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The Behind the Scenes Pic of the Day knows what scares you. It has from the beginning.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s Behind the Scenes Pic!

Poltergeist is top 10 material for me. I love every frame of that film, every creepy Jerry Goldsmith note, every disgusting Craig Rearden effect, every spooky bit of ILM magic and every bit of brilliant casting. Zelda Rubinstein alone makes this a win for life.

I love the mythology behind this movie. The later films expanded it in odd, and admittedly effective, ways, but what makes the first film so great is that there isn’t a big bad guy (that we see, anyway). As much as I dig the preacher guy in Poltergeist 2, the series never quite captured that balance of terror and awe of the afterlife the way the first film did.

I love what they came up with when representing the other side poking through into our world. Child-eating trees, crawling meat, face ripping mind-fucks and that goddamn creepy skull thing that yells at Craig T. Nelson and makes him drop the rope.

Today’s image is from this very scene in Poltergeist and shows us a nice wide shot of the set as the effects geniuses light that crazy skull thing and get ready for the shot.

Thanks to the folks at the Practical Effects Group for this amazing shot. Click to (slightly) enlargen!



If you have a behind the scenes shot you’d like to submit to this column, you can email me at

Don’t call tomorrow’s pic chicken.

-Eric Vespe
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Click here to visit the complete compilation of previous Behind the Scenes images, Page One
(warning: there are some broken links that will be fixed as soon as I can get around to it)

Click here to visit the complete compilation of previous Behind the Scenes images, Page Two

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 16, 2012, 4:36 p.m. CST

    LOVE Poltergeist

    by ATARI

    Agree with the top 10 nod.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 4:38 p.m. CST

    The Clown

    by greased_up_saxplayer

    saw this in the theatre as a child...yes child. that clown RUINED me for months.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 4:39 p.m. CST

    in the 38 years of my life...

    by bubcus

    ... I have never watched this film. I will have to rectify that.

  • Seriously, seeing that shit as a kid--no.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 4:48 p.m. CST

    That face rivaled the clown for me . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    . . . just freaked me the F OUT!!! I remember people saying the face was the creepy old guy from the sequel. I used to get mad, cause none of the crappy sequels existed in my do-jo . . .

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 4:48 p.m. CST

    i wanted to go see this movie

    by mick vance

    but my wife couldn't get her fat ass out from in front of the tv...

  • JoBeth, you make me crazy, now and forever.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 4:57 p.m. CST


    by greased_up_saxplayer

    Her speech to the family and crew was scary as hell too, talking about another presence in the house...the Beast. "Clear your minds, it knows what scares you". scared the hell outta me.

  • They fucking deserved to be terrorized. I also don't get the hate for part 2. I can see how part 3 deviated from the family cause none of them wanted to return. Rather than scrap the movie they wrote it in that they ditched the little girl with relatives. If you were gonna get rid of her anyways why not just let the ghosts keep her and save yourself the trouble of the sequel. I also remember liking the sequel with the creepy preacher guy. He was kinda freaky. But then again I've never seen Phantasm so what do I know about creepy men in black.

  • What a heroine, goes to the mat to fight for her kids.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 5:38 p.m. CST

    Face Ripping Trivia

    by MasterControlProgram

    The hands that actually tear apart the guy's face in the bathroom were the hands of Steven Spielberg. The special effects people were smart. Spielberg (though he wasn't "directing" the movie) always had things to say about the way effects should look. So the special effects people had Spielberg do the face tearing himself...that way...if he didn't like the way it looked they could say "Well, they were your hands doing the tearing." Nice way to get around the bearded one. -- End of Line --

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 5:57 p.m. CST

    The best

    by Robbiemc9

    Cross over children, all are welcome, all are welcome. One of the best movies to watch as a kid. Just danced that fine line between scary and adventure. Unlike the Exorcist which was an outright mind fuck. This one was just a lot of great thrills and jumps.

  • Yes, the parents smoked pot in their bedroom after the kiddies went to sleep and so what? IF this movie were made today, we would have had the obligatory "see what that kind of lifestyle brings?" commentary from the holier then thou right. Kudos to Spielberg and Hooper for treating pot exactly as what it is: an adult recreational refreshment indicative of nothing but one's right to personal choice of behavior in the privacy of their own home. BTW, I was just a young troll when Poltergeist came out, but was old enough to correctly recognize Jobeth Williams as a MILF! Damn, was she hot!

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 5:59 p.m. CST

    Totally overlooked part of the family dynamic

    by michael

    In the movie, JoBeth gives her age as "31" to the college researchers that come out. Her oldest daughter looks to be at LEAST 15, but likely 16. Do the math. Your suburban pot smoking mom, was pregnant at 15. The interesting dynamic of the suburban solid family looks a bit stranger now, no?

