31 Fright Nights III: Halloween 2018

Delving further into the deadly and the depraved for this Hallowed month of horror, 31 Fright Nights returns for 2018.

This year’s theme opens the archives of one of horror’s most prestigious and trail-blazing producers; a man who hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel so much as patent it as his own. He embraces everything that makes the horror genre we know and love by allowing his filmmakers their creative freedom with only three stringent rules, leading him to have grossed over $1bn.

Jason Blum.

One of the most lucrative and successful businesses you can be in is film. If you know what works, if you know what will make a buck – and you have a few spare yourself to kickstart it all – you’ll be in film. To drill down, if you really know where the money is, you’ll make horror.

Love him or hate him, Jason Blum has made a huge success from the ever profitable horror genre. With tight restrictions on budget, location and shooting schedule, he is able to hone the very best talent whilst simultaneously making an excellent return.

But despite his business model, he’s not in it solely for the money; follow his Twitter account and you’ll see that he clearly loves the genre. Do his tight restrictions enable him to make money or enable him to realise in the filmmakers a potential that only budget and time restrictions can produce? Well, it’s both.

It can be argued that he’s about the buck; the series of Paranormal Activity films are kind of testament to this. Though they hold a place in my filmic heart and each have their own potential, there’s no doubt that this universe was expanded solely to cash
in on the success of the original film.

But he’s also willing to stick his neck out on the line. I genuinely believe that he doesn’t just see the dollar signs; he sees the potential. His producing ranges far outside of horror and has even bagged him Academy Award nominations for non-horror films, namely Whiplash; although, that said, his most lucrative film to date is an out-and-out psychological horror film Get Out. However, would that film have ever been made if not for the financial and emotional backing of Blum? A film weighted in Trump-era racism and bigotry, with a clear and skewed view of black lives and whether – or why – they matter.

There’s no doubt that he’s making waves in the industry; his business model is profitable and his catalogue is enviable. With the highly anticipated sequel to Halloween due, there can be no doubt that Jason Blum has his audiences hearts – and wallets – at the forefront of his mind.

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2018 – Jason Blum Special

  1. Paranormal Activity
  2. Paranormal Activity 2
  3. Paranormal Activity 3
  4. Paranormal Activity 4
  5. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
  6. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
  7. Insidious
  8. Insidious: Chapter 2
  9. Insidious: Chapter 3
  10. Insidious: The Last Key
  11. The Purge
  12. The Purge: Anarchy
  13. The Purge: Election Year
  14. Ouija
  15. Ouija: Origin of Evil
  16. The Visit
  17. The Green Inferno
  18. Happy Death Day
  19. Unfriended
  20. The Veil
  21. Hush
  22. Oculus
  23. The Lazarus Effect
  24. Viral
  25. The Town That Dreaded Sundown
  26. The Belko Experiment
  27. Dark Skies
  28. The Bay
  29. Sinister
  30. Sinister 2
  31. Get Out

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #31 – Halloween II (1981)


Director: Rick Rosenthal

Writer(s): John Carpenter & Debra Hill

Studio/Distributor: Universal Pictures

Budget: $2.5m

Box Office: $25.5m

Release Date: 30 October, 1981

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 31%

UK Blu Ray release? No, just DVD


Jamie Lee Curtis – Laurie Strode

Donald Pleasance – Sam Loomis

Charles Cyphers – Sheriff Leigh Brackett

Jeffrey Kramer – Graham

Lance Guest – Jimmy

Pamela Susan Shoop – Karen

Hunter von Leer – Gary Hunt

Dick Warlock – Michael Myers


Plot According to IMDb

While Sheriff Brackett and Dr Loomis hunt for Michael Myers, a traumatised Laurie is rushed to hospital, and Michael Myers is not far beyond her.

Inertia’s Insight

So, The Greatest Slasher Film Ever Made™ gets a sequel. With the writers of the original film returning to bring the masked Michael Myers back to our screens, surely this would become The Greatest Slasher Sequel Ever Made™… right?

