not trying to be disrespectful, just trying to engage in debate.

  46. Jareth Cutestory

    June 6th, 2012 at 6:59 am

    I like your pet theory, Griff, though I suspect that Egon Spengler’s theories make for better cinema.

    Dan: Not all of those creepy Asian girls with long hair are created equal. The ones that embody the consequences of the protagonists misdeeds can be pretty unsettling, like in the original SHUTTER (which is Thai) or that dead girl in the wall with the fucked up hair in that Korean ghost movie that I forget the title of. I find that kind of ghostly retribution scarier than hillbilly psychopaths because they are also kind of alluring; Asian ghost girls coax you along the path to damnation, making you somewhat complicit in your own punishment.

    Majestyk: I wonder which is a scarier prospect for you, ending up in the waiting room in BEETLEJUICE or meeting a fate like Pierce Brosnan/Sarah Jessica Parker in MARS ATTACKS.

  47. Dan Prestwich – it’s just stuff I like to think about while bored, not a firmly held belief or anything, I mean yeah ghosts could very well be bullshit, it’s just fun to try to think up ways in which they could actually exist

    so, no offense tak

  48. Jareth,

    Oh, I don’t want to write off all ghost movies, or all J-horror movies or anything like that. There are plenty of excellent examples of those films (PULSE, RINGU, etc.). I like the kind of element you’re talking about with past misdeeds. I also like it when there’s a psychological elements, a la THE SHINING or 1408, where the ghosts don’t physically do much, but instead try to influence the characters to do their bidding. That’s a much creepier concept to me.

    I just feel like the genre tends to invite a lot of narrative laziness, over-reliance on special effects, inconsistency, etc. And I tend not to feel any of that fear of the afterlife that Msrs S&M mentioned.

  49. Jareth Cutestory

    June 6th, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Well put, Dan. The danger with recent Asian horror is that too many of the lessons that the ghosts teach are too schematic, which drains the scares right out of the film. You want there to be a high degree of incomprehensibility.

    That’s what I like about RINGU; you think you’ve figured out what Sadako wants, then you realize that her rage has assumed such a proportion that it cannot be satisfied.

  50. The only horseshit rationalization for the existence of ghosts that in any way jibes with my understanding of the world is that they are fourth dimensional manifestations, not spirits. Since we have very little understanding of the nature of time, whether it is a straight line or only perceived as such by ourselves, it’s theoretically possible that when people see long-dead residents of a particular house or other structure, they are just getting a momentary glimpse into the past of that place. This is why old houses tend to be the “haunted” ones. Why the fourth dimension gives a shit about bricks and mortar and wouldn’t just show random “ghosts” walking down the street is not something this half-assed theory can account for.

    This explanation is no more scientific or plausible than Griff’s. But it doesn’t force me to believe in a soul, so I could live with it if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to believe in ghosts.

  51. You know, it’s interesting. If you told someone you believed in vampires, they’d look at you like you were nuts. But for some reason it’s more culturally acceptable for an adult to believe in ghosts. There’s pretty much exactly the same amount of evidence to support the existence of both vampires and ghosts (basically, none), yet we as a culture seem more okay with believing in ghosts. I wonder why that is. Maybe because ghosts tie-in more with religion? I.E. since a lot of folks believe in the idea of an eternal soul, that maybe somehow that soul can take human-ish form and walk the Earth?

  52. The Original... Paul

    June 6th, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I remember seeing this movie as a kid and loving it, but that was well over twenty years ago now.

    I’d like to think there’s a parallel universe out there where Steven Spielberg, acclaimed director of “The Alabama Weed-Whacker Slaughter”, ghost-directed this film for producer Tobe Hooper, himself famous for directing the classic monster movie “Gums”.

  53. The Original... Paul

    June 6th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    And just out of curiosity… where the beings in “Kairo” ever properly explained? It seemed to me that not only did they leave the beings’ exact nature as ambiguous as possible, they also went ouf of their way to provide explanations (eg the dots in the computer, the red tape) that would cause more questions to be asked than answered. Nowhere did I ever get the impression that they were spirits of the malevolent dead or something.

