By: Ameila Cox
Much to the dismay of my sister, who has a love of all things creepy and scary, I long refused to watch horror movies, especially gory ones. I fell asleep from fear (an unexplainable family trait that my sister and I share) when I had to watch Alien vs Predator in a Science Fiction class in high school. So when I took “Film as Literature” (I know) from the same teacher, and one of the genres on our syllabus was Horror I was about ready to abandon ship. But watching Poltergeist changed my life in the way only an eighties horror flick can.
Poltergeist has everything a good horror movie should: it has a creepy kid, ghosts, zombies, and the scariest clown puppet in the universe. My teacher highly recommended the sequel, mentioning that one of the characters in the movie was so convincing as a villain because he was dying of cancer during filming. This, of course, peaked my interest so I jumped on the internet right after school to search for information about the actor. What I found blew my mind.
Poltergeist is well known as being cursed, similar the John Wayne film The Conqueror, which was filmed on a test field for nuclear bombs, but much less cut and dry. Dominque Dunne, who plays the oldest child, Dana, in the Freeling family, the protagonists in the Poltergeist films, was strangled by her abusive ex-boyfriend in her driveway days after she left him; she died later in the hospital. Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Ann, the youngest of the Freelings, died during surgery to correct the problem causing her toxic shock syndrome at age 12. There is even some question surrounding whether or not filming was actually completed at the time of her death, which led to speculation running rampant about her body-double filming the last of her scenes. And Will Sampson, who played opposite Julian Beck (who died of stomach cancer before Poltergeist II was released), died after surgery for a heart and lung transplant due to complications pre- and post-operation.
The Poltergeist Curse is undeniably sad, four people, two of them very young, died quickly if not unexpectedly. But there is just something about the possibility of a curse that adds to the experience of a film, and it really makes you wonder if these were just freak incidents or coincidences.