With Friday the 13th smashing the box office the year before, Halloween II arrived in the wake of a slasher boom, one that the original had all but influenced. Instead of arriving to show the sophomore’s how it’s done, Halloween II leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth and a feeling that so much more could’ve been done.


The film opens with the last few minutes from Halloween, as the briefly unmasked Michael is shot numerous times by Dr. Loomis, falling from the first floor balcony then disappearing into thin air… We’re reminded of the events of the previous film but rather than a recap – ‘last time on Halloween‘ – the end of the first film segues seamlessly into this one, as we follow Michael into the neighbour’s house and Laurie in to the back of an ambulance.

Immediately though, within the first five minutes, the sequel shows its colours. Halloween is infamous for the fact that for all its violence and pure horror, there’s nary a spot of blood in sight. Here, as Michael pays a brutal visit to the neighbours, there’s blood and gore, an indication that the sequel has moved with the times.


It’s a bit of a slow burner for a good portion of the film. As Michael cuts a swathe through Haddonfield, Laurie lies in a coma in hospital. The groundwork for the Michael Myers theory as explored in later sequels is dropped here, as Dr Loomis investigates a break-in at the local school with the word ‘SAMHAIN’ inscribed on the chalkboard.

For the most part, it’s a bit of a boring film which is so crushingly disappointing considering the genius of Halloween. Sure, it ticks all the right boxes – death, despair and destruction – but there’s none of the original anxiety or fear here, it’s lacking in suspense, even though we know it’s building towards an inevitable showdown between Michael and Laurie. And when we get there… despite the revelation of just who Michael is, it’s still lacking in tension or suspense. It’s frankly quite disappointing.


And therein lies the problem with slasher films. The first and original entry is always the best, the crème de la crème of horror films. Suspenseful, mysterious, making an impact. Just like that first high, we attempt to chase it but subsequent attempts will always fall short. Trying to be bigger, better, bolder and bloodier only leaves us feeling emptier and yearning for that original high.

Carpenter and Hill intended for this entry to round off the story of Michael Myers, allowing the Halloween franchise to focus each film on a ‘Monster of the Week’ style anthology. Yet after the disappointing success of Season of the Witch, just like every great masked slasher villain, they found a way of bringing him back – even if they do jump the shark…

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)



  • The mask Michael wears is the exact same mask worn in the original Halloween, however it looks different because the paint had faded
  • This is the only Halloween film to show the morning after 31 October; every other movie ends on Halloween night
  • John Carpenter filmed a few extra gory scenes, fearing that Rosenthal’s version was too tame to stand against the recent successes of other slasher films of the time


SAM LOOMIS: I shot him six times! I shot him in the heart, but… he’s not human!

Happy Halloween!


31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #30 – Get Out (2017)

get out

Director: Jordan Peele

Writer(s): Jordan Peele

Studio/Distributor: Universal Pictures

Budget: $4.5m

Box Office: $251.8m

Release Date: 24 February, 2017

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes


Daniel Kaluuya – Chris Washington

Allison Williams – Rose Armitage

Catherine Keener – Missy Armitage

Bradley Whitford – Dean Armitage

Caleb Landry Jones – Jeremy Armitage

Marcus Henderson – Walter

Betty Gabriel – Georgina

Lakeith Stanfield – Andrew Logan King

Stephen Root – Jim Hudson

LilRel Howery – Rod Williams


Plot According to IMDb

It’s time for a young African-American to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly ambience will give way to a nightmare.

Inertia’s Insight

Not many directors will ever have their first film bestowed with the accolades and commendations that Get Out has received. Whilst no stranger to the entertainment industry, Jordan Peele’s first outing behind the camera in the world of horror is a stark, deeply disturbing psychological horror with perfect political and racial subtext mixed in with some cracking one-liners.

Chris is about to meet his girlfriend’s parents for the first time at their countryside retreat. He’s reluctant, and understandably so: he’s black, she’s white. Even in 2017 we still haven’t advanced enough as a society for racism to be obsolete. He is concerned about acceptance, and despite Rose’s reassurances, his theory of acceptance rings true during an awkward encounter with a police officer on the way to their house.