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 6:03 p.m. CST

    Tried to show this to my girlfriend...

    by ChesterCopperpot

    And like most films I put her on to, she just didn't get it.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 6:13 p.m. CST

    Also, mpbarnet, the older daughter is implied to be pregnant

    by darthpigman

    The older daughter Dana is first shown eating ice cream and pickles at the refrigerator.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 6:17 p.m. CST

    Such a great film

    by kwisatzhaderach

    So lucky to have grown up through the late 70s and 80s, classic after classic. The fact this is a PG in the states is crazy.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 6:24 p.m. CST

    @darthpigman, like mother like daughter

    by michael

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 6:25 p.m. CST

    You're right, mpbarnet, it's all that nasty old pot's fault...

    by iamatroll

    Everyone knows that smoking pot leads to teen pregnancy every time you do it right? Everyone knows that any girl who avoids smoking pot will never ever get pregnant by accident, right? Everyone knows women never ever ever ever lie about their age at any time, so if Jobeth Williams claimed to be a certain age, then it simply MUST be true, right? If not, then you can blame that nasty old pot for forcing Jobeth Williams to LIE, right? Damn that pot! If it wasn't for pot, it would be a perfect world after all! right? right? yeah, thought so...

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 6:32 p.m. CST

    hey, bobo_vision, if that's true...

    by iamatroll

    then where can I score some of THAT chiba? Beats the hell out of what I've tried in my life so far... ha ha ha....(toke...toke...)

  • They open up casinos and rook Mr. Paleface for everything in his savings account! Call that payback for "The Trail Of Tears."

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 6:40 p.m. CST


    by D_T

    You fucks who have never seen this, please correct that situation by the weekend, or at the very least, by Halloween. :) JoBeth, very hot. I love the family dynamic in this film, many of the Bearded Ones films, has that love + issues vibe of real people down perfectly. Wasn't there a huge threat of an R rating due to the pot smoking scenes? (vs. the guy ripping off his face) ... BTW, MCP, nice trivia about that scene. So many horror archetypes captured so perfectly: something under the bed, the clown doll, the scary tree, spooks in the closet. Picked up the BD release last year sometime during a sale and amazingly, have yet to watch it, seems like a good month to bust it open :D

  • The kids got a contact high.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 7:07 p.m. CST

    STILL love this

    by ScaryJim

    Watched it on Sunday again having not seen it for a few years- Can't believe this was a PG. Censors have it totally wrong, this film affected me way more than any 80's video nasty, the bloody tv, the face peeling, the clown, the corpses in the pool! FANTASTIC . I did actually turn to my mrs and say 'Are they smoking weed?' Excellent that that's in a mainstream film and isn't just some stupid moral plot point, we see a genuine family dynamic then a dynamic of a loving couple goofing around (and I'm not saying you have to smoke pot to do that, it was just a nice touch). Also the scene when Dad tells elder daughter they are going to a holiday inn - He starts describing before she says she knows the one and realizes she's said a bit too much. Great family dynamics. You don't seem to see that in film now - every line seems to have to telegraph a plot point. Super 8 tried but it wasn't natural.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 7:08 p.m. CST

    @skrotex: time to get a new girlfriend

    by ATARI

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 7:17 p.m. CST

    Great pic, but Quint....

    by YourMomsBox3D

    have you ever considered rotating some BTS pics from TV Shows into this mix? Love the column, but this isn't the first time you've used Poltergeist, and pics from series like Indy, Star Wars and Alien have gotten a ton of love too. Just a suggestion to help get some fresh stuff up in here.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 7:45 p.m. CST

    Good one mastercontrolprogram

    by lsrdsc

    Haha Spielberg didn't direct.. Good one.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 8:04 p.m. CST

    I think I'm afraid of this movie

    by smudgewhat

    That's why I still haven't seen it. Prob b/c I've has too many real life experiences with ghosts so I have to take it more seriously.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 8:24 p.m. CST

    Who Directed...

