Ha ha! I’m mixing it up a little bit on you this wonderful Friday morning (or afternoon, depending on when I’m finally able to finish writing this). Today is a special Flashback, because it’s all about a movie from my childhood that holds an extra EXTRA special place in my heart as well as having a wonderful teaser poster affiliated with it.
I give you 1982’s horror movie classic, Poltergeist. This is the first modern horror movie that I can remember watching. I say “modern,” because before seeing this movie, I remember watching 1950s/60s-era horror and thriller movies—things like the Steve McQueen version of the The Blob or Vincent Price in House of Usher. They were adequate, but they were also dated and sufficiently edited for regular television (yes, I am from the generation that did not always have cable or satellite television; save your tears).
But this movie…this was completely different. True, I have seen scarier since, but the impact this movie made on me when I first saw it remains with me to this day. I believe I was either 7 or 8 years old when I first saw it, although the more I marinate on it, the more inclined I am to go with 8. I saw it with my parents during a weekend visit to my aunt’s house. Perhaps not the best idea for one so young and with a rapidly developing imagination. I know that I had nightmares that night, but luckily I didn’t remember them.
I do, however, remember the utter panic that overcame me as I walked my aunt’s dog through the very large, very empty, and very soggy backyard. With each step I took, all I kept imagining were decaying hands thrusting through the damp soil, grabbing at our feet as we headed back toward the house. To this day, I can still remember the tang of that fear, the immobilizing strength of it in my mind. I might have even broken out into a run for the house, but I can’t be certain. All I know is that this movie scared the ever-loving crud out of me…and I love it for that very reason.
If only Hollywood had seen fit to leave this movie as a stand-alone rather than sully it with increasingly inferior sequels. And, of course, there is a deeper sense of sadness for me now when I watch this movie, knowing that two from its ranks—two of its youngest stars—are no longer with us. Not long after its release, 22-year-old Dominique Dunne was killed by an ex-boyfriend. And in 1988, 12-year-old Heather O’Rourke died from a stomach blockage. She was one year older than me, and I remember feeling her passing with a sense of sadness and incomprehension that someone so young and so important to my world could be lost before life really even started for her. Strange where and how life lessons arise.
On a happier side note, Showtime came up with a rather interesting show premise that fed on the marketing potential of the Poltergeist legacy, by creating a series called, ironically enough, Poltergeist: The Legacy. It was an odd show with an even odder collection of characters and actors. It hung in there for four seasons before being released to the wilds of sci-fi/horror reruns. I loved this show. It was campy at times but also laced with a disturbing darkness that for some reason appeals to me a great deal. I was overjoyed when the first season finally appeared on DVD. Unfortunately, that was two years ago, and they’ve yet to release any of the other seasons. I’m forced to question the sanity of a universe in which one can purchase all five seasons of The Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, but I can’t complete my Legacy collection.
As for the movie poster, this is again proof to support my love of the “less is more” approach. Simple black background, with one image…one image that is so indelibly and intrinsically a part of the very fabric of my generation: Little Carol Anne kneeling, her tiny hands pressed against the static-filled television screen. Can’t you hear it in your mind right now? The small, lyrical declaration that sings from her lips? “They’re he-ere.” Not the least bit of fear in her voice when she says it, but even thinking about the line now gives me shivers.
Of course, this tagline needed to be included in the poster. Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg both must have known that it would be a standout moment from this amazing movie. Then we get a simple sans serif font, black with a ghostly white outline, for the title, followed by the second tagline: “It knows what scares you.” Emphasis on “it,” please. Such a great poster treatment for a movie that remains in my top 10 favorite horror/thriller movies. I might even have to fire it up for another viewing tonight. Just have to stay alert and make sure the TV People don’t get me when I go to bed…