Rose’s parents are warm and welcoming, but there’s always a tickle at the back of our mind that leaves us guessing. There are clues, too; not just their overfamiliarity with him but also their determination to recognise that he is black. The Barack Obama line is a perfect example, one that is both funny and uncomfortable. This is where Peele excels, expertly building tension and a subtle sense of paranoia, leaving us hanging on ever word from the Armitage family in order to understand what their ulterior motive is.

The paranoia that Chris feels is felt by the audience. We know it’s right for him to feel this way, even though we wish he didn’t. But it’s the black on black sabotage that is strikingly odd. Just why is the maid and the gardener acting so strange? The scene with the maid where Chris talks to her in the bedroom is an incredible and unsettling piece of acting, aided by Peele’s expert framing of the shot.


Peele & co have built enough anticipation with trailers and posters for us to know that something is definitely not right with Rose’s family, but it’s the what that keeps us hooked. We naturally veer towards slavery, as the dynamics of the black and white people at one of the party’s seems to indicate. Yet when it is revealed, it’s even worse than you could imagine. In part complimentary but in whole just utterly deplorable.

Daniel Kaluuya gives an impressive performance as Chris. Sweet and tender, his talent lies in his ability to tell the story through his face. The most notable scene as featured on the poster is shocking, but it’s Chris that sells it. It’s no wonder it’s become iconic and synonymous with the movie.

The party scene is superb. For most of the film, Peele’s horror comes from these shocking scenes, all psychological and suggestive. When Chris takes a picture of one of the guests, what ensues is just crazy, only furthering our belief that we really don’t know what’s happening here, despite what we may think.


The scene with her brother really opens up the dynamic though, as his actions go someway to revealing their intentions. It all builds to the final act, where the mystery is revealed, a skewered version of idolisation that veers towards the manic. Chris’ fight for survival is fraught with obstacles, the comedic tones from his best friend providing us with some much needed relief.

For a first film, Jordan Peele has crafted one of the decade’s best psychological horror films. Astute, subversive, comedic and terrifyingly real, a film indebted to Trump’s America.

Who knew a cup and saucer could be so scary?

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)



  • The film was shot in just 28 days
  • Stayed in the US box office top 10 for its first two months of release
  • Jordan Peele cited Night of the Living Dead as an inspiration for making his feature film debut
  • The stark black and white cinematic poster showing a cropped close-up of the protagonists’ eyes is an inverted reference to the poster of French film La Haine


JIM HUDSON: I want your eyes, man. I want those things you see through.

Tomorrow: Night #31 – Halloween II (1981)

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #29 – Hostel (2005)


Director: Eli Roth

Writer(s): Eli Roth

Studio/Distributor: Lionsgate/Screen Gems

Budget: $4.8m

Box Office: $80.6m

Release Date: 6 January, 2006

IMDb Rating: 5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes


Jay Hernandez – Paxton

Derek Richardson – Josh

Eythor Gudjonsson – Oli

Barbara Nedeljakova – Natalya

Jan Vlasak – The Dutch Businessman

Jana Kaderabkova – Svetlana

Jennifer Lim – Kana

Keiko Seiko – Yuki


Plot According to IMDb

Three backpackers head to a Slovak city that promises to meet their hedonistic expectations, with no idea of the hell that awaits them.

Inertia’s Insight

Like Tarantino, Eli Roth knows his shit when it comes to films. Unlike Tarantino, Roth did attend film school, his focus on the claret of cinema genres.  Exec produced by Tarantino, Hostel is only Roth’s second feature film and yet here, in his favoured genre (also forming part of a movement that coined a deplorable phrase for a sub-genre), he crafts an impeccable feature that quite literally twists and turns.