    by Glenn

    Anyone with half a brain can recognize that there's nothing Tobe Hooper about the shot design, blocking, music editing, and handling of performances, and the naturalness of the script; it's all Spielberg. There's no doubt about it. This couldn't be divulged otherwise he would've been in violation of DGA bylaws. Funny how, to this day, he never talks about it. You'd think by now he was safe from any recriminations. As far as Jobeth, to this day she's the only actor I've ever written to, and I was a kid. Still got the personally autographed picture she mailed me back, too. I hear she's quite the director now. In fact, she kinda put to rest the whole "who directed" issue when she said in an interview that she learned a lot watching Spielberg work on the set. Also, Zelda said that Tobe was basically on drugs during his tenure on "Poltergeist." Jerry Goldsmith said he only dealt with Spielberg. Also, they were planning a bigger blu ray release with a big Making Of documentary that was quashed legally at the last second... Hm...other trivia: --Marty Casella, the face ripping tech guy, had previously been Spielberg's personal assistant. --I've seen the house in Simi Valley, my mom lived not more than 3 miles away. --Went to school with Oliver Robins, who refused to confirm or deny Spielberg's total involvement, probably to safeguard his directing career. --Michael Kahn cut this film instead of E.T. so that's another sign... --Spielberg first asked Dean Cundey to shoot the movie but he was scheduled for The Thing; later he used him for Hook and Jurassic Park. --Many people have claimed there's a bad jumpcut from the parents discussing the ir newly supernatural kitchen, to them at the neighbor's front door. It's intentional, and I think it's great the way Kahn cuts out of Jobeth blabbering on about the incidents straight into thunder... --Notice that the script doesn't have the family doing any infighting: The conflict comes from outside and only strengthens them further. All films today would self-consciously add as much conflict as possible. In fact, the remake script I read recently, does just this; the family unit feels sacred and fun in the original...

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 8:25 p.m. CST

    seeing this in a few weeks on the big screen!

    by mojination

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 8:41 p.m. CST

    Tomorrow's pic is Back to the Future 2 or 3

    by Logan_1973

    and I love Poltergeist. Where's the bloody blu ray?

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 9:02 p.m. CST

    Never realized that the skull was so small

    by lochkray

    Love the FX shots in these behind the scenes pics. I'm not going to go into a CGI bashing rant, but I'm really impressed with how effective practical effects could be, when I see something like the above picture. That skull was massive coming out of that closet, and I never thought it was from such a smaller scale model. Never thought to question it. Well done SP/FX people from thirty years ago.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 9:03 p.m. CST

    Poltergeist has been out on Blu-Ray for YEARS

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Sucks they can't do a proper SE of it with interviews with the cast and Spielberg/Hooper.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 9:03 p.m. CST

    Bubcus, get your ass to Mars.....

    by notcher

    And watch "Poltergeist" damn it!!!!

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 9:12 p.m. CST

    In-camera effect

    by gamerawangi

    I seem to remember reading (in Cinefex, I think), that this shot was done "in-camera". As in, no compositing. The skull was close to the camera, and Craig T. Nelson was several feet back. A great use of forced perspective (see "The Gate" for terrific use of that), and a real time and money saver. And they're remaking this movie because...???

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 9:51 p.m. CST


    by Mullah Omar

    ...if you grew up in the suburbs. Maybe it doesn't hit the same way if you grew up in a rural community or a city, but I'll always hold this one out to new viewers as a movie that at least has a *chance* to scare them. Most so-called "horror" films are just about the gore, but this one delivers the goods on every level.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 9:53 p.m. CST

    Loved the movie, loved the book

    by deelzbub

    The movie-adaption paperback was awesome and had alot of neat stuff in it that I was dissappointed to see didn't make it into the movie. This movie and Indiana Jones-Temple of Doom were the two films reponsible for PG-13 coming into being, if I remember correctly.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 9:55 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    Much like the cotapaxi ship in the desert in CE3K.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 10:35 p.m. CST

    smudgewhat, do you care to elaborate?

    by one9deuce

    I want to hear a ghost story. And I'll concurr with the rest of you, POLTERGEIST is a great movie. If you grew up in the late 70's and 80's then you had classic after classic after classic to see in the theaters. This is certainly one of them.

  • Oct. 16, 2012, 11:01 p.m. CST


    by HarveyManfrenjenson

    that there hasn't been a talkback about the Agent-Coulson-on-SHIELD-spinoff-show news. Wasn't that announced two days ago? Oh and uh, nice BTS pic. Just so I'm not 100% offtopic.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 12:29 a.m. CST

    Poor Heather O'Rourke and Dominique Dunne...

    by FeralAngel

    I feel more sad than scared when I watch this movie now...

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 1:22 a.m. CST


    by Keith

    Re: Diane's age. Yep, noticed that for the first time when I watched the movie this year, for the first time in perhaps twenty years. I guess they were pretty serious highschool sweethearts. It's also interesting to note that this is a lower middle class family living in California, with a pretty nice detached home in a good (if unremarkable) neighborhood. Probably pretty realistic for the time. How things have changed.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 1:25 a.m. CST


    by Keith

    I remember listening to one of the visual effects dudes reminiscing about the work he did on Poltergeist, and (particularly with reference to the imploding house) he lamented the fact that practical effects often gave you unexpected results, because they are complex physical systems. Sometimes that was good, sometimes it was bad, but serendipity is no longer a part of most modern effects work.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 1:29 a.m. CST


