There are few that would dispute the importance of Steven Spielberg in the history of film. However, Spielberg played an even bigger role in helping Universal Studios to become the home of the Blockbuster. Much of the original Universal Studios Florida was built on Spielberg related projects. Back to the Future, Jaws, E.T. all remain fan favorite attractions, even as some have been replaced. While Spielberg still has a presence in the parks, including Jurassic Park and Men in Black, it’s been sad to watch him go.
However, that’s just part of what makes “Poltergeist” so exciting. While Tobe Hooper is the official director, it’s a fairly open secret that it was a “collaboration” with Spielberg. You know, in the sense that Spielberg really directed the film. However, there’s no doubt that Spielberg at the peak of his powers, teaming up with Hooper, director of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” would result in something crazy. Now that it’s finally found its way to Horror Nights, let’s look back at the classic horror film.
EXPECTED WAIT TIME
35 Minutes – 75 Minutes
As a popular film that many people have seen over the years, it’s looking like we’ll get similar wait times to The Shining and The Exorcist from years past. It’ll be going to be the same location so it will receive quite a bit of traffic as well as at the front of the park. On busier nights, expect the higher end of this spectrum. Having “Stranger Things” next door should take away some of the crowd.
CHARACTERS/EFFECTS WE HOPE TO SEE
Before we jump too deep into the characters of the film, I want to be straightforward with our readers. I do not expect this to be a top tier house in terms of scares. This house is going to shine with the production design, just as “The Shining” and “The Exorcist” did in the past. A lot of this film takes place in a single house, no one actually dies, and there’s not a ton of outright scares. All of that said, there are some choice scenes that will be awesome to check out, but expect it to be more of a visual feast than a scary house.
Carole Anne – Just we got a lot of Regan’s when we got “The Exorcist,” we’re going to get a lot of Carole Anne’s. She’s the character that kicks off the film and should get a lot of screentime. She gets the iconic line of the film, and could be used throughout the house for various moments. Even having her voice echo through the house will be creepy enough, especially if paired with TVs throughout the house.
Diane – She gets the most screentime of any of the characters, and she has the most material. We could get scareactors jumping out and hitting her screams. We’ll likely get a couple of scene reenactments. However, expect puppets and mannequins for her crawling on the ceiling (unless of course, they invert the room).
Steven – He’ll likely be present, but more to act out scenes. Steven doesn’t get any of the scary scenes, mostly just tries to keep the family together.
Tangina – Tangina is really creepy and could easily make appearances throughout the house. Expect vocal recordings for her character, but I’d be surprised if she is actually responsible for any scares.
Dr. Lesh/Ryan/Marty – The group of researchers show up throughout the film but only Marty has a really scary moment. Marty gets to deal with maggots and a melting face. I 100% expect to see Marty’s face in various levels of decay. Think of the Freddy vs. Jason when you walked past a few scenes of his victims, from various movies. It could be a single room and have him jump out to scare us.
The Beast – The “villain” of the film is the evil ghost who wishes to keep Carole Anne in the “other” world. The creature could be brought to life in numerous ways, including giant skull puppets. The ghost at the door is one incarnation of The Beast (that is also some of the inspiration for Rev. Henry Kane from “Poltergeist 2” and “Poltergeist 3“). The ghost is probably the easiest to recreate, similar to the Lady Gaga ghost puppet from American Horror Story: Roanoke. Expect potential nods to 2 and 3 as well once we walk into the other world.
The Clown – It’s going to be impossible to do this house without bringing the number one clown into the house. He’s creepy, scary, and iconic. There’s no way they can do the house without figuring out how to bring the clown into the house.
The Tree – the scene is iconic, but it’ll be interesting to see if they can make this work. I imagine they’ll find a way to make it happen, but there’s a chance we just see it as a set piece.
The Spirits – An easy way to fill the house with scareactors. They show up on several occasions, and with the hints that we’ll be going into the closet, they should be able to bring them out as scareactors there.
Skeletons – Towards the end of the film, we get dozens of skeletons popping out of the ground. This should be an easy way to end the house and should be sufficiently scary as you leave the house. Think about the relentlessness of Scarecrow but with skeletons everywhere.
LOCATIONS WE HOPE TO GO
One of the interesting things about “Poltergeist” s that the majority of the film takes place in a single house. We’ve seen that the planners at HHN have found a way to pull off a house like this one before in “The Exorcist.” Even “The Shining” is a relatively contained house compared to other IPs. Let’s break down the house, based on some versions of the house we’ll likely see.