    Heck, this ambiguity is one of the many, many things I absolutely love about “Kairo” (I cannot recommend that movie highly enough to anybody who likes “slow-burn” atmospheric horror, by the way): we see the apocalypse from the survivors’ points of view, which is extremely limited.

    Don’t get me wrong, by the way – I’m not saying “Poltergeist” is a lesser movie because it explains where the spirits come from. I’m just a bit puzzled by the comparison made above to “Kairo”.

  54. Dan — I think you’re right that the outlandish things we decide are plausible or silly have a lot to do with out general worldview. We can believe in any manor of unproven things if they don’t defy our general sense of reality. To that end, it’s nominally easier for me to believe in anecdotal things which vaguely conform to the laws of the world as I know it. In fact, we are doing this all the time — if you didn’t personally see it or experience it, you’re taking it on faith. But you do it because you can’t experience everything yourself, and you have a lifetime of experience to determine what kinds of things are possible and plausible in the world.

    Aliens, bigfoot, the idea that John Carpenter might one day make another good film — there’s very little real good evidence for any of these things, but believing in them doesn’t force me to dramatically alter the way I think about the world. Not that they’re likely, but I can borderline imagine finding out they exist and hence I’m open to the idea. If we did find a bigfoot, he would be an animal like any other, with DNA and basic biology. If we found an angel, on the other hand, it would mean that the essential foundation upon which I make all my decisions about the world is fundamentally wrong.

    So, it does kinda make sense that a religious culture would have little problem believing things which fit into their particular superstitious view of the universe. If you can believe in a god for which there is no evidence, it’s not a big stretch to believe in ghosts (especially since people seem to run into them a lot more frequently). But vampires, werewolves, zombies, pumpkinheads, and Freddy Kruegers don’t fit into that mythology as easily, so they’re easier to discount. And to be fair, they’re reported only very, very rarely (probably, as you point out, because people see what they expect to see).

    As both a skeptic by nature and a great lover of all kind of silly paranormal phenomenon, I’ve had to adopt a view of the world which is ok with ambiguity. Lots and lots of seemingly sane, normal people report phenomenon which can’t possibly be real. My brother called me the other day to say that he was driving along the road when he suddenly saw an enormous black “thing” with huge red eyes fly (on wings) directly upwards and out of the road. In other words, a classic “mothman” sighting. He’d never heard of such a thing until I told him about it, and had no reason in the world to make that up. But he saw it. That doesn’t mean either he or I believe in Mothmen. It just means I acknowledge that it’s possible to have that experience. What exactly it means, I have no idea. There’s a million reasonable explanations I could come up with, but honestly it would be intellectually dishonest to explain away something with a “reasonable” explanation for which there is equally no evidence. I just gotta say “sometimes a person sees a Mothman even though reality as I know it affords no possible place for a mothman.” Any attempt to put an explanation on it, be it either prosaic (“hallucination”) or paranormal (“it was a visitor from another dimension”) is basically just imposing my worldview onto a situation for which I have no enough information to make any kind of judgement.

    When people rush to *explain* things based on their own worldview in the absence of evidence, we’re always gonna run into trouble. So I choose to just look at the facts which are present, and frequently have to simply admit there’s not enough of them to draw any kind of conclusion.

  55. Mr S.,

    Yeah, I think that’s what I was sort of trying to half-articulate in my usual nonsense-speak with what I was saying to Griff before. I have no reason to doubt that his uncle (subjectively) experienced what he claims to have experienced. It’s just that his subjective experience is not the same thing as evidence of ghosts.

    Its the same thing when people tell me about a religious experience they had. I would never in a million years tell them that they didn’t have that experience, but their experience is not proof of the validity of their religion.

  56. “If ghosts were real, I’m fairly certain that in this point in human history we would have gotten some concrete, documented evidence of their existence.”

    I think that’s a cop out on the grounds that science is documenting all sorts of crazy shit all the time. In another 100 years we will have concrete, documented evidence of all sorts of stuff that, at the moment, we don’t.

    Looking at it another way, Chinese farmers were conserving soil nutrients through crop rotation a thousand years before we knew about nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. The Chi just told them to do it. It also tells them all sorts of stuff that most people think is superstitious bullshit, but maybe in another thousand years we’ll scientifically confirm that stuff as well.