Backpackers Josh and Paxton are experiencing the cultures of Europe before settling down for the serious life. Bypassing the Sagrada Familia or Wencelas Square, they opt for the Red Light District and hash brownie cafes. In search of the next exciting venture, they are told of a place you can go where you can fulfill your wildest dreams…


Hostel is such a frightening concept because of its reality. There’s a belief that this is possible, that somewhere in the world an elite club is operating in this mad, macabre way. Indeed, the gestation of the film came from a website that Harry Knowles told Roth about. Some of the best horror films are those grounded in reality, and Hostel plays on this to perfection. We’re embedded with Paxton, Josh and their European comrade Oli for some time, growing close to them, making their demise that harder to swallow.

The Dutch Businessman is a great highlight early on. His theory on our connection with food and the way in which he studies Josh gives you goosebumps. It’s not until I watched it recently for about the 12th time that I noticed something quite obvious: Josh is gay. His sexuality has no relevance on the events that are to come, but it’s an interesting take on the backpacker adventure. His reaction to the businessman’s advances are a little OTT; when he sees him again later, he tries to repeat the advance. His hesitation in having sex with Natalya and then his yearning for Oli are the final indicators. It makes for a sad story in that he is never going to be his true self, damned forever to that dark, dingy hell hole.


It takes a good portion of time for the proverbial Hostel to lead them to their fate. Roth establishes credence with the hunting club, allowing us to believe their ability to kill hundreds of backpackers, leaving their fate unknown to their family’s. When we do get in the basement, this film gets dark. On the surface of it, you can see why the torture porn title was gifted to Hostel and other such mid-2000’s entries. There’s no less-is-more here; no hint of suggestion to allow the rest to be formed in our minds. We see everything –  blood, bile and all. In one sense it is effective, giving you the feelings that a first class horror film should. On the other hand, this style of filmmaking can tire quite quickly if overused. Fortunately for us, Roth demonstrates his skill, emphasising brutal detail whilst cutting (forgive the pun) when necessary.

Once Paxton is tied to the chair, things move at a hectic pace. His would-be killer is batshit crazy; I love the way that the focus is on the victims as opposed to the killer, though the killers actions and mannerisms make you feel like you want to know more about them. Though we do glimpse the psychology behind of the men in the leather overalls when Paxton escapes, it leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, Part II takes us further in to that mindset.


Paxton’s actions in the final act echo how we would all be in that situation. It is harrowing, but his escape from the basement gives us hope. The final scene in the train station is superb. It leaves the door open for more whilst rounding off Paxton’s story nicely. His determination for justice sees him pushed to the same level of the antagonists, the horror mantra ringing true: no-one ever really wins.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)



  • The interior of the slaughterhouse was filmed at a functioning mental hospital in Prague
  • The three backpackers stay in room 237. This is a reference to the film The Shining
  • Over 150 gallons of blood were used in the making of the film
  • In the unrated DVD version, the word ‘fuck’ is said 128 times
  • The character of Natalyia was deliberately shown to get uglier throughout the film, to reflect her true personality


MAN (Takashi Miike): Be careful. You could spend ALL your money in there.

Tomorrow: Night #30 – Get Out (2017)

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #28 – 28 Weeks Later (2007)


Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Writer(s): Rown Joffé, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, E.L. Lavigne & Jesus Olmo

Studio/Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Budget: $15m

Box Office: $64.2m

Release Date: 11 May, 2007

IMDb Rating: 7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes


Robert Carlyle – Don

Rose Byrne – Scarlet

Jeremy Renner – Doyle

Harold Perrineau – Flynn

Catherine McCormack – Alice

Idris Elba – Stone

Imogen Poots – Tammy

Mackintosh Muggleton – Andy


Plot According to IMDb

Six months after the rage virus was inflicted on the population of Great Britain, the US Army helps to secure a small area of London for the survivors to repopulate and start again. But not everything goes to plan.

Inertia’s Insight

Danny Boyle’s stylish and harrowing horror film 28 Days Later… was heralded as a triumphant entry in the zombie landscape, its fast and furious rage carriers making for a frenetic and nail-biting film. Digitally shot and all the better for it, the film saw something of a happy ending, as the infected appeared to be dying off and the military were still flying.

