Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids. He is the author the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Bethany and the Zombie Jesus, Stark- An Illustrated Novella, the YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, and the forthcoming YA horror novel Intentional Haunting. Find him at jakebible.com.
Poltergeist. You know the movie I’m talking about. The 1982 film written by Steven Speilberg and Michael Grais, directed by Tobe Hooper and starring Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams. If you’ve never seen the movie then stop reading now, there be spoilers ahead!
Now, here’s the thing about this movie, which I love, it hates children. Yep, you read that right: It Hates Children!
I know some of you are reading this and saying, “But I loved that movie as a kid.” Oh, I’m sure you told yourself that, but really think back on it. Think back to the moments that stick in your brain. Think back to the scenes that really grabbed you and you still can visualize like you are in that dark theater, popcorn in your lap, soda at your side, fear in your belly.
You know the scenes I’m talking about? The TV. The clown. The fried chicken. The tree. The pool. Yeah, those scenes. What do they have in common? They are all childhood loves that have been taken from us and warped and twisted and turned into evil horrors that will never let us enjoy life again. EVER!
Ok, maybe a little harsh there, but you get what I mean.
Let’s start with the iconic TV. The youngest daughter of the Freeling family has first contact with the entities that have invaded the Freeling home. Not by whispers in the dark. Not by scrawled messages in blood on the wall. Not be possession where she has to speak in a deep man’s voice and roll her eyes up into her head. Nope. Those buggers talk to her through the static on the family television set. What should be a happy childhood escape has become a conduit for Evil!
What’s next? That clown. That nasty, nasty clown. Sure, many people have an irrational (rational?) fear of clowns. They can be creepy with their weird make-up, hair, shoes, ability to bend time and space inside their cars, but they are supposed to be funny and happy and bring joy. Not the Freeling clown. Oh, heck no! It’s a stuffed clown that sits in a rocking chair in Robbie Freeling’s room. And Robbie is on to that sucker. He knows something is wrong. He knows his stuffed clown is not so funny and happy and doesn’t want to bring joy. Oh, no, no, no. It wants to bring terror and pain and the fear of all that makes us feel safe and lets us drift off to sleep at night. Yeah, that clown decides that it can stretch its arms to deadly lengths. Oh, and that said arms can then wrap around your neck and strangle the life out of you!
Not convinced? Fried chicken. Now, I’m a vegetarian, so the scene doesn’t have quite the punch now as when I was young. But at ten years old I loved me some fried chicken! If I saw a buffet line with fried chicken then half that platter would be on my plate in no time. Until I watched Poltergeist. Then I had to inspect every single piece of chicken I ever looked at from there on out. Why so dramatic? Maggots, people, maggots. One of the paranormal investigators gets the munchies and decides he can raid the Freeling’s fridge. Bad house manners aside, it was not the best choice. Because them poltergeists decided he needed to see maggots crawling on the chicken. And also that he needed to go puke in the bathroom sink and rip his face off!
That’s a little more than eleven herbs and spices, I tell ya.
The climbing tree. Every kid loves a good climbing tree. Well, at least until it rips through your bedroom window and yanks you out into a storm so it can eat you! No kid likes that. Well, no kid that doesn’t end up without cutting issues. Yeah, thanks Poltergeist! Thank you for making me eye that huge Douglas Fir in my backyard with fear and wariness. I used to climb that thing like a spider monkey on speed. But not after watching that scene. Every time my jeans got snagged by a twig or I felt a branch brush my hair I screamed like I was going to die right at that moment.
I learned how to chop and split wood pretty soon after that.
And last, but not least, the pool. I grew up swimming. I could actually swim before I could walk. And I begged my parents to put a pool in our backyard. Nothing huge, just something with a deep end and a diving board. I dreamed and dreamed of the day that would come. But, no, Poltergeist couldn’t let me have that dream without twisting it into a nightmare. The Freelings were having a pool put in, so they had a very large dirt hole in the backyard. Big storm comes, hole fills with water, Freelings fall in the water, coffins, skeletons, desiccated corpses start popping up. Not exactly summer fun.
Everyone out of the pool!
And here’s the kicker, if you don’t believe me that Poltergeist hates children: it was PG. Sure, this was before PG-13. And giving it an R back then would have meant box office death. Plus, let’s face it, other than some language and the horror elements, its family friendly. And they knew this. They knew children would see it with Parental Guidance. But what could a parent say after all that is held dear in childhood is ripped apart right before your eyes? “Sleep tight.” Yeah, not happening.
So there you have it, my case that Poltergeist HATES THE CHILDREN!
And full disclosure: I watched it with my kids and couldn’t help but smile as I observed them go through the same thing I did. Does that make me a bad parent? I don’t think so. My son already hated clowns. We are vegetarian, so no fried chicken. The tree in our backyard is way too big to climb. TV doesn’t have static anymore just a blank screen when no signal is coming in. And we have no plans of getting a pool.
At least that’s what I tell myself.