The Freeling Family Living Room – There’s a lot of scenes that take place in the living room, so we should at least pass through once. The TV is crackling here, and we should get some good screams from Carole Anne from the TV. Plus ghosts/spirits and potentially some wind effects.
Diane and Steven’s Bedroom – This is where we get an earthquake, as well as the “They’re Here” line. This is where we discover Carole Anne has been brought into the TV, and get the boy screaming and covered in blood. Later we could walk through when Diane gets rolled around the ceiling as well. Potentially, if we get some cool effects in the houses, we might even see the creepy light effects going through the air.
The Kitchen – There’s a possibility that we see the chairs stacked up, potentially if we walk into the house through the backyard. There’s also the potential for some moveable effects as items and people drag across the floor. Perhaps most exciting will be seeing Marty’s face fall off. Yeah, that would work. Maybe even the gross meat and maggot food. Oh this makes me sick just thinking about it.
The Backyard – If we can, it’d be cool to get the tree effect early in the house. We won’t walk through the pool per se, but we could see it through production design off to the sides. This would be most important to bring that Tree into the maze.
Robbie and Carol’s Bedroom 1 – We should get to walk through this room multiple times. The first time, we need to see stuff flying around the room, and we should see her pulled through the air from the bed.
Robbie and Carol’s Bedroom 2 – The second time we enter the room, I’m hoping we get to see Diane, Steven and Tangina getting ready to go to the other side. There’s some very cool light effects that can be pulled off here, and we’ll likely see the scareactors reenacting scenes from the movie.
“The Closet” – This is where the house will likely shine, adding considerable amounts of scares from the unknown. Once we walk into the closet, which is likely going to involve some blind lights, will be cool. Once here, Universal can really experiment around and get scares from unexpected places. It’s a good thing they’re bringing this into the house because otherwise, we might get some really boring set pieces.
Robbie and Carol’s Bedroom 3 – This time we need to see our favorite clown. Potentially the way to play the sequence is to have us enter the closet, leave the closet, and come back into the room with the clown attack already in progress. Cut the 10 minutes of downtime and reset from the movie and amp up the intensity through the end of the house.
Cuesta Verde Streets- As we leave the house, let us get a better look at Cuesta Verda. We can exit past the driveway, go down the road a little, and have skeletons pop out from every direction. Again, this can be a relentless end to a house that is mostly visual checkmarks up to this point.
WHAT TO WATCH
“Poltergeist” (1982) – It’s clear why Universal’s wanted “Poltergeist” to come to HHN for years. It’s an iconic film, and it pairs very well with the upcoming “Stranger Things” house. Think of this as more “HHN Lite.” This film can be creepy, but it’s never truly horrifying. It’s a great intro to those hoping to explore horror and get more into it. While other houses throughout HHN are sure to be more frightening, this movie is an awesome one to check out.
“Beetlejuice” (1988) – If you’re looking for more movies with creepy pieces but aren’t out and out scary, check “Beetlejuice” from Tim Burton. It’s an obvious candidate for a house someday, with just enough creepiness and character design to work. The Ghost with the Most is brilliantly played by Michael Keaton, who knocks it out of the park. The rest of the cast is filled out with Winona Ryder (also set to appear in the “Stranger Things” house), Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and Catherine O’Hara.
“Ghostbusters” (1984) – Another soft horror film that actually has some good scares is the first “Ghostbusters.” This one is far more in the comedy camp, especially with the iconic turn from Bill Murray. Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd wrote the movie, and it is undeniably Ivan Reitman’s career peak. Every self-respecting movie fan should have seen “Ghostbusters” at least once. The movie is so good, it conveniently makes people forget the 2nd one is really not so great until the end.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) – A more horrifying entry on the list is “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” which also provided inspiration to some of our other houses this Halloween. Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund) is an iconic villain that should continue to occupy a place in pop culture history. His funny quips are welcomed, and he has some great kills as well. This will be a step up for most fans of “Poltergeist” but should be welcomed by most. If you’re really adventurous, check out “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors,” which is one of the few horror sequels that can be considered outstanding.
“Gremlins” (1984) – One more film from the Spielberg production credit pipeline is “Gremlins.” The first film is cute and adorable. It also features a Christmas setting, and the Gremlins are creepy on their own. However, the 2nd film, “Gremlins: The New Batch” (1990) is one of the most visually insane movies I have ever watched. I love it, but it is definitely not for everyone. The two make an interesting one-two punch to close down your “1980’s kind of creepy but not really” film festival.
What do you think of the “Poltergeist” house? Where does it rank on your list? Let us know in the comments below!