And so here we find ourselves, 28 Weeks Later. In the opening sequence we’re introduced to Robert Carlisle and his diverse group of survivors, holed up in an old farmhouse in the countryside. As is apt to happen, shit goes sideways and the inhabitants of the farmhouse soon find themselves on the run. It’s a great opening sequence. Though the grainy digital footage is gone, the pace is still breakneck as Carlisle’s character, Don, hurtles towards safety. The mix of handheld shots that bounce on Don’s shoulder coupled with the swooping crane shots as dozens of infected bound towards him make for a thrilling set piece. Immediately in the opening sequence the new directorial hands are established.


Cutting to London, 28 weeks after the rage virus first got out, life is returning to normal. Areas are quarantined and inside the safe zone, life is being rebuilt. The presence of the American military both as a safeguard as well as a global power is particularly effective. Considering when the film was released, our relationship with America was fractured by the two Middle Eastern wars, with faith in our own government as a power rather than a proxy starting to dwindle. Seeing their hold over London, their “we saved you” stance is particularly poignant.

Even though we know what’s coming – there’s no way we can watch a post-apocalyptic film building a Utopia without a few infected running in to fuck it all up – we get some time alone with Don and his kids. Their relationship is fractured, the loss of their Mother difficult to take. It’s interesting to hear Don lie, placing us in that mindset: just what would we say to our kids to protect them? But this lie leads his daughter Tammy to go searching for the truth, and in doing so, she finds her Mother, alive and unwell…


An a-symptomatic carrier in a zombie film is a gold mine for the story, but just as quickly as she’s discovered, all hell breaks loose in an incredibly claustrophobic sequence. Don’s reunion with his wife is short lived, and Carlisle is superb in this scene. But it’s the bit inside the dark room when the infected break out that really has you on the edge of your seat. The lighting is superb, and there’s just enough of a hint of the true horror to leave you guessing the rest.

It shows just how easily things can spiral out of control and how quickly this virus can spread. America’s “drop ’em from high” attitude sees the remaining survivors in a race against time to get the hell out of dodge. In post-apocalyptic films we love to see the landscape – iconic landmarks riddled with ivy and in a state of disrepair. Their run through London gives us a few of these gems, Wembley in particular being an effective touch.

Yet the film is not without its pitfalls. DOP Enrique Chediak’s day-for-night technique is poor. Whilst it may be cheaper to film during the day and have it edited in post to appear as night, it is so ineffective. The blue hue only provides poor lighting for the scene, and the fact that it is so obvious, it removes you from the scene. It’s a small scene that manages to affect the overall feel of the film.


That said, Fresnadillo’s spin on the rage virus is an exemplary entry in the zombie sub-genre. Tense, frenetic, gory – just look at the helicopter scene – and completely believable, it still leaves us yearning for another sequel even 10 years later…

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)



  • All of the night scenes involving Andy, Tammy, Scarlet, Doyle and Sam’s journey across London to escape the bombs were shot day-for-night using a new technique created specifically for the film by DOP Enrique Chediak
  • All of the infected are played by people from a dance, gymnastics, circus or mime background
  • The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff doubled for the interior of Wembley Stadium because, at the time of filming, the interior of Wembley was still under construction


SCARLET: It all makes sense. They’re executing code red. Step 1: Kill the infected. Step 2: Containment. If containment fails, then Step 3: Extermination.

Tomorrow: Night #29 – Hostel (2005)

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #27 – The Purge: Anarchy (2014)


Director: James DeMonaco

Writer(s): James DeMonaco

Studio/Distributor: Universal Pictures

Budget: $9m

Box Office: $111.9m

Release Date: 18 July, 2014

IMDb Rating: 6.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 56%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes


Frank Grillo – Sergeant

Carmen Ejogo – Eva Sanchez

Zach Gilford – Shane

Kiele Sanchez – Liz

Zoe Soul – Cali

Justina Machado – Tanya

John Beasey – Papa Rico


Plot According to IMDb

Three groups of people intertwine and are left stranded in the streets on Purge Night, trying to survive the chaos and violence that occurs.

