Thursday, February 25, 2010

Instead Of Watching Paranormal Activity Revisit Poltergeist And Its Curse

With all the talk that Paranormal Activity has received, I thought it would be interesting to look back at a paranormal classic and the apparent curse that has haunted it all of these years. It is hard to believe, but it has been nearly three decades since the release of the original Poltergeist film and, surely, the segment of the public who clamor to blood-and-gore flicks of the 21st century would not be overly interested in voices coming from a static filled TV set…or would they?

With a rehash of classic 1980s supernatural thriller tentatively set for a 2011 release, which, in reality is not too far off. Horror film fans old enough to remember the original Poltergeist movie series may or may not rejoice at the thought of a frame for frame shot for shot remake of the original Steven Spielberg / Tobe Hooper collaboration but it looks to have been green lighted. Don’t remember the original three films? Let me set you up with a primer to the movies – and the curse. Yes, the curse.

Release Year: 1982

Cast: Craig T. Nelson
Jo Beth Williams
Beatrice Straight
Dominique Dunne
Oliver Robins
Heather O’Rourke
Zelda Rubinstein

This is the first and most successful  installment of the trilogy that finds 5 year-old Carol Anne Freeling communicating with the deceased via a static filled television set in the living room of her parent’s suburban California home. Eventually, her communication with the dead opens a pathway for them to enter the world of the living and kidnap Carol Anne. After the kidnap the bulk of the film centers around the family’s efforts to retrieve her from unknown evils on the other side. Eventually, the family is able to rescue Carol Anne but the evil spirits led by a demon known as “The Beast” go on a rampage before they are exorcised.

Release Year: 1986

Cast: Craig T. Nelson
Jo Beth Williams
Susan Peretz
Geraldine Fitzgerald
Heather O’Rourke
Zelda Rubinstein
Will Sampson
Julian Beck

This sequel explains in greater detail why Carol Anne was abducted in the first film – the house she lived in was built over a massive underground cavern that was, in essence, a giant communal tomb for members of a utopian cult that died in the area in the early 1800s. Although the Freeling family knew their house was built on land that was a reclaimed cemetery – and – that the bodies had supposedly been moved to another resting place, apparently no one knew about the cave below the cemetery. The cult, led by an evil and corrupt man, one Reverend Henry Kane, was under his complete domination in both life and death and the manifestations in the Freeling home were the result of his effort to continue to dominate the world of the living from the world of the dead.

Release Year: 1988

Cast: Tom Skerritt
Nancy Allen
Heather O’Rourke
Zelda Rubinstein
Lara Flynn Boyle
Kipley Wentz
Nathan Davis

Sometime between the second and third films the Freeling family has shipped Carol Anne off to Chicago to seek refuge at her aunt Patricia and uncle Bruce’s home while the remainder of the family stays at their home in an attempt combat the evil that inhabits their residence. The evil Rev. Kane eventually finds out where Carol Anne is hiding and continues to terrorize her from beyond the grave. By this time Heather O’Rourke and Zelda Rubinstein are the only members of the original cast to appear in this installment.

And the curse? Maybe you haven’t heard about the curse? If you haven’t you must not be old enough to remember the original films when they were released – or – you may have been living in a cave for nearly three decades. Either way, let me refresh your memory. The so-called “curse” that plagued the cast of the Poltergeist movie series began when four of the leading cast members from the original Poltergeist film died by the time that Poltergeist III was released, but where did all of this “curse” business originally begin? One of the primary thoughts about the origin of the curse centers around the “pool scene.” It was no secret that in the rain soaked “pool scene,” where Jo Beth Williams falls into a partially excavated swimming pool in the Freeling’s backyard, that the skeletons that were used in the production of this scene were real human remains, not plastic props. Between the use of real human remains, the supernatural theme of the film and the interspersed references to demons many believed that the movie was cursed from the start. If it’s true, over the years the Poltergeist Curse has caused the “unnatural” deaths of at least eight victims who worked in or on the set of the Poltergeist series:

Dominique Dunne – Cast as Dana, the Freeling’s oldest child, in the original Poltergeist movie was strangled to death by a jealous boyfriend in 1982.

Julian Beck – Cast as Rev. Henry Kane in Poltergeist II: The Other Side died of stomach cancer in 1985.

Will Sampson – Cast as the American Indian shaman in Poltergeist II: The Other Side died of post operative kidney failure in 1987.

Heather O’Rourke – Cast as Carol Anne Freeling in all three of the Poltergeist movies died in 1988 of septic shock after bacterial toxins entered her bloodstream.

Beatrice Straight – Cast as Dr. Lesh in the original Poltergeist film died of pneumonia in 2001 at age 87.

Brian Gibson – Director of Poltergeist II: The Other Side died of bone cancer in 2004 at the age of 59.

Susan Peretz – Cast as “daughter” in Poltergeist II: The Other Side died of breast cancer in 2004 at age 64.

Geraldine Fitzgerald – Cast as Grandma Jess in Poltergeist II: The Other Side died of Alzheimer’s related complications in 2005 at age 91.

Even if there is no so-called curse attached to the Poltergeist movie series there does seem to be an unusually high rate of deaths associated with the cast of this film series, which now begs the question: Will this 2011 remake of the original Poltergeist movie spawn more “unnatural” deaths or is the curse merely an over hyped urban legend? I guess we’ll find out more as we move forward, but it seems as if…“they’re back!”

Actress Zelda Rubinstein - Cast as the ghost purging psychic in all three Poltergeist films died of complications from a heart attack in January 2010 at age 76.

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