Poltergeist (film series)

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Original work Poltergeist
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 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.

MGM and 20th Century Fox co-financed a "revisionist" reboot of the series, which was released in May 2015.[1]


Poltergeist is the original film in the trilogy, directed by Tobe Hooper and co-written by Steven Spielberg and released on June 4, 1982. The story focuses on the Freeling family, which consists of Steven (Craig T. Nelson); Diane (JoBeth Williams); Dana (Dominique Dunne); Robbie (Oliver Robins) and Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), who live in a California housing development called Cuesta Verde, only it is eventually haunted by ghosts. The ghosts communicate only with Carol Anne through the family's television set, and are under the control of a demon known as the "Beast." The ghosts, attracted to Carol Anne's life force and believing she will help lead them into the "Light", abduct her through her bedroom closet, which acts as a portal to their dimension. Most of the film involves the efforts to rescue her on the part of her family, a group of parapsychologists and a spiritual medium named Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein). Carol Anne is eventually retrieved from the other side and, following a second attack by the Beast that reveals the ghosts had originated from an improperly relocated cemetery underneath the neighborhood, the family flees Cuesta Verde, while the house caves in on itself and is sucked into another dimension.[2]

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 an underground 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.[2][3]

The final film in the original trilogy, Poltergeist III, was directed and co-written by Gary Sherman and released on June 10, 1988. In order to protect Carol Anne, the Freelings have sent her to temporarily live with her skeptic relatives, Pat and Bruce Gardner (Nancy Allen and Tom Skerritt) and their daughter Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), who reside in a Chicago skyscraper. However, Carol Anne's recollection of her experiences during her psychiatric sessions enable Kane and his followers to locate her and make contact through the building's ubiquitous mirrors.[2][4] After the ghosts abduct Carol Anne, then Donna, her boyfriend Scott (Kipley Wentz), Pat, and Bruce enlist the help of Tangina to retrieve them, who eventually sacrifices herself to save the family by escorting Kane into the Light.

The 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 and relocates 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.

Cast and crew[edit]


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

Character Film
Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Poltergeist III
Carol Anne Freeling Heather O'Rourke
Steven Freeling Craig T. Nelson
Diane Freeling JoBeth Williams
Dana Freeling Dominique Dunne
Robert Freeling Oliver Robins
Dr. Martha Lesh Beatrice Straight
Ryan Mitchell Richard Lawson
Dr. Marty Casey Martin 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" (Mentioned only) Julian Beck

Nobel Craig (Vomit Creature)1

Nathan Davis

Corey Burton (Voiced)2


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


Crew/Detail Film
Poltergeist (1982) Poltergeist II: The Other Side Poltergeist III Poltergeist (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
Running time 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 [6]
Poltergeist II: The Other Side May 23, 1986 (1986-05-23) $19 million $40,996,665 N/A $40,996,665 [6]
Poltergeist III June 10, 1988 (1988-06-10) $9.5 million $14,114,488 N/A $14,114,488 [6]
Poltergeist (2015) May 22, 2015 (2015-05-22) $35 million $47,425,125 $48,210,406 $95,635,531 [7]
Total $74.2 million $178,545,003 N/A $272,452,703
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  • A dark grey cell indicates the information is not available for the film.

Critical response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Poltergeist (1982) 88% (56 reviews)[8] 79 (7 reviews)[9]
Poltergeist II: The Other Side 39% (18 reviews)[10] N/A
Poltergeist III 13% (16 reviews)[11] N/A
Poltergeist (2015) 33% (100 reviews)[12] 47 (27 reviews)[13]
Average 43% 63


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.[14]

The Poltergeist curse[edit]

The "Poltergeist curse" is a rumored curse attached to the Poltergeist trilogy and its crew, derived from the fact that four cast members died in the six years between the releases of the first and third films.[2][15] The rumor is often fueled by the fact that real skeletons were used as props in various scenes of Poltergeist and Poltergeist II: The Other Side.[16] The rumor and the surrounding deaths were explored in a 2002 episode of E! True Hollywood Story titled "Curse of Poltergeist".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "MGM, Fox 2000 To Co-Finance & Distribute ‘Poltergeist’; Production To Start This Fall". Deadline Hollywood. June 20, 2013.
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Kelhoffrr, Josh (23 June 2010). "They’re Back: The Story of the Inevitable Sequel". Poltergeist Online. 
  4. ^ Kelhoffrr, Josh (23 June 2010). "Spirits in the City: The Third and Final Sequel". Poltergeist Online. 
  5. ^ "Interview with the Voice of Kane". PoltergeistIII.com. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c "Box Office History for Poltergeist Movies". The-Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "Poltergeist (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 25, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Poltergeist (1982)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Poltergeist Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 31, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Poltergeist III (1988)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Poltergeist (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Poltergeist Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  14. ^ Mackie, Drew (May 20, 2015). "20 Things You Might Not Know About the Original Poltergeist Trilogy". People. Time Inc. Archived from the original on May 21, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Mikkelson, Barbara. "Poltergeist Deaths", Snopes.com, August 17, 2007
  16. ^ "Poltergeist & The Poltergeist Curse". Paranormal Entertainment. 26 December 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  17. ^ "Dominique Dunne, Actress, Dies After Being Choked", The New York Times, November 5, 1982
  18. ^ S. Freedman, "Julien Beck, 60, is Dead; Founded Living Theater", The New York Times, September 17, 1985
  19. ^ B. Folkart, "Role in Cuckoo's Nest; Will Sampson, Gentle Indian Giant, Dies," Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1987
  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 May 17, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 

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