    There’s some crazy shit out there dude. Like the Money Pit of Oak Island.

    But just remember that Bill O’Reilly proved the existence of God by saying “Tide goes in, tide goes out. You can’t explain that.” HA.

  57. Problem is, renfield, that science has taken away more and more of the superstitious bullshit. They haven’t added to it.

  58. renfield,

    Yes, science is discovering new things all the time. But ghosts are a supposed ongoing phenomenon that millions of people claim to have witnessed, and that folks have been actively trying to prove the existence of for a long, long time. And yet still no one has ever been able to provide any solid evidence of their existence.

  59. Jareth Cutestory

    June 7th, 2012 at 7:33 am

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that ghosts are a more acceptable belief than vampires, werewolves and Freddies. Ghosts are such a great metaphor for our regrets, our guilt, our lost innocence. They’re vague, unformed, unsettling, and they appear and disappear in a manner so similar to how we experience memory and emotion. No other supernatural fiction is as intimate and rooted in personal subjectivity. They can pretty much be whatever you need them to be: romantic, scary, cautionary, horrific.

    Not to mention, seances and ectoplasm and make for such good cinema.

  60. “Problem is, renfield, that science has taken away more and more of the superstitious bullshit. They haven’t added to it.”

    Well once it’s science, it’s not superstition anymore.

    “But ghosts are a supposed ongoing phenomenon that millions of people claim to have witnessed, and that folks have been actively trying to prove the existence of for a long, long time.”

    1) Who’s been trying to prove their existence? Stephen Hawking? Remember that in science, you’re supposed to begin with the hypothesis and then find evidence to prove/disprove the hypothesis (as opposed to interpreting evidence with a hypothesis that fits it (Texas sharpshooter fallacy)). I don’t think many scientists are hypothesizing “there are/aren’t ghosts” and then setting about proving/disproving them.

    2) People having been trying to “prove” the big bang, evolution, etc for a long time, but there’s still debate about those things. Do you not believe in the big bang, evolution, etc? Origin of DNA is still pretty up in the air. Are you skeptical that DNA came into existence through scientifically explainable means?

    3) My point is not that scientists are going to discover another periodic element called Ectoplasm and go “Aha! Ghosts!”, but that, say, neuroscientists (who are making all sorts of CRAZY advances all the time these days) might find some explanation for why people have these experiences. It could be something fairly mundane, like a combination of being superstitiously oriented/having certain experiences triggering something akin to schizophrenia.

    But it COULD be something crazier! I mean, by y’all’s logic, there’s no way for aliens to exist either. Millions of people claim to have seen ’em, scientists haven’t found evidence of ’em. But there COULD be aliens, right? Goldilocks zones and all that?

  61. Jareth,

    I can always count on you to say something beautiful and poetic.


    There are currently no viable scientific theories that suggest the existence of ghosts. Perhaps the “big bang” isn’t proven, but it is a viable scientific theory that holds up to scrutiny. I don’t believe in aliens either, but our understanding of physical reality is such that it is possible that there is another planet in the universe that can sustain life. There is no reason to believe in little green men in flying saucers abducting rednecks to pound them in the ass with a metal probe, but I do believe in the possibility that there could be life out there in the universe somewhere.

    And I’m not saying that science will never explain what people are experiencing when they claim to have supernatural encounters. Just that there is nothing in our understanding of physical reality to suggest that human consciousness can exist long after death, and that there is a decided lack of physical evidence of any sort of supernatural encounters.

  62. Dan,

    Your point is well taken and ceded.

  63. renfield,

    Good conversing with you, my friend. Isn’t it nice to have such a civil, thoughtful oasis like this on the internet?

  64. I don’t believe in ghosts, but it would be great if one day science invented them. Some sort of weird, vaporous vessel that could house your memories after you died and you could float around and haunt people and shit. That would rule.

  65. I recently came across this: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/science/sheldrake-morphogenic-field-memory-lashley-collective-unconscious-3486.html

    Dunno how much actual science is at the end of that link but it’d explain all sorts of supernaturalness. (ghosts, esp, maybe even the afterlife if you run with it)

  66. “Isn’t it nice to have such a civil, thoughtful oasis like this on the internet?”

