The eerie "Poltergeist" curse

The eerie "Poltergeist" curse

Kennedi Clements in "Poltergeist" (2015).

It's bound to happen sooner or later. Yet another famous '80s horror property has become a subject of a reboot. Released in the U.S. last month, the new "Poltergeist" marks a long-awaited follow-up for director Gil Kenan since his last movie, "City of Ember" back in 2008.

But as we wait for the local release this coming Thursday, let's recap back on the first "Poltergeist" trilogy during the '80s. Apart from the varied success of the three movies, do you know the "Poltergeist" trilogy is also notorious for its dreaded curse? Read on below to find out.


Heather O'Rourke in one of the frightening moments from "Poltergeist".

Released during the summer of 1982 – the very season that churned out Hollywood classics like "Blade Runner", "Conan the Barbarian", "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" and "The Road Warrior (a.k.a. Mad Max 2)", the particular month of June was a banner year for then-young filmmaker Steven Spielberg. One was "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial", another one was of course, "Poltergeist". Directed by Tobe Hooper (best known in 1974's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre") and produced by Spielberg, "Poltergeist" was a financial hit with US$76.6 million made at the U.S. box office alone. It was highly regarded by many critics as one of the best modern horror movies ever made in Hollywood cinema and still serves as a benchmark until today. "Poltergeist" was so successful that it spawned two (inferior) sequels, with "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" (1986)" and "Poltergeist III" (1988).


JoBeth Williams in the terrifying pool scene from "Poltergeist".

Despite the success of the original movie, "Poltergeist" was also known as one of the most cursed movies ever witnessed that was plagued with a mix of shocking and bizarre real-life tragedies surrounding some of the cast and crew members. Believe it or not, there were a total of four cast members who died in various circumstances throughout the years during and after the production of the "Poltergeist" trilogy.


Heather O'Rourke in the scene from "Poltergeist".

The most notable death was of Heather O'Rourke, the main star who played the blonde little girl, Carol Anne Freeling in all three "Poltergeist" movies. At the time of the first "Poltergeist", released in 1982, she was only six years old and was already hailed as a child prodigy that mesmerised many critics with her captivating performance. Unfortunately, her acting career was abruptly cut short when she died four months before the release of "Poltergeist III" in 1988. Prior to her death, she fell ill and was misdiagnosed with Crohn's Disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease) in 1987. Then the following year, she became sick again and was thought to be suffering from a flu symptom. She was subsequently sent by helicopter to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego after suffering from cardiac arrest. However, O'Rourke died on the operating table during the surgery when the doctor was trying to repair her bowel obstruction. At that time, she was 12 years old.


(L-R) Oliver Robins, Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams and Dominique Dunne in the scene from "Poltergeist".

The second death was Dominique Dunne, who played Carol's eldest sister, Dana in the first movie. "Poltergeist" was seen as her cinematic breakthrough after appearing in numerous TV series during the late 70s and early 80s such as "Fame", "Hart to Hart" and "Hill Street Blues". However, her acting career was terribly short-lived when her ex-boyfriend, John Sweeney, strangled her to death on October 30, 1982. She slipped into a coma and her life support was finally unplugged five days later on November 4, 1982 after she was pronounced brain dead.


Julian Beck in the scene from "Poltergeist II: The Other Side".

The third death was of Julian Beck, the supporting actor best known for his evil preacher role as Kane in "Poltergeist II: The Other Side". Eight months before the release of the second movie in May 23, 1986, he died from stomach cancer at the age of 60.


Will Sampson and Heather O'Rourke in the scene from "Poltergeist II: The Other Side".

Last but not least was Will Sampson, a Native American actor known earlier for his memorable role as the mute Chief Bromden in the Oscar-winning "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" in 1975. His other notable work was of course, "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" where he played a medicine man named Taylor. He was diagnosed with scleroderma (a condition that affects blood vessels and connective tissue), and later died from kidney failure after attempting a heart-and-lung transplant in 1987. He was 53 years old. Some people even thought his subsequent death was caused by the curse of the actual human skeletons used as props for "Poltergeist II" during the finale of the underground cave sequence. In fact, he actually performed an exorcism on the set (he happened to be a real-life shaman as well) after shooting was completed during one night.


Oliver Robins in the famous clown scene from "Poltergeist".

Apart from the off-screen deaths, there were several freak accidents during the shooting of the "Poltergeist" trilogy. One of them was the famous clown scene in the first movie, where younger brother Robert Freeling (Oliver Robins) geta attacked by a clown doll. But the "attack" turned out to be shockingly real when the clown ended up strangling Oliver's neck so tight until his face turned blue. At the time of filming the particular scene, both Spielberg and Hooper thought Oliver's reaction was so real in his acting skill until they sensed something was wrong. It was later revealed there was a malfunction within the robotic mechanisms used to animate the clown doll. Oliver, on the other hand, wasn't injured. More bizarre occurrences struck upon the filming of "Poltergeist" when James Kahn was writing the movie's novelisation. Ironically enough, when he typed the words "thunder and lightning ripped the sky", an actual lightning struck the trailer he was in. The cause of the lightning made his air-conditioning unit explode. The debris ended up flying across the room, and hit him in the lower back.


Zelda Rubinstein in the scene from "Poltergeist III".

In "Poltergeist III", actress Zelda Rubinstein – who reprised her role as a spiritual medium Tangina Barrons after the first two movies – felt sick during the shooting of the movie. It was as if something went wrong, and it turned out that her mother had passed away after she received a phone call later that afternoon. Another mysterious disaster struck upon the filming of the third movie when a parking garage was engulfed in flames. All except one crew member was fortunate enough not to be injured in the fire.

"Poltergeist" opens in cinemas nationwide on 18 June.

Related Movies:
Poltergeist (18 Jun 2015)

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