    by Keith

    'Notice that the script doesn't have the family doing any infighting (etc)' Very interesting observation. It's a fairly realistic yet positive and tight family. You're right; these days we'd probably get some resentment and tensions thrown in early on to serve as 'character development'. A lot of my favourite films have very little character development and no real arc; it's just likeable and/or interesting people (seen from the way they talk and the way they act, not from expository dialogue) trying to do their best in challenging situations.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 1:35 a.m. CST


    by Keith

    'many of the Bearded Ones films, has that love + issues vibe of real people down perfectly' It's been said before, but bears repeating: most of Spielberg's best character work is from the 70s and early 80s, because at that time he understood real people very well. The further you go on, the more he's forgotten how real people live and talk, because he no longer dwells among them. That isn't to say he makes no decent films after that point, but I miss that blue collar dynamic from his early (and imo best) work. Probably unavoidable, but sad nonetheless. (I'm not saying that Spielberg wrote all the scripts, but he knew what he wanted, gravitated towards certain scripts, made suggestions, demanded alterations, and directed people a certain way.)

  • Loved this film.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 3:04 a.m. CST


    by Glenn

    I too have wondered how much Spielberg's affluent lifestyle has distanced him from the hoi polloi of average living. It seems many filmmakers lose their ability to connect with everyday people as their fortunes/careers grow and they become more socially isolated in a certain echelon of lifestyle. I think this has irreparably harmed James L. Brooks' writing, you could even make a case for James Cameron (he's fallen into deep cliches even for types he used to write okay for, the miliary). I won't trot out the usual suspects (Lucas and all his Board meetings/Senate meetings bullshit); how Scorcese has kept somewhat of an edge is beyond me but I admire him for it. Yes, sometimes movies don't require some superactive character arc to take place; you just gotta conquer the dragon and that's that. But this harmonious family in Poltergeist was why it was always a favorite of mine, I saw enough inner house conflict when I was young so it was refreshing to witness a family that cared about one another and enjoyed each other's company. So rare. As I said, I read one of the reboot scripts and, predictably, it's about a disconnected family wherein the parents fighting over their respective jobs and time. Absolutely no warmth there for you to give a shit about being torn apart by phenomena. Hopefully Raimi recognizes this and has his guy inject this aspect back into it.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 4:05 a.m. CST

    for me the sacriest bit is the stack of chairs...

    by Righteous Brother

    in the kitchen, all done in one take, fantastic.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 4:26 a.m. CST

    I noticed that this thread...

    by WeylandYutani

    Has some really great observations about this film and almost no geek 'it sucked' or 'Spielberg raped me' trolling. Just a bunch of people discussing a seminal film from the 80s. Thx everyone for some excellent insights without the usual baiting and douchiness. Truly a pleasure to read through this thread with posts from true film lovers.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 4:38 a.m. CST

    Still works so good today! Masterpiece.

    by gerry derboven

    Whenever i need to reconnect with my moviegeek youth, I put this disc in the player. How come that this movie just 'clicks' from the get go? The perfect pacing in introducing the characters, the typical chaotic family dynamic (i always think about Close Encounters when i see this, so the Spielberg-directed-it-yes-or-no discussion is a no brainer) and the truly horrifying build up to the tree scene....well, i haven't seen anything that matches this kind of moviemaking since. The above mentioned scene scared seven shades of crap out of me when i was a kid and it still makes me tense up when i see it now. The Yoda-like Zelda Rubinstein was a prime example of perfect casting and Craig T Nelson and JoBeth Williams have superb chemistry. I feel a bit stupid saying this but thinking about this movie makes my hairs stand up: not because it's so scary (although , it is) but because you feel such ...well..happiness, respect, fuckin' AWE for wont of a better word, that this was made. Can't gush enough about this movie: it was Spielberg at the top of his game and together with ET, Raiders, Star Wars and Alien it made me wear my moviegeek badge LOUD&PROUD! Sorry about the emotional stuff but it really brings me back to my happy days. Amen.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 4:55 a.m. CST


    by gerry derboven

    peace brother. This is not a rare occurence with the BTSPOTD column: Quint's contributions here bring the best out in people, most of the time. That's why i still come here because for an insightful review of a new movie, one tends to be left wanting from time to time...