    Always. Try reading RottenTomatoes with a blood pressure monitor and you’ll realize that outlawvern.com is good for your health.

  67. On the subject of science explaining ghost encounters, you should look at the work which was currently done regarding alien abduction experiences… scientists were able to recreate the abduction experience by manipulating electromagnetic impulses in people’s brains. Pretty cool stuff, and a good example of how people could have this experience without it necessarily meaning that physical aliens in spaceships are abducting people.


  68. Man, LIFEFORCE just does not do it for me. Great monsters and FX and amazing nudity, but it has one of the worst scripts imaginable. Just a black hole of constant exposition and total blank characters.

  69. “I don’t believe in ghosts, but it would be great if one day science invented them. Some sort of weird, vaporous vessel that could house your memories after you died and you could float around and haunt people and shit. That would rule.”

    I would haunt a sorority house

  70. That scene with the chairs. One of the best moments in the History of horror movies.

  71. The Original... Paul

    June 8th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Griff – I would totally shoot a movie of you as a ghost haunting a sorority house.

    I think a plan is formed…

  72. Jareth Cutestory

    June 8th, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I would totally watch Paul’s film of Ghost Griff haunting a sorority house.

  73. and I would totally play the part of a ghost haunting a sorority house

    the poster would look something like this http://www.impawards.com/1985/school_spirit.html

  74. Jareth Cutestory

    June 9th, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Summer 2014. Griff starring in GHOST NOOKIE. An Original Paul joint.

  75. Brendan — cannot comprehend a world in which you would not like a movie where Patrick Stewart, possessed by a naked soul vampire, kisses Steve Railsback on the mouth.

  76. Knox – That robotwoman in Superman III scared the hell out of me.

  77. Where’s the Vernmeister at? He hasn’t posted anything new in two weeks (not that I’m complaining, just using it as a benchmark). Mebbe he ran into some shady character(s) from his nefarious past, and they kidnapped him, and forced him to dress up like Totie Fields and sing “Feelings” to a group of shabbily-dressed drunken midgets (this actually happened to my Uncle Tito 6 years ago; the perps were never caught, so it stands to reason they could whirl asunder and pull the same stunt yet again).

    Or perhaps he’s on a visionquest in the Cascade Mountains. Or on vacation. If any of y’all know whassup, feel free to enlighten me. Thank yuh kindly.

  78. What are you talking about? He just posted a review this morning.

  79. No, something is up, I’m not sure what it is. I used somebody else’s computer and like Larry says it only shows posts up through this one. Larry, I’ve since reviewed Poltergeist 2, Poltergeist 3, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Prometheus, Moonrise Kingdom, Perfect Target, Miami Connection and Chronicle. I’m not sure why certain computers aren’t updating past Poltergeist. Could it be a browser update or Shockwave or Flash or something like that is needed? The cutoff might’ve been when we finally updated to a newer build of WordPress.

    Any computer people got theories?

  80. In my expert computer techie opinion, this websight is unclean. There’s clearly a poltergeist at play here.

  81. Knox Harrington

    June 18th, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    This raises an important question: If Vern was to one day step in front of a bus (God forbid) and depart this earthly plain, how would any of us ever know what happened to him? Weeks would go by without anything new from him on this site, and then eventually we’d all just give up and stop checking in. That’s a sad thought, man.

    Vern, you better put some clause in your will about letting us know if anything ever happens. Or at least build some kinda auto-destruct setting into the site that is wirelessly linked to your heart rate, like Martin Sheen in that Spawn movie, so that we’ll all know when that day has come.

  82. I don’t think we’ll notice it at all, because we will still be discussing Prometheus…

  83. Vern, I have been having the same problem on my home computer, but if I click on the “Then fuck you Jack” banner it will take me to an updated version of the page.

  84. I gotta learn that special keystroke Whistler did to blow up all the computers and destroy the evidence. (You might not remember it, it was in part Trinity).

  85. They Call Me Trinity with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer?

  86. Knox Harrington

    June 18th, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    By the way, if… IF… I ever die, your noses will all start bleeding simultaneously and you’ll eventually start to notice that sunrises have somehow lost their magic.

