Poltergeist (franchise)

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Poltergeist Filmlogo.png
Official franchise logo
Created bySteven Spielberg
Original workPoltergeist
Owned byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Films and television
Television series

Poltergeist is an American horror film series distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during the 1980s. The original trilogy revolves around the members of the Freeling family, who are stalked and terrorized by a group of ghosts, led by a demon known as the Beast, that are attracted to the youngest daughter, Carol Anne. The original film was co-written and produced by Steven Spielberg. The Poltergeist films collected a total of approximately $132 million at the United States box office.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with co-financing from 20th Century Fox, released a "revisionist" reboot of the series[1] in May 2015.[2]


Poltergeist (1982)[edit]

Poltergeist is the original film in the trilogy, directed by Tobe Hooper, co-written by Steven Spielberg and released on June 4, 1982. The story focuses on the Freeling family, which consists of parents Steve (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane (JoBeth Williams); teenage daughter Dana (Dominique Dunne); eight-year-old Robbie (Oliver Robins); and 5-year-old Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), who live Cuesta Verde, a California housing development which comes to be haunted by ghosts. The apparitions, under the control of a demon known as the "Beast", communicate through the family's television set and can only be heard by Carol Anne. Attracted to her life force and believing she will help lead them into the "Light", the specters abduct Carol Anne through her bedroom closet, which acts as a portal to their dimension. Much of the film involves the family's efforts to rescue their daughter, aided by a group of parapsychologists (Beatrice Straight, Martin Casella, Richard Lawson) and Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein), a spiritual medium. 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 beneath the neighborhood, the Freelings flee Cuesta Verde just before the house implodes and disappears into another dimension.[3]

Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)[edit]

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 in anticipation of the end of the world, had sealed themselves in a cavern 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.[3][4]

Poltergeist III (1988)[edit]

The final film in the original trilogy, Poltergeist III, directed and co-written by Gary Sherman, was released on June 10, 1988. In order to protect Carol Anne, the Freelings have sent her to live temporarily in a Chicago skyscraper with skeptic relatives Pat and Bruce Gardner (Nancy Allen and Tom Skerritt) and their daughter Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle). However, Carol Anne's recollection of her experiences during psychiatric sessions enables Kane and his followers to locate her and make contact through the building's ubiquitous mirrors.[3][5] After the ghosts abduct Carol Anne and then Donna, her boyfriend Scott (Kipley Wentz), Pat, and Bruce enlist the help of Tangina to rescue them; Tangina eventually escorts Kane into the spectral Light, sacrificing herself to save the family.

Poltergeist (2015)[edit]

The reboot of the series, Poltergeist, was directed by Gil Kenan and released on May 22, 2015. It centers on a family struggling to make ends meet who relocate to a suburban home and like the original, the youngest daughter is kidnapped by spirits that possess the house. Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt star as the married couple, Kennedi Clements plays the daughter, and Jared Harris plays the host of a paranormal-themed TV show who comes to the aid of the family.


On April 10, 2019, it was announced that Russo Brothers would helm a new remake of the franchise.[6]


Poltergeist: The Legacy (1996–1999)[edit]

A spin-off television series, Poltergeist: The Legacy, ran from 1996 to 1999, though it does not have any connection to the films other than the title.[7]

Cast and crew[edit]


The following table shows the cast members who played the primary characters in the film series.

Character Original series Reboot
Poltergeist Poltergeist II:
The Other Side
Poltergeist III Poltergeist
1982 1986 1988 2015
Carol Anne Freeling Heather O'Rourke
Steve Freeling Craig T. Nelson
Diane Freeling JoBeth Williams
Dana Freeling Dominique Dunne
Robbie Freeling Oliver Robins
Dr. Martha Lesh Beatrice Straight
Ryan Mitchell Richard Lawson
Dr. Marty Casey Martin Casella
Tangina Barrons Zelda Rubinstein
Jessica Wilson Geraldine Fitzgerald
Taylor Will Sampson
Bruce Gardner Tom Skerritt
Pat Wilson-Gardner Nancy Allen
Donna Gardner Lara Flynn Boyle
Dr. Seaton Richard Fire
Scott Kipley Wentz
Reverend Henry Kane / "The Beast" Julian Beck

Noble Craig (Vomit Creature)1

Nathan Davis

Corey Burton (Voiced)2

Madison Bowen Kennedi Clements
Eric Bowen Sam Rockwell
Amy Bowen Rosemarie DeWitt
Griffin Bowen Kyle Catlett
Kendra Bowen Saxon Sharbino
Carrigan Burke Jared Harris
Dr. Brooke Powell Jane Adams
Boyd Nicholas Braun

1. Henry Kane in his "Vomit Creature" incarnation is portrayed by Noble Craig.
2. Though Henry Kane was portrayed by Nathan Davis, he was voiced by Corey Burton.