Inertia’s Insight

With such an incredibly unique idea, The Purge was crying out for a sequel. The first film explored the themes of this fictitious (and altogether believable) event in a confined space, seeing it from the perspective of a small – and rich – family. As teased in The Purge by Rhys Wakefield’s psychotic leader, the rich were out to kill the poor, those they saw as a blight on society.

This brilliant concept from James DeMonaco threw out the potential for so many perspectives, particularly for the action to take to the streets outside the confines of a seemingly safe house. And that’s exactly where Anarchy takes us – out in to the middle of it all, to witness the brave and the barbaric; the meanest and the macabre of those who see Purge Night as their night to carry out their darkest fantasies.

Let’s get as political as we’re ever going to get in one sentence: with Trump in charge, this doesn’t seem all that far away. What makes this film so scary is its potential. We already see the propensity for mass killings in America; their sanity-defying faith in firearms and the NRA’s rule over blinded politicians is genuinely frightening. In a country that permits it legal to wonder the streets with a firearm, they wonder why they have so many incidents? If Trump were to pass the Purge now, the streets would be filled with exactly the kind of people we see in this film.


Taking the action to the streets, the film centers on three sets of people whose lives become intertwined, dependent on each other to survive the night. Sergeant, the mysterious of them all, heads out on Purge night in a souped-up car. For some time we’re questioning his motivations, but it’s obvious there’s a human element to him that is missing in most of the other masked maniacs. Is he an anti-Purge vigilante? A man out for revenge? Or is he just as bad as everyone else?

DeMonaco crafts a good set of characters with enough of a personality clash to cause friction in their fight for survival. Undoubtedly Sergeant is the leader of this unlikely group, with Eva and Cali on the run after their apartment block is targeted by a group of mercenaries, Shane and Liz left adrift in the city after their car is sabotaged. Each with their own agenda, they are led across town, ducking and diving the very worst of what the night has to offer, as well as what appears to be a government sanctioned truck with some heavy artillery. They encounter problem after problem, culminating in another example of how the rich would treat a night like the Purge.


That noise to signal the start of the Purge is so unsettling, reminiscent of an air raid siren. Coupled with the finality of the emergency broadcast on all television stations just spells dystopia. In the first film, the prosperity the family made from the Purge made it seem like a utopia; here we see the grisly fallout, the reality behind some politician’s grand idea.

The montage when the Purge commences is brilliant, and only a snippet of the madness that’s out there on that night. The masks that people wear are incredibly effective. Despite the fact that for 12 hours there is no law, people would still go out seeking anonymity by wearing a mask. But they would also wear a mask as an identity, displaying their alter ego and replicating a slasher villain.


The exploration of multiple storylines on this Purge night also gives us a glimpse of the resistance, an anti-Purge movement that, whilst ironically using the Purge to prevent people from purging, are a necessary inclusion in to the story line. With such a contentious event as the Purge, there would undoubtedly be facets of society vehemently opposed to the night, doing whatever it takes to educate people. The only gripe I have with this film is that the resistance aren’t used more, though when you see it in the context of Election Year, it kind of makes sense.

There’s no doubt the film is poised for political commentary, and the government cleansing of the projects is a great sub-plot that serves to set up the sequel Election Year. The film is perfectly paced, peppered with subtext but still providing the thrills and spills that would draw audiences. The ending is particularly poignant, and it’s a pleasure to see Sergeant explored in Election Year. A solid sequel from DeMonaco.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)



  • The Purge is a day before the spring equinox. Spring is a symbol for rebirth and cleansing
  • The film takes place in 2023
  • The sergeant’s name, not heard in the film, is Leo Grimes


NARRATOR: This is not a test. This is your emergency broadcast system announcing the commencement of the Annual Purge sanctioned by the U.S. Government.