  • What really scares me is Harry's beardy face! :O

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:15 a.m. CST


    by Glenn

    I know what you mean. I saw E.T. more when I was young, but I find myself watching Poltergeist often as an adult and never watching E.T. I think E.T.'s a masterpiece too, don't get me wrong... but horror films are always pure cinema to me.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:19 a.m. CST

    Talk-back full of genuine movie-talk! yay!

    by Stephen Farrell

    Is it a public holiday for troll-backers?...what a movie. And it really is a 'movie' movie isn't it? great example of a solid genre movie which sticks to it's guns all the way through to the end and builds with every minute of screen time. It's funny, someone mentioned that it's kind of a mixture between horror and adventure. That's the feeling I had when I was younger. It's an unusual experience because it's full of absolute terror but with equal wonder...I think that's the Beard-Factor shining through. This could be the family living next door to the family from E.T. On a side note, there is something about the pallet of this movie that gives it extra magic...the lense flares, the look of genuine film stock, the way the lighting works. It just has a magic 'feel' that seems to be gone now. You can see Abrams trying to capture it but the digital sheen of modern technology just wipes it away.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:26 a.m. CST


    by gerry derboven

    Is it maybe, when done properly at least,that it(ie, a good horror movie) can really touch on every emotion the medium has to offer? Wonderment, love through helping your family, primal fears, action, epic effects, suggestion through sounds and atmospheric effects, resolution and/or open endedness... The list goes on but a rom-com, kiddie toon, balls to the wall action flick, scientific fiction and so on and so on. Although i would argue that ET does come very close to touching upon many of those facets, even if the horror isn't specific or explicit. But Poltergeist is quintessential vieing for anyone who wants to experience the power of fierce storytelling and the mastery of moviemaking. He's maybe not that sharp anymore but nobody beats down on Mr Spielberg on my watch:IMO, he doesn't have to prove anything anymore, ever. Amen.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:30 a.m. CST

    my last post seems to have missing words

    by gerry derboven

    "The list goes on but a rom-com, kiddie toon, balls to the wall action flick, scientific fiction and so on and so on can't touch on all of these aspects in one movie." was what i intended to say. No biggie.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:37 a.m. CST

    Spielberg should come back to horror.

    by Stephen Farrell

    Anyone checked out 'Something Evil'? was a TV horror he made in '72. Scared the Bee Gees out of me as a pup... I reckon he's still got 'it' in spades, just wish he'd use these years to make things that have balls. What a position to be in and still be working...why not aim for true greatness and forget the suits? Does he really need to be spending seconds of his time producing Transformers movies?

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:45 a.m. CST


    by Glenn

    Anyone miss shot design? How one flows into the next with great editorial flare? How an angle reinforces a performance? Cheap and effective in-camera trickery? Rock solid dolly shots and establishing crane moves? Cloud tank FX? Awesome real-world makeup work? Well-grounded humour that emerges from and defines character WITHIN the tone of the film? Side characters that eschew caricature (the pool guys, Teague, the neighbors, the researchers)? And, it's CONTAINED in one location, save for a scene at the moved cemetary (my personal favorite scene -- watch Craig T. Nelson, he's genius in it, tired, the way he brushes Teague's hand off his shoulder without looking, his scene-capping look over his shoulder when the guy says "No one's ever complained before now",... Then there's how smart the plot is, most specifically in how they motivate the family to not only stay in the house but also not divulge what's going on. (If they tell anyone, they'll be seen as crazy; they can't leave because parents don't leave their kids behind.) Dunno about you, but I miss the days when twirling large shafts of light were enough to suggest an ethereal apocalypse in a kid's closet. Now we always get huge physics-defying creatures in full sight and it's boring (in fact, the only good thing in the deplorable sequel is that great H.R. Giger creature scene that emits from Steve's mouth -- but that's it). Someone on Facebook once polled for the bravest mother in movies. Most people said Sarah Connor or Ripley, but I voted Diane Freeling. Jobeth and Craig both deserved nominations, no joke; it's so hard to give a convincing full-bodied performance in a horror film, and I'd have to say, that moment when Carol-Anne blows right through her mother on the staircase, is an amazing movie moment.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:50 a.m. CST


    by Stephen Farrell

    You're singing my song! There can NEVER be enough shout outs for cloud tank FX. ha!

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:53 a.m. CST

    Moviemaking #2

    by Glenn

    --And one last thing: Spielberg can make all break loose even on a small suburban street, through judicious use of angles and extras. When they're escaping from the house, driving away, it's amazing the use of physical effects on that street to suggest pandemonium. Lights in the window, a gas main blowing down the street, fire hydrant popping, then the house imploding. Again, a film that feels huge yet is actually shrunken in location scale. You don't need EVERY house in the neighborhood going down in flames, you only have to care about ONE house that shelters ONE family you are endeared to.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 5:57 a.m. CST

    Lennon shot first

    by Glenn

    This is how geeky it gets. My science demonstration for my high school chemistry class, was to build a cloud tank! Regular water atop an inversion layer of salt water, then inject white paint, worked like a charm. Can you tell I was huge Cinefex nerd?