Occupation Film
Poltergeist Poltergeist II:
The Other Side
Poltergeist III Poltergeist
1982 1986 1988 2015
Director Tobe Hooper Brian Gibson Gary Sherman Gil Kenan
Writer(s) Michael Grais
Steven Spielberg
Mark Victor
Michael Grais
Mark Victor
Gary Sherman
Brian Taggert
David Lindsay-Abaire
Producer(s) Frank Marshall
Steven Spielberg
Michael Grais
Mark Victor
Barry Bernardi Roy Lee
Sam Raimi
Robert Tapert
Composer Jerry Goldsmith Joe Renzetti Marc Streitenfeld
Cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti Andrew Laszlo Alex Nepomniaschy Javier Aguirresarobe
Editor Michael Kahn Thom Noble
Bud S. Smith
M. Scott Smith
Ross Albert Jeff Betancourt
Bob Murawski
Distributor by MGM/UA Entertainment Co. MGM Entertainment Co. MGM/UA Communications Co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
20th Century Fox
Production company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
SLM Production Group
Mist Entertainment
Amblin Productions
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Fox 2000 Pictures
Ghost House Pictures
TSG Entertainment
Vertigo Entertainment
Release date June 4, 1982 May 23, 1986 June 10, 1988 May 22, 2015
Runtime 114 minutes 91 minutes 98 minutes 93 minutes


Box office performance[edit]

Film Release date (US) Budget Box office revenue Reference
United States Foreign Worldwide
Poltergeist (1982) June 4, 1982 (1982-06-04) $10.7 million $76,606,280 $45,099,739 $121,706,019 [9]
Poltergeist II: The Other Side May 23, 1986 (1986-05-23) $19 million $40,996,665 N/A $40,996,665 [9]
Poltergeist III June 10, 1988 (1988-06-10) $9.5 million $14,114,488 N/A $14,114,488 [9]
Poltergeist (2015) May 22, 2015 (2015-05-22) $35 million $47,425,125 $48,210,406 $95,635,531 [10]
Total $74.2 million $178,545,003 N/A $272,452,703
List indicator(s)
  • A dark grey cell indicates the information is not available for the film.

Critical and public response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Poltergeist (1982) 86% (59 reviews)[11] 79 (7 reviews)[12]
Poltergeist II: The Other Side 37% (19 reviews)[13] N/A
Poltergeist III 17% (18 reviews)[14] N/A
Poltergeist (2015) 31% (128 reviews)[15] 47 (27 reviews)[16]
Average 43% 63

Poltergeist curse[edit]

The "Poltergeist curse" is a rumored curse attached to the Poltergeist trilogy and its crew, derived from the deaths of two young cast members in the six years between the releases of the first and third films.[3][17] The rumor and the surrounding deaths were explored in a 2002 episode of E! True Hollywood Story titled "Curse of Poltergeist".[18]

  • Dominique Dunne, who played the eldest daughter Dana in the first film, died on November 4, 1982, at age 22 after being strangled by her ex-boyfriend John Thomas Sweeney.[19] He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison, but was paroled after serving three and a half years.[17] This was her only motion picture appearance before her death.


The Curse of Poltergeist, a documentary film based on the mystery of the franchise, was set to begin shooting in November 2015. The upcoming film will be directed by Adam Ripp and will be financed and produced by his company Vega Baby, alongside Indonesia-based MD Pictures. The documentary will focus on the life and experiences of actor Oliver Robins, who played Robbie Freeling in the first and second installments of the franchise, as a way to explore the tragedies that have befallen those involved with the films.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "MGM, Fox 2000 To Co-Finance & Distribute ‘Poltergeist’; Production To Start This Fall". Deadline Hollywood. June 20, 2013.
  2. ^ Hipes, Patrick. "Rosemarie DeWitt Chimes In For 'La La Land'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Lee, Joseph (4 September 2008). "A Bloody Good Time 9.04.08: Poltergeist Franchise Breakdown". 411mania.com. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  4. ^ Kelhoffrr, Josh (23 June 2010). "They're Back: The Story of the Inevitable Sequel". Poltergeist Online.
  5. ^ Kelhoffrr, Josh (23 June 2010). "Spirits in the City: The Third and Final Sequel". Poltergeist Online.
  6. ^ https://bloody-disgusting.com/movie/3555052/poltergeist-getting-remade-captain-america-avengers-directors/
  7. ^ Mackie, Drew (May 20, 2015). "20 Things You Might Not Know About the Original Poltergeist Trilogy". People. Archived from the original on May 21, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  8. ^ "Interview with the Voice of Kane". PoltergeistIII.com. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  9. ^ a b c "Box Office History for Poltergeist Movies". The-Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  10. ^ "Poltergeist (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  11. ^ "Poltergeist (1982)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  12. ^ "Poltergeist Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  13. ^ "Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  14. ^ "Poltergeist III (1988)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  15. ^ "Poltergeist (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  16. ^ "Poltergeist Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  17. ^ a b Mikkelson, Barbara. "Poltergeist Deaths", Snopes.com, August 17, 2007
  18. ^ "Documentary to Explore 'Poltergeist' Movie Curse". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-08-14.
  19. ^ "Dominique Dunne, Actress, Dies After Being Choked", The New York Times, November 5, 1982
  20. ^ Baker, Bob (May 26, 1988). "Suit Blames Doctors in Death of Young Actress". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California, US: Tribune Company. p. 35. ISSN 0458-3035. OCLC 3638237. Retrieved August 7, 2008.
  21. ^ "Heather O'Rourke, 12; Starred in 'Poltergeist'". The New York Times. February 3, 1988. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  22. ^ Folkart, Burt A. (February 2, 1988). "'Poltergeist' Star Heather O'Rourke Dies at Age of 12". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California, US: Tribune Company. p. 3. ISSN 0458-3035. OCLC 3638237. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  23. ^ Mia Galuppo (October 7, 2015). "Documentary to Explore 'Poltergeist' Movie Curse". The Hollywood Reporter. (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved October 8, 2015.

External links[edit]