It was just about 33 years ago that the original Poltergeist began its theatrical haunt, crossing over from the other side in June of 1982. Directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, the film was a big time box office success, and it wasn’t long before it was solidified as a genuine piece of pop culture history.
With the remake hitting theaters this weekend, we talk Poltergeist here on iHorror today. So here are ten things you might not know about the original classic!
1) The idea for Poltergeist came out of a science fiction film that Steven Spielberg was working on back in the late 1970s called Night Skies. The movie, which never got made, was about a family being terrorized by alien creatures, and ideas developed for that project eventually became the basis for Poltergeist.
2) Though it came equipped with a PG rating, Poltergeist gets highly disturbing in perhaps the most memorable scene, when paranormal investigator Marty literally peels his entire face off. It was of course a dummy head that was used for the scene, and it was none other than Steven Spielberg whose hands ripped the face apart.
3) Another memorable moment from Poltergeist was the infamous ‘pool scene,’ wherein Diane Freeling is terrorized by a bunch of muddy skeletons. According to both makeup artist Craig Reardon and star JoBeth Williams, those were real skeletons rather than props – though at the time, Williams was sure they were plastic.
4) At one point in time, Drew Barrymore was considered for the role of Carol Anne Freeling, which ended up being played by the late Heather O’Rourke. Barrymore auditioned for the film and it was on the strength of that audition that Spielberg cast her in E.T. – which was filming right around the same time.
5) There’s been a lot of talk in regards to who actually directed Poltergeist, with many believing that it was Spielberg who directed the majority of the film – rather than Tobe Hooper (above). According to various sources, Spielberg was on set for the entirety of the shoot, and did more hands-on directing than Hooper – who is credited as the film’s director.
6) The late Zelda Rubinstein, who played psychic Tangina in the film, claimed that she had actual psychic abilities in real life. One night, she says, she had a vision wherein her dog appeared before her and said goodbye. Just a few hours later, Rubinstein’s mother called her to let her know that her dog had passed away.
7) Poltergeist was the highest-grossing horror film of 1982, as well as the eighth highest-grossing film released that entire year. Other horror films that hit theaters in 1982 include Creepshow, Friday the 13th Part 3, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, and John Carpenter’s The Thing.
8) When Poltergeist was originally released in theaters, Pizza Hut was very upset about a line of dialogue that saw Steven Freeling remark that he hates Pizza Hut. In order to appease the company, the dialogue was crudely cut from the film for all home video releases, resulting in a very noticeable edit around the 34-minute mark.
9) In the iconic scene where Carol Anne is awoken by the static on the Freeling family’s television, the clock on the TV set reads ‘2:37.’ Many over the years have speculated that this is an homage to The Shining, released two years earlier, which prominently featured that very same number.
10) Poltergeist was nominated for three Oscars at the 1983 Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Original Score. It was beaten in all three categories by E.T., which was of course directed by Steven Spielberg. Nothing like beating yourself!