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 6:08 a.m. CST

    Cloud Tank City

    by Stephen Farrell

    Nice! I always wonder much perspective do film-makers loose when working with CG. I'm often taken out of a film by needless CG backgrounds when the actor could have just been standing outside in the parking lot with real wind on their really does feel like a step backwards to create hokey cartoon environments to replicate things we have in nature. It can't ALWAYS be money, think of all the time spent on digital pre-viz for shitty digital shots, then the time making them, then the blue screen studio shoot, then rendering blah blah blah...there's more wonder in ten seconds of Carrie Fisher talking to a midget in a fair of furry pj's than there is of 4 hours of computer Naboo....why is it ONLY film-makers who don't see it?

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 6:19 a.m. CST

    Clouds etc.

    by Glenn

    Trust me, GOOD directors do see it. Kubrick and Nolan have superb eyes for fakery. But yes, even most directors aren't capable of pulling apart what is wrong with an FX shot. Cuaron and Blomkamp have the eye, so does J.J. Basically it comes down to, they still haven't been able to get edge mattes and backgrounds juxtaposed with proper motion blur and gravity. I often think most fx houses don't understand how true lens optics function in the real world and apply it to CG. Not only that, but here's the biggie that Cameron and Spielberg get right: Enforcing the look a real camera operator gives a shot. There's always lag time when they follow action. Most CG shots' cameras anticipate the action with their virtual cameras. I think they should actually create the virtual shot in full and bring in the movie's actual camera operator to "operate" the shot within the CG-created scene. This is a skill they should make all animators learn outside of a computer room.

  • oooooooooook.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 6:28 a.m. CST

    @rumourd: i might be misstaken but

    by gerry derboven

    you clearly work in the movie business or you are affiliated with it somehow. I'm just curious in what area you specialize in. I've seen you on screenwriters forums too. If you don't feel like making any details about you public, consider my question null and void. No prob. Amen.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 6:33 a.m. CST


    by Stephen Farrell

    Kubrick was a photographer first of course so he got the physics of how light reacts etc...then there's just good taste. There was a section in the making of Jurassic Park where they spoke about adding motion blur to the dinos...because they knew it looked to shiny and they sat and broke it down. I dunno about Cameron. Avatar is an abomination in my view. It has actually put me off ever watching Aliens or T2 again, I was THAT offended. I think there was far too much of that 'sheen' in that movie because they were so focused on trying to show us how impressive their CG work was, rather than any kind of reality (using that word loosely)...and that's a composition and design thing. Does every creature, tree and mountain need to look fantastical? nope.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 6:39 a.m. CST


    by gerry derboven

    i agree on the "ultra real / fakeness paradox" of Avatar but apart from that , Cameron still feels the pulse of a movie correctly. Of course you are entitled to your own views and opinions but I really don't see why Aliens and T2 get worse just because Avatar exists. It's because i'm such an avid Aliens and Terminator fan that i would loathe to think that someone is missing out on the pleasures of repeat viewing those action masterpieces.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 7:04 a.m. CST

    Space Jesus

    by Stephen Farrell

    It is because I'm such an Alien/Aliens fan that Avatar so beat me down... I just felt it was some of the worst writing I've even been subjected to....'Unobtainium'...come on! Disney spirit tree shit? no thanks I'd been reading about it for years and was prepared for a return to Aliens form, a great sci-fi flick with great action and good ideas. It's one of the the very few times I've been suckered by expectation. It soured me on Cameron so much that I feel like I've been made permanently more fact it even made me stay away from cinema as a whole for a long time. It really broke my heart. I can't go back and watch Aliens without knowing what he has done. PS. Don't get me started on's all been said.

  • sometimes i feel that knowing more about movies diminshes the viewing experience. But only sometimes. Time will tell... I feel your pain, Lennon, i really do. That's why i'd rather watch some old movie than spend my hard earned on going to the theatres to be subjected to the latest remake/sequel/prequel/sidequel/dna-sharing misery...

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 7:17 a.m. CST

    Space Jesus

    by Stephen Farrell

    The opposite is also the case...I bought the Kubrick box-set this week (I went out to buy the Shining and got sucked in) and I'm currently going all geeky about the details. There are some films where you can't get enough background. This is just between me and Cameron...maybe we'll work it out over a topless arm wrestle in one of his subs. I hope I'm not going to be lost to nostalgia...maybe it's just time to put my money where my mouth is and get to work!

