As of right now, there are only three episodes of Cursed Films available, but this one is already my favorite. A fantastic 26 minute memorial to every mind that’s ever been lost to an incredible movie. It’s essentially the Poltergeist crew getting on camera and telling the world to “f***k off!” I love it!

Though enjoyable, the other episodes steer a little too far into dark arts territory for me, theorizing the possibility that some films occasionally make contact with evil forces. In the case of Poltergeist, it maintains respect for deceased actresses Heather O’Rourke and Dominique Dunne and explains the “curse” by stripping away people’s love for conspiracy theories and looking at the frightened mice peeking out from underneath. It’s like watching a surgeon splitting open a chest cavity to discover a giant tumor inside.

Honestly, I’ve always had a problem with the curse associated with Poltergeist. It takes the tragic deaths of two young actresses, both preventable, and shoves them under an effortless explanation detached from any real compassion. Heather O’Rourke was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she actually had a defect in her intestines. This caused a rupture that exploded, killing her. Rather than acknowledging the fact that children get sick and die just like any adult, the world found a “safe” simplification for her death.

The most tragic though was Dominique Dunne who was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend. Just 22-years-old and left for dead in her driveway, she laid in a coma for five days before she was taken off life support. Her killer, 26-year-old John Sweeney, confessed to the murder and was convicted of manslaughter. He only served three and a half years.

Dominique Dunne

What’s the curse of Poltergeist?

“Cursed Films: Poltergeist” is the most emotional episode yet. It heavily covers the death of Heather O’Rourke and never goes too far from her memory. There’s a whole 10 minutes that doesn’t mention the curse at all and focuses completely on Heather. Gary Sherman, the director of Poltergeist III, will break your heart with his memories of the child actress. Even after all these years, her death still shakes him. Every time he mentions her name, it’s with a smile or some tears.

The curse surrounding Poltergeist lacks the usual “evidence” that similar films might have. It originated from a single scene that people will not let go of; the infamous skeletons in the pool scene. For those who don’t remember, there’s a scene in the film where the skeletons of disrupted graves come up from the ground. Largely in thanks to the performance of JoBeth Williams, the scene had a dramatic effect on viewers. The skeletons were so lifelike that a rumor got out that they were actually real human remains! *Cue Phantom of the Opera music*

Heather O’Rourke

Skeletons and possessed objects

The rumor, in this case, about the skeletons is absolutely correct. The skeletons in the film are real, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Poltergeist is not the first film to use human remains in its production. This is pointed out in the episode as well. Studios often save money by using real skeletons rather than waste the materials to craft their own. Frankenstein, House on a Haunted Hill, Dawn of the Dead, and Unrest are just examples.

The superstition surrounding Poltergeist has a lot to do with objects and the power they hold. There is a comparison between cursed objects and film memorabilia. Poltergeist is much more famous than its curse. I heard of the curses attached to The Exorcist and The Omen before I knew what either film was about. Poltergeist, however, was a film I heard people quote and discuss for years curse aside. People love the film, and it’s this love that gives it a type of paranormal power. The Poltergeist curse could very well be a product of fandom culture. Fanatics flock to filming locations and collect props such as the toy clown that caused a lot of coulrophobia in the 80s, treasuring and reliving the memory of childhood fear they possess.

We treasure these details. Everyone loves what reminds them of their favorite movie or TV series. We put posters in our rooms, buy action figures and novelizations, and obsess over BTS rumors. We love them and love to touch them in any way that we can. Our emotions bleed into them, convincing us that it holds more power than they actually do.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
About the Author

Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

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