  87. This morning, I found a dead unicorn in my backyard. Please tell me you’re feeling well, Knox!

  88. Knox Harrington

    June 19th, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Nah, dead unicorns are fine, CJ, but I’d start worrying the moment rainbows turn black.

  89. I had the same problem. Thought it was my iPad but hitting the FUCK YOU JACK to refresh worked just fine.

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  94. I’m gonna be an ass and just post a test message because I haven’t been able to post in a few days (3 different browsers on 2 different computers take me to a screen where I need to enter a captcha that doesn’t show me a captcha!).

  95. Ok! So i guess posting is working now! – Anyways, Poltergeist double feature, long story short – the remake starts out OK and then just kinda turns perfunctory and forgettable. It’s inoffensive and not awful, but even kids who haven’t seen the original will probably forget about this one. I mean, it’s better than the Jackie Earl Haley NOES, but it’s about as redundant and pointless. It’s like the movie exists only to have superficial updates like them hiring a TV ghost hunter instead of Tangina, the brother sends his toy drone through to the other side, and the teenage daughter has a ghostly gag involving her cell phone that was so unmemorable I’m having trouble remembering what it was even though I just saw this movie like 3 days ago.

    I mean, they make a point to not really repeat most of the gags from the original, but none of the substitutions are as good. Why have an unmemorable power-drill bit to substitute the famous face-ripping? Why in 2015, reduce the mom’s role so she’s no longer the hero and kinda doesn’t do anything? And remember that incredible scene in the original where the kitchen chairs magically rearrange in an unbroken shot? It’s simple, yet undeniably effective. The remake’s version is to a) not bother with an unbroken shot, and b) replace the chairs with CGI comic books that are arranged in a pyramid, with the camera then flying THROUGH the books and then the books fly towards the screen. (I guess this was in 3D?) That about sums up this remake.

    Immediately watched the original afterward. Was afraid it was going to age poorly, but nope, it’s a masterpiece. Not quite as scary since i’m like 30 years older, but I was amazed at how incredibly well-made this is. I love Lifeforce as much as the next guy, but there’s no way the same guy made these two movies. This is classic Spielberg from beginning to end, from music to camera shots to lighting. It’s disturbing but also has Spielberg’s sense of playfulness and showmanship. So many good gags you can’t even list them all, but big props to the unbroken shot where Tangina is instructing the parents how to talk to Carol Anne on the other side- it’s a very long scene that’s incredibly intense, and it consists of nothing but great acting and sound design – there’s not a single visual effect in this entire shot and it’s the best sequence in the movie.

  96. I just watched the remake and enjoyed it more than I thought I would and obviously more than the rest of the world did. The original wasn’t the scariest movie ever and overreliant of big effect shots than true scares, so it was interesting how well some of the new moments worked and even more how the new one seemed to rely LESS on effects instead of true scares. Even the big spook attack in the middle is more a collection of things that go bump, shadows that we see for a second and ideas, than money shots. (Even one of the big, flashy shots from the trailer appears in the finished movie more like a “Whoa, did I see that right?” moment.)

    It’s not a remake of the same quality as THE THING and it doesn’t add anything new to the classic, but as entertaining PG-13 horror with some well done suspense scenes, it works damn good.

    And since neal mentioned it a few months ago:
    “Why in 2015, reduce the mom’s role so she’s no longer the hero and kinda doesn’t do anything?”

    That was actually one of my favourite aspects of the remake. It had some very interesting gender political undertones. The dad is unemployed and feels bad for not being able to take care of his family, the brother feels guilty for what happened to his sister and when they try to explain their feelings to the women in their life, they don’t listen. Even the only male ghost hunter (Before Jared Harris as gender swapped Zelda Rubinstein shows up) seems afraid of telling his female co-workers, that he just had a near death experience and instead just mopes and feels bad when he is told that he “has to take this more seriously”.

    Unfortunately this whole “When is a man a man in the 21st century” angle, never really adds up to anything. At one hand the movie wants to say “It’s okay, you are a still a man, because fuck that whole masculinity bullshit, what happened wasn’t your fault”, but then the day is saved because the dad spent money he didn’t have on a camera drone, the son did something stupid to save his sister and the medium did something even dumber to save the whole family (and gets rewarded by his ex-wife for it.)