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 7:22 a.m. CST


    by gerry derboven

    LOL! please post that armwrestling match on youtube. And good man on the Kubrick thing: he's like the Johann Sebastian Bach of movies: very technical and distant at first but when you scratch beneath the surface you'll experience a wondrous miracle. Have fun! amen.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 7:38 a.m. CST

    Just saw this Monday night in the theater...

    by The PimpDragon

    And, man, I can say without a doubt that Poltergeist still delivers the laughs and scares better than almost any other film of its kind! What blew me away was re-discovering the character work on display. This film works because of the family dynamic. If we don't care about the Frelengs then the film has nothing to offer us other than awesome VFX. And to those who have already said this, the absolute heart of this film is Diane. JoBeth Williams is fantastic in this film, as is the whole cast, but she carries it squarely on her shoulders. I got chills when she screams out "God! Please help me!" to pull that last ounce of strength she has to save her children. Powerful moment, as is the scene aforementioned regarding Carol Anne passing through her. How she didn't get any kind of Oscar love for that film is beyond me. So many things I forgot about - the remote control duel, the neighbor on the kids' bike bringing beer to Steven and his friends watching the football game and seeing just how BAD-ASS Tangina is! I forgot just how she owns the room the second she begins to speak! Poltergeist is 1980s event filmmaking at its finest!

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 8:03 a.m. CST

    Cursed movie

    by Chrisolo

    This movie is a classic, exactly what horror should be I won't acknowledge the sequels, I can't remember how many cast members died shortly after this movie came out though. Can anybody tell me the details of that ?

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 10:01 a.m. CST

    Poltergeist cast member death tally

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Dominique Dunne (the older daughter) was strangled to death by her boyfriend a few months after the first film was released (that's why her character is "away at college" in the sequel). Julien Beck (Reverend Kane in Poltergeist II) dide of cancer during the production. And Heather O'Rourke died at the age of 12 of septic shock (or something) right before Poltergeist III came out. Maybe THAT's the reason why we haven't seen a remake of this yet...people are still skeeved out over the "Poltergeist Curse".

  • If you don't believe them, you don't believe the movie. A favorite scene (though a bit sappy) is when Diane feels Carol Anne "move" through her on the staircase. The elation on her face and Nelson's reaction is perfect.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 10:46 a.m. CST

    I used to draw scenes from the movie at 10 yrs old

    by doom master

    I had no friends...

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 10:47 a.m. CST

    You forgot Taylor the Indian died as well...

    by doom master

    From a heart attack after the movie was done.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 11:22 a.m. CST

    What?! Wait!...

    by ObiBen

    They want to remake that as well?

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 12:03 p.m. CST

    Speaking of 80's Horror, this is a good read:

    by ToughGuyRizzo is doing an 80's horro flick review a day. There's some awesome stuff so far. The guy who does the Angry Video Game Nerd narrates. So, it's pretty funny and observant. The Child's Play review was hysterical.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 12:40 p.m. CST

    Just watched this maybe 2 months ago, damn if it doesn't hold up

    by I am_NOTREAL

    Some of the effects look dated, but that doesn't hinder the movie at all. A classic.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 12:58 p.m. CST

    Fantastic movie...

    by Darkness

    Brilliant performances; especially by JoBeth Williams: You really feel her torment here in the desperation to rescue her child - superb. We never really knew who the guiding force behind the camera: The ubiquitous Spielberg, or Tobe Hooper; i'd like to think the latter, but it does have the Bergs sensibilities all over it. It also boasts one of Jerry Goldsmith's most intense scores; probably one of the finest of his career. Let's hope the remake remains stuck in development hell - even if it is under the tutelage of Raimi.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 1:15 p.m. CST

    Agreed to everyone...still such a wonderful movie...

    by REMcycle

    ...I was 8 in '84 when I first saw this film and it scared the ever-living shit out of me. And so began my lifelong love affair with horror storytelling. And I still think sometimes about pushing the TV out into the hall every time I check into a hotel. :)

  • I still can't put my finger on if its evil laughing, or joyous laughing.....

  • Next stop YouTube!

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 2:19 p.m. CST

    And here it is! Class...

