Celebration of Wickedness Day 18: POLTERGEIST
“It lies to her. It tells her things only a child would understand. It’s using her to restrain the others. To her, it simply is another child. To us, it is the beast.”
Yes, my little readers, Poltergeist, the scariest movie made for children, is your serving of wickedness for the day. You know I’m right. I don’t think I know a single adult who saw this movie as an adult; everyone saw this as a kid and has been sleeping with their closet doors shut ever since. This movie did more damage to the clown industry than the Simpsons and Pennywise combined. On the upside, we all learned a new German word to be terrified of.
Poltergeist hit theatres in 1982 and that was a pretty pivotal year for me. I was 9, my parents got divorced that year and my siblings and I were staying with my grandmother that summer (yes, the same one who took us to see Jaws 2 and then turned around and took us the beach). In that summer, in that season of uncertainty, I got to the experience both the wonder and the terror of my childhood: literally in one seven-day period, I saw both E.T. and Poltergeist. I remember my brother and I sleeping head to foot in the same bed because my room had a closet and the door to the attic. I think I peed myself that night. I have not been the same since.
Before I go any further, since this film falls into the “Hey, dummy, your house is haunted, can’t you tell?” category, I have to deliver a short Public Service Announcement. Imagine me speaking as the authoritative black guy from the Allstate commercials: If you turn your back to wash dishes, turn around and your chairs are stacked on the kitchen table like a jenga tower and the only folks in the house are you, your 4-year-old daughter and the dog, LEAVE. If you can put a football helmet on your child and have them scoot inexplicably across the floor, pulled some unseen force, LEAVE. If the tree in the backyard tries to eat your son—and he is not DMFRH—LEAVE. That’s Christopher Starr’s stand.
That said, Poltergeist was an amazing movie. It taught us not to eat that uncovered chicken in the fridge, don’t pick at that thing on your face, and do not ignore the fact that your child is having a conversation with a staticy TV. And we learned that you should never buy a house on land that was once a cemetery—there’s a good chance you’ll end up having this conversation: “You sonofabitch! You moved the cemetery but you left the bodies, didn’t you?! You only moved the headstones!”
Pound for pound, Poltergeist ranks as one of the scariest movies and the ghost itself as one of the greatest villains because it touched on everything we were frightened of in the 80s: clowns, ghosts, child abduction, too much TV (remember, MTV was out at that point), thunderstorms, the monster under our beds. The suburbs were supposed to the safe place, the haven for white flight, the realization of the American dream. We were supposed to be safe out there. Poltergeist shows us that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, how much you make, there are things that can reach out and touch you anywhere. That can get you anywhere. That can take what is important to you. That shit is scary.
Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It’s time for me to go! Tomorrow we’re gonna look at the coldest broad to ever grace a fairytale: my letter Q is the Evil Queen from Snow White.