Poll: How old are your children? (select as many as apply)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Movie #27: Poltergeist (1982)

"I got beat up once by three kids. They took my lunch money. Maybe they got hit by a truck, and they're upstairs right now."

Another movie that's not for the wee ones in the family. In fact, there are only three films in the list with higher recommended ages. So don't let the fact that one of the main characters is only seven years old fool you: sure, it's cute when Carol Ann glides across the floor, pushed by some unseen hands, but I'm sure there are plenty of adults out there who screamed like little girls when that clown showed up behind Robbie. Yes, I'm talking about you.

Besides, you wouldn't want to subject your little ones to a steak that erupts maggots, a swimming pool full of corpses, or a guy peeling off his face in the bathroom, would you? If you did, I suspect you'd be looking for advice elsewhere.


  • Rating: PG (previously rated R)*
    *According to the book, "Hollywood Bloodshed: Violence in 1980s American Cinema" by James Kendrick:
    "...when it was initially submitted to CARA, Poltergeist was rated R. The intensity of the scares, the gore of a nightmare-fantasy in which a paranormal investigator hallucinates that he's ripping his own face off, the hordes of rotting corpses, and the consistent direction of violence against children was enough to warrant the restrictive rating. Interestingly, though, CARA chairman Richard Heffner insisted that the film should be rated R, not for "violence," but for "terror," which he felt was increased dramatically by the film's impressive use of Dolby surround sound to envelop the viewer. However, because MGM/UA, the film's financier and distributor, saw teenagers as the film's target audience, it appealed the decision with the Appeals Board, which is comprised of representative members of the major studios, distributors, and exhibitors. The Appeals Board voted overwhelmingly to rate Poltergeist PG, and just like that, an R-rated film became a PG-rated film without having to remove a single frame."

  • Minimum Recommended Age: 12.5 (Common Sense Media: "Iffy for ages 12-13")

  • Quality Rating: 85.0% (Common Sense Media: 5 stars, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 7.0)

  • Number of Lists Recommend: 2

  • Sex/Violence/Profanity: A female character's shirt is lifted by spirits (non-sexually), although no nudity is shown. A character graphically peels off his face and parts of it fall into a sink. Some minor curse words are uttered, but nothing strong.

  • Main Child Character Age: Carol Anne: 5 (Heather O'Rourke was 7 at the time), Robbie: 11

  • Running Time: 115 minutes

  • What does it have to do with Halloween? Nothing


From IMDB: A young family are visited by ghosts in their home. At first the ghosts appear friendly, moving objects around the house to the amusement of everyone, then they turn nasty and start to terrorise the family before they "kidnap" the youngest daughter.

Watch Out For

Common Sense Media: "Parents need to know that this movie touches on many things that are frightening to kids (and some adults), including scary shadows in the dark, monsters in the closet, and separation from family. A character rips the flesh from his face (though eventually we see he's hallucinating). A young boy is attacked by a ghost-inhabited tree. A girl is taken from her parents and held in a netherworld where she's menaced by a character it's intimated is evil. The parents are seen smoking marijuana, and are apparently regular users."

IMDB: "Although no deaths are evident in the films, it has many scenes that place children in threatening conditions. Several scenes might also be considered too strong for the youngest audiences. One scene features scores of skeletons. Children who fear clowns probably shouldn't watch."

Talk About It

Common Sense Media:
* Families can talk about what makes this movie so scary. Are the effects, the ghosts and other things that you see, that are so frightening? Or is the situations?
* Did you identify with the little girl who was taken away? What about the little boy attacked by a tree?
* Did this movie make you think of the times when you were little that you thought there were monsters in the closet or under the bed?
* Why do people like watching movies that frighten them?

* What is a poltergeist?
* I've read that this movie is cursed. What's that all about?
* What's up with that bad edit right before the Freelings show up at the next-door neighbors' house?
* Why did the tree go after Robbie when the poltergeists were really after Carol Anne?
* What is the light?
* Why did the poltergeists want Carol Anne?
* Why doesn't Tangina just send the ghosts into the light?

Of Note


At the Movies Review


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