    by BenBraddock

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 7:33 p.m. CST

    i am_notreal

    by Glenn

    ALL old movie FX show their flaws in today's technology, they will never hold up. Blu-ray/HD reveals them even more. --Even Lucas kept in the garbage mattes around the ships in the old Star Wars Trilogy. --Old model/comp work shimmies against the live-action plates. Doesn't matter how solid the optical printer, how steady the registration was on the VistaVision camera... --Makeup FX especially show their early latex beginnings. I'm the biggest "The Thing" fan there is... but in HD, the actual structure of the rubber fares poorly now; it's not partially transparent, looks like slabs of plastic. Nowadays, latex tech looks more convincing and layered; I'm no longer knowledgeable about makeup but I think they use silicone mixtures to better approximate flesh and the way light sub-scatters inside of it. --CG and its sub-pixel tracking capabilities can keep elements better aligned. What they NEVER get right, tho, is the chaotic real-world entropy that comes with shooting models and clouds and miniature explosions. So it's a giant trade off. Either way, nothing will ever look perfect. I mean, hell, half the time they still don't get a basic car shot with a fake background looking real. Fincher does but he always adds rain or something to defray the shitty background plate's flaws. The other thing they can't seem to fix is, say, an actor BLURRING against greenscreen then incorporating that into the background. The blur always looks clipped, or shot with a 45degree shutter or the highlights are blown-out to smooth out the blend (a la the Prequels). Anyone's eye can pick it out as unreal, subconsciously. The other problem is generally trying to emulate sunlight onstage for an FX shot, like in "Knight & Day" for the freeway chase. There's just no way to do it without it looking like a shit-ton of musco lights; nothing comes close to looking like the giant one-source that the sun IS, no matter what kind of light package you have, for wide shots. You can do it for closeup, like in "The Godfather" when Kay asks Michael what his father does for a living at the wedding, but that was a contained scene and Gordon Willis pulled it off.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 9:24 p.m. CST

    The most tense scene

    by Crobran least for me, is when the paranormal investigators are all up, it's late, and they're just waiting around for something to happen. There's no score playing, everyone's talking in hushed tones, and it's generally a quiet scene, except that you know something jacked up is about to happen. I love that they didn't ruin that by having something cheap and sudden happen just for a good startle. Great use of mood and subtlety.

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 10:03 p.m. CST

    JoBeth Williams was MILF-tastic.

    by Gary Makin

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 11:19 p.m. CST


    by Munro Kelly

    I agree with you about Spielberg really doing the directing. Tobe will always be known for "Chainsaw" and I give him full credit for it. "Poltergeist" was a whole different level of filmmaking, in terms of budget and production value. If Tobe had that style in him, why didn't he bring those particular set of skills with him on "Invaders from Mars", a film that could have benefited from that Spielbergian style. Everything I've seen from him after "Chainsaw 2" has been lacking in style. I felt there was a sense of "style" in his 3 Cannon pictures, "Lifeforce", "Invaders from Mars","Chainsaw 2" but the style was more of a competent journeyman director than the sure hand that did "Poltergeist".

  • Oct. 17, 2012, 11:37 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    For me, there's absolutely no question who was in charge, and there's too much evidence available beyond the film itself. Hooper's film just aren't known for their wit and humanity. They're genre exercises at best. I love "Texas Chainsaw 1" -- so does Spielberg and Ridley Scott. But everything after it shows that he was a one-trick pony, in my book. We all know the anecdote of Jobeth being terrified to go into the pool water, with the legion of lighting equipment all around, threatening to electrocute her should something collapse. So who went into the pool with her to relax her? Exactly. THAT'S a director.

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 7:53 a.m. CST

    Thanks, guys.

    by DocPazuzu

    I'm a bit late to the party but wanted to give you folks credit for making this one of the rare movie love-ins in the an(n)als of talkback. Whoever mentioned the combination of horror and adventure is right on the money. The balance between fright, comedy, drama and awe is absolutely pitch-perfect in Poltergeist. I challenge anyone to think of another movie that manages to pull this off. Poltergeist could ONLY have been made in 1982, the greatest genre movie year of all time. Again, I must refer to previous talkbackers since they've already pretty much voiced my feelings on the matter, especially when it comes to the performances. Even the slightest, most throwaway, one scene characters in the movie feel more fleshed out than the entire cast of an average modern horror movie. With nothing but perhaps a word of dialogue or the tiniest of actions or postures, everyone -- EVERYONE -- comes alive and feels three-dimensional. It's a marvelous achievement which is even more stunning today when you see how effortless they make it look and how miserably most similar movies manage the same feat today. Poltergeist is a goddamn classic and a near perfect film.

  • Oct. 18, 2012, 1:23 p.m. CST


    by Keith

    'Poltergeist could ONLY have been made in 1982, the greatest genre movie year of all time.' Without question.

  • Love the Spielberg suburbia (except for E.T., that movie is soooo stupid and over rated!). Love the score. (One of Goldsmith's best) Close Encounters, Poltergeist, JAWS - all awesome Spielberg suburbia! And even though Spielberg claims Tobe directed Poltergeist, it still fits in his suburbia.

  • Did anybody notice that Craig T Nelson's boss: the ass who makes the crack about the porch light, who moved the graveyard (well, the headstones, didntcha!) and who gets blasted by the collapsing house at the end is pretty much exactly the same character as the asshat mayor who keeps refusing to shut the beach down in 'Jaws'. When I picture them both, I cannot mentally distinguish them: he's a great Spielberg irritant: this glib, grinning local not-so-bigwig who puts everybody in danger for a few dollars.