Poltergeist is an American horror film, directed by Tobe Hooper, produced by Steven Spielberg, and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on June 4, 1982. It is the first and most successful of the Poltergeist film trilogy, and was nominated for three Academy Awards. The franchise is often said to be cursed, because several people associated with it, including stars Dominique Dunne and Heather O'Rourke, died prematurely. "The Poltergeist Curse" has been the focus of an E! True Hollywood Story. The film was ranked as #80 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments and the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 20th scariest film ever made. The film also appeared on American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding movies.
Steve and Diane Freeling, and their children Dana, Robbie, and Carol Anne, are living a quiet life in a California suburb, when a group of seemingly benign ghosts begin communicating with five-year-old Carol Anne through the static on the family's television sets. A number of other bizarre occurrences follow, including an earthquake that only the Freelings feel, glasses and utensils that spontaneously break or bend, and the ominous announcement by Carol Anne that the ghosts are there with them. Diane begins to realize the presence of beings in her home, which fascinates her. But when she brings these things to Steven's attention, he is disturbed and worried. One night, during a rainstorm, a gnarled tree comes to life and grabs Robbie through his bedroom window. However, this is merely a distraction used by the ghosts to get Carol Anne's parents to leave her unattended. While Diane and Steven rescue Robbie, Carol Anne is sucked through a portal in her closet. The horrified Freelings realize she has been taken after they begin to hear her communicating through a television set. A group of parapsychologists from UC Irvine, Dr. Lesh, Ryan and Marty, come to the Freeling house to investigate. They determine that the Freelings are experiencing a poltergeist, rather than a true haunting. Dr. Lesh explains that the spirits have not moved on to "the light" after death, but are stuck between dimensions. They have taken Carol Anne, Lesh says, because as an innocent 5-year-old, her "life force" is as bright to them as the light, and they believe she is their salvation. During the investigation, Steven, a real estate agent for the subdivision development he lives in, is approached by his boss, Lewis Teague, about a promotion. The new project will involve selling lots on a newly acquired hilltop parcel of land that currently houses a cemetery. When Steven balks at the idea of relocating the graveyard, his boss shrugs it off, explaining that the company had done it before, in the very neighborhood where Steven now lives. After a series of frightening paranormal episodes, Robbie and Dana are sent away for their safety. The parapsychologists leave with the data they collected, but Dr. Lesh and Ryan soon return with a spiritual medium, Tangina Barrons, who informs Diane that Carol Anne is alive and in the house. She also explains that, in addition to the peaceful lost souls inhabiting the house, there is a single malevolent spirit she calls the "Beast," that is using Carol Anne to keep the spirits away from the light. The assembled group discovers that while the entrance to the other dimension is through the children's bedroom closet, the exit is through the living room ceiling. They send Diane to rescue Carol Anne, tying her to a rope that they've managed to thread through both portals. As Tangina coaxes the agonized spirits away from Carol Anne, Diane retrieves her daughter and they emerge through the living room ceiling, falling unconscious to the floor. Tangina announces that the spirits are gone. However, while the spirits have moved on, the Beast has not. On the family's final night in the house, the Beast attacks Diane and the children. Diane runs to her neighbors for help, and in the process, slips and falls into the unfinished swimming pool, from which coffins and rotting corpses erupt. Her neighbors, terrified by the ghostly energy blazing from the house, refuse to help. Diane pulls out Robbie and Carol Anne from the house, and Dana returns from a date to find coffins and dead bodies exploding from the ground throughout the neighborhood. As Steven returns home to this mayhem, he realizes that when Teague relocated the cemetery under the subdivision, he merely moved the headstones in order to save money. Teague appears soon after, joining the Freelings' neighbors in their horror at the Freeling house's explosive possession. An enraged Steven confronts him with the fact that by leaving the bodies in unmarked graves and building houses on top of them, Teague had desecrated their burial grounds. As the Freelings drive away in terror, the house itself implodes into another dimension, to the astonishment of onlookers. The family checks into a Holiday Inn for the night. Taking no chances, Steven puts the room's television outside.