Tomorrow: Night #28 – 28 Weeks Later (2007)

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #26 – Poltergeist (1982)


Director: Tobe Hooper

Writer(s): Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais & Mark Victor

Studio/Distributor: MGM

Budget: $10.7m

Box Office: $121.7m

Release Date: 4 June, 1982

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes


Craig T. Nelson – Steven Freeling

JoBeth Williams – Diane Freeling

Beatrice Straight – Dr Lesh

Dominique Dunne – Dana Freeling

Oliver Robins – Robbie Freeling

Heather O’Rourke – Carol Anne Freeling

Zelda Rubinstein – Tangina


Plot According to IMDb

A family’s home is haunted by a host of ghosts.

Inertia’s Insight

In what is undoubtedly a Spielberg film in all but director’s credit, Poltergeist is a quintessentially 80’s Spielberg film: loving family with Mum, Dad and 2.4 children living in an idyllic suburban house, their lives juxtaposed by the horrors they encounter.

Tobe Hooper, horror maestro who brought us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, does kind of feel a million miles away from his normal territory here, and the rumours that abound this production may be truer than we think if we really look at this film. That said, it’s not going to be the focal point here.

The film opens on a great bit of suburbia, huge houses and winding streets in gleaming sunshine, lawns being mowed, plants watered, kids riding their bikes. It’s a safe environment, a new neighbourhood where the only issue is the proximity of your television in relation to your neighbours that leads to remote wars. The family are close, the parents hard working but also grounded in reality, smoking weed and unwinding after a stressful week.


The presence of something otherworldly in their house happens pretty quickly, with the iconic ‘They’re here’ delivered to creepy perfection by young Heather O’Rourke. The ghosts here are tame, touted as an attraction as opposed to something we should fear, and that’s because we’re seeing it from Carol Anne’s perspective. To them they are an attraction, something to be enticed by. When we see them from Robbie’s perspective they’re something else entirely. Representing his worst fears, they manifest as something that we could all identify with as being scary when we were kids – the contorted branches of a tree representing an elongated hand; the creepy clown that never stops smiling. These set pieces are brilliant, establishing the true intentions of these otherworldly visitors.

Carol Anne’s disappearance is a true haunting for the family, as her presence is still felt. The genius of this film is the normality they place in the phenomena. Before Carol Anne is taken, the chairs in the kitchen are an exciting event for Diane, something she is enthusiastic about. When Carol Anne is ‘in the walls’, the daily occurrences of the supernatural are as natural to them as their morning cup of coffee.


Hooper and Spielberg keep things fresh by changing the focus as they go through. We’re immersed with the Freeling family, but it’s refreshing to see the events from the point of view of the paranormal investigators. The sceptics amongst them soon become believers, as the entities that haunt themselves put on quite the spectacle. The lights floating down the stairs is a standout moment, not only for the paranormal display that we see but also the reactions from those in the room.


With the paranormal investigation, we get Tangina. Don’t you just love her? She’s a pure soul, her voice an indication of her good nature. She’s the glue the family needed to keep them together and she also serves as our guide, for exposition and as the driving force behind Carol Anne’s repatriation from the other side.

This is how the film is so Spielbergian – it’s the family that makes it. For all the frights and scares, it’s the family – their reactions, their love for each other and their determination to get Carol Anne back is what grounds this film and makes it seem like a possibility, their actions echoing every parents desire for their children.


The final scene is great. The secret is revealed and we understand the cause of the haunting, which is shocking even without the events that have unfolded. The swimming pool scene is gross yet effective, but they payoff is the finality of their haunting. The ghosts don’t just haunt the house, they take it. And in classic Spielberg style, the ending is final but also light, the TV being wheeled out of the motel room gifting us a final chuckle at a film that is tense, terrifying and – dare I say it again – quintessentially 80’s.

Inertia’s Ideal Score (★ out of 5)



  • Drew Barrymore was considered for the role of Carol Anne, but Spielberg wanted someone more angelic. It was this audition that earned her a role in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • Both of the terrors that plagued Robbie came from Spielberg’s own fears as a child
  • The hands which pull the flesh off the investigators face in the bathroom mirror are Spielberg’s


CAROL ANNE: They’re here…

Tomorrow: Night #27 – The Purge: Anarchy (2014)