    Still, it’s interesting to have a brand recognition studio movie that was made in 2015, that attempted to deal with the insecurity of men in today’s cultures.

  97. That’s really interesting stuff, CJ – I guess I didn’t pick up on that theme since it was so subtle. Speaking of which, it’s weird that they borrowed/homaged the most famous scene from the second one (involving the dad getting drunk and puking up worms) but as you mentioned, didn’t really follow through with it.

    One thing I actually did like was that SPOILER it ended on this lighter, goofier tone, complete with a happy ending for everyone and a catchy pop song. I know the first one ended on a joke too, but this one even has a wacky mid-credit cookie that makes it seem like the entire movie beforehand was a sci-fi comedy.

  98. Yeah, the worm scene is something that I didn’t pick up on this time. Actually I focused more on how this was another example of the movie’s special effect restraint (Since you see the most over the top part only as distorted reflection), but if they had turned him into an abusive asshole for a moment, like it happened in the sequel to the original, it would have been an interesting and topical addition. (Maybe it happened in an earlier script version?)

  99. The only thing about the remake I remember is that it felt super rushed and under budget. Not that the original had a huge set of characters but the lack of people in the remake felt very distracting.

    Also, I find very few people who are my age of 39 who doesn’t remember the first movie scaring the crap out of them when they saw it as kids.

  100. I almost forget how fantastical the original POLTERGEIST gets, what with the evil living tree, the long limbed monster ghost, the giant skull popping out and scaring the shit out of Craig T Nelson.

    But what’s clever is it works because the movie takes the time to ground things so much, the hauntings start off small (the moving chairs etc) and the acting is so good, that by the time the movies goes into total fantasy it still feels believable.

    But that’s Spielberg for you, he has a way of making the utterly fantastical feel believable in a way few movies have been able to, see also CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, E.T., JURASSIC PARK etc

  101. Bringing this thread back from the other side to say: I had never seen this, and decided to watch it the way it was meant to be seen– on RCA SelectaVision CED/VideoDisc. I figured the weird needle skips and fuzzy picture with ghostly signal overlays would only enhance the spooky atmosphere, and I was right.

    Along the same lines of how Vern has written on how TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is about America’s shadow and how your neighbors might have alien customs and viewpoints which lead them to be cannibals or wear red hats, the Hooperiest thing about POLTERGEIST for me is how it presents the American dream as some bullshit piped into our house on the boob tube, and how Reagan’s vision of America is one where the white consumerist middle class live in identical cookie-cutter houses of cards built on the graves of those who came before us.

    Anyway, I loved it. It also seems to be like it did heavily influence your GHOSTBUSTERSes and your EVIL DEADs 2, etc., even though it itself was inspired by old Twilight Zones (and I swear I heard a couple notes of the HAUSU theme in there but surely that’s impossible). Good to finally see what those Simpsons parodies were about.

  102. On the GHOSTBUSTERS commentary (or maybe a making of, but I think the commentary) Reitman mentions that he suspects over time audiences had stopped realising the extent to which the Dana’s apartment scenes were meant as a parody of POLTERGEIST. An example of the parody becoming more famous than the original (not that POLTERGEIST is obscure or forgotten in any sense, it’s just that GHOSTBUSTERS is GHOSTBUSTERS).

  103. Spielberg likely directed the vast majority of the film – probably everything aside from the few gory scenes (such as the face in the mirror), which do fit with Hooper (and which are the weakest parts of the film). Several people directly involved in the production had hinted at that over the years, and one had even quite brashly commented that every day when she was on the set, Spielberg was directing, and Hooper was just stumbling around somewhere, dazed and incoherent, or sitting in his room, being “busy with other matters” (the matters, she implied, were disappearing in his nose).

    Spielberg himself eventually took pity on Hooper and issued a (transparently false) statement that “Hooper was the director”, but if anyone has any lingering doubts about the real director, one should take a look at “Something Evil”, Spielberg’s Protogeist. Almost everything that ended up in “Poltergeist” was in “Something Evil” ten years earlier.

  104. Spielberg was an unusually hands on producer. Tobe Hooper directed it. The end.

  105. You can’t look at the scene where the giant head pops out of the closet and not know that’s Hooper…the crazy lights, fast cuts, close-ups of hysterical screaming by super sweaty faces. That’s pure Hooper insanity.

    Clearly Spielberg was all up in that movie too, and I bet a lot of it was super collabortive and some of it looks very Spielberg…but then again, so does a lot of Lifeforce.

  106. A few actors have said they worked directly with Spielberg but actors generally only think about the stuff that concerns them. So maybe Spielberg was better with actors than Hooper do he collaborated on performance while Hooper may have been focused on technical things. Lots of possible explanations.

    Spielberg has admitted he was maybe too hands on and maybe should’ve directed since he had so many ideas but there’s still a big difference between a hands on producer and the director.

  107. I think the most reasonable thing is they were almost co-directors in a lot of ways. Spielberg was all up in it for sure. But I can’t buy that Hooper did nothing, there’s a lot of his stuff in there too. But on that set, there could be no doubt who was the Big Dog.

    In a sense I feel like it may be closest to a tv director. On Game of Thrones a director has a lot of input but they ain’t the BOSS either.

  108. Why the fuck are we still talking about this? Spielberg said Hooper directed it. Mick Garris, who was on set every damn day, said Hooper directed it. The only person involved who said Spielberg did it, was Zelda Rubinstein and she was on set for something like 2 days. Yeah, the movie looks and feels pretty Spielbergian, but so do most Spielberg productions of the time and nobody ever said “Man, I can’t believe that the guy who made HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, PIRANHA and THE HOWLING directed GREMLINS! Must’ve been the Berg! And have you seen YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES? That sure as hell wasn’t from the director of THE NATURAL. He must’ve ghost directed it for you know who.”

  109. I honestly have no idea what these Poltergeist Truthers get out of this. The man is dead. What can possibly be gained by further trampling on his reputation?

    Luckily, they’ll all eventually be dead and forgotten and TEXAS CHAIN SAW will still be a masterpiece.

  110. Hooper trampled on his own reputation when he made Spontaneous Combustion and Crocodile.

  111. Look at the lens choice. It’s Hooper all over. Except for the big SFX scenes.

  112. I think there’s a thing, and I’ve been guilty of this in the past although not for Hoopbergate, where people get wedded to an idea about an artist and try to make or cling on to excuses to explain something that doesn’t fit into the pattern. For a long time the “official”, cool line on Tobe Hooper was that he was pretty much a one hit wonder, and even that one hit was kind of a fluke. And if you’re a strong proponent of that theory, and there’s a popular explanation for why the most prominent exception to that rule (by dint of critical and commercial reception) turned out well, you’re probably liable to believe in it. Remember how 10-15 years ago everything David Goyer wrote that people liked was considered somebody else’s triumph, and everything they didn’t was directly and solely his fault? I’m not saying all Hooperberg truthers are operating along these lines, but I suspect it has survived partly on the basis of their enthusiasm.

  113. Thing is, a number of people said Spielberg did direct it, which I don’t buy…but if you look at the interview with JoBeth Williams and Nelson which supposedly says Spielberg didn’t direct, it’s not as clear cut as all that:

    “I think, in his heart of hearts, he would’ve loved to have directed it,” Williams says of Spielberg. “He was always there. And Tobe was not as experienced as Steven was. He very much listened to Steven’s ideas about things, because it was Steven’s movie, really. And I’m sure there were times when it drove Tobe crazy to have Steven so actively involved, but he never let on. They were both kind of there on the set. Tobe would give direction, sometimes Steven would add to that or give other direction, but I think it’s fair to say that it was sort of a combo of the two of them, because certainly Steven was actively involved.”

    I mean, two sets of directions, who you think is getting listened to on that set? I really think it was a collaboration…some of Tobe is in there for sure, you can see it. But also, a lot of Spielberg…and sure he wrote that letter at the time, but he also sad later he regretted being all up in Tobe’s business so much when it was being shot. I see a lot of Hooper in the horror stuff, I see a lot of Spielberg in the actors and some of the camera moves.

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