Monday, May 18, 2020

Unearthed Tombs: An Analysis of Poltergeist, and Poltergeist II

Unearthed Tombs:
An Analysis of Poltergeist and Poletergeist II
 Christopher Highland
For Horror Bob's Blog

    I have said that I don’t buy what was explained in Poltergeist, but there are reasons for that. There are puzzle pieces that are either not seen, or intentionally left out. Whether these pieces I will bring up have been noticed by those involved in the films, or anyone else, I know not. But, these are films that do what a select few of horror films of the 1980s, or any other time, manage to do. They scare.  
     They cut across all manners of taste, perceptions, thresholds, and do more than what most horror films do, which is merely entertain. Not only do they scare, but they cut across various contexts as to why they scare.  
    These films have depths that most horror films do not. They are horror films with clues and subtleties that give them layers and angles that most would not imagine, no matter how much one would go over them with a fine-toothed comb. A distinction among mediocrity, those who worked on such a film should be honored if a horror film falls into this category, whether such depth is known to the crew or not.
   I have mentioned that there are specific reasons why these two films scare, terrify, or at the very least, fill one with trepidation. I will explain not only that, but how and why events in these films happen the way they do, and also the way they could.  I will also explain the real motive for the villain, which is hinted at, but never rightfully explained.
   These are films I have put out of my mind for decades due to the level of fear they brought me.  After experience has let me see them with new eyes, tumblers and gears within my mind suddenly clicked into place, and I noticed what others are not aware of.  There is much buried treasure to be had, if one knows where, and how, to look.  After all, these films have many hearts.
   One aspect of these films I will discuss throughout will be metaphysics, which is a paramount factor in key plot points, and why they happen the way they do.  It even ties in to the villain’s motive.  Now, in order for all this to be understood, it’s important to re-examine certain scenes. Firstly, the construction of the pool wakes up the spirits buried underneath, causing problems with tv’s within the house and neighbors. This also allows for the spirits to enact their playful nature by moving members of the family along the floor, and moving the chairs. Keep in mind at this point that they are not under any influence or control of “The Beast”, for he had not woken up yet.
   When the villain does wake up, he takes control by splitting his power three-ways. First, with the animation and manipulation of the tree; attempted eating or swallowing alive of Robbie by the tree, second with the kidnapping of Carol Anne, and third, with the tornado.  All this caused the beast to expend a great amount of energy, leaving him exhausted and the other spirits in control for the most part, yet now under his influence.   
  The villain is now forced to appear to Carol Anne as a child, at least for the time being, keeping her with him until his strength can fully return.
  Remember it was the wish of the spirits to cross over, which was explained.  It was not explained what the ultimate goal of “The Beast”, although it was alluded to and left up to the imagination.  Given how much energy he uses within the course of the film is quite telling.
   The spirits moving objects around in the bedroom while under the influence of the villain does cost him some energy, but not too much.  It’s the same as putting a car in cruise control, or resting one’s foot on the gas pedal.
   When the spirits are seen walking down the stairs, this also costs him energy. Given there is no malevolence of any kind on the part of the spirits or “The Beast”, it is at the time where he is at his weakest, allowing himself to be seen on film.
   Also, when Marty hallucinates in the bathroom, this takes some energy to occur, although the villain does not have that much at this point. He has just enough to pull this off. This scene would have gone differently if he had more energy.   Furthermore, it is the general consensus that “The Beast” bit Marty in the film, and not one of the other spirits. This gives further depth to the bathroom scene. There is enough energy to spare for Marty to be lifted up into the air, which is detailed in a deleted scene, and bit, but not enough to take over his body and make him tear into himself for real; not enough for the complexity needed to take over his mind fully: just enough to hallucinate it.
   Now, when Tangina comes into the picture, this causes a shift in “The Beast”’s power. Her presence causes it to be swept aside and held at bay, scaled down. This allows her to go into Carol Anne's bedroom with no danger abounding. Seeing the situation for what it is, and what is needed, the rescue is able to occur, although “The Beast” is able to slip his bonds and frighten the father, causing him to let go of the rope.
   When the spirits leave the house and pass into the dimensional vortex, leaving the control of “The Beast”, his power bounces back from being restrained, being able to fool Tangina. Over the course of a day, his power  has built up to a point where he can easily attempt a second kidnapping involving Carol Anne and Robbie, along with warping reality in the hallway by making it appear longer, appearing in front of the bedroom door as a demonic sentinel, and making coffins and bodies rise up from the ground.
   When the house is finally sucked into the dimensional vortex at the end of the finale of the film, it is quite telling. It is telling that even within the finale there is a build-up to his power. He could not have sucked in the house when he wanted to; say, at the start of the finale when the mother is lifted onto the ceiling. It built up during the hallway, when it is perceived to be longer. It built up further for the second attempted kidnapping, and “The Beast” appearing as a sentinel in front of the bedroom door. 
   It built up further when the corpses and coffins rose from the ground. It came to a crescendo with the house being sucked into the dimensional vortex.  If he had the amount of power he wanted, when he wanted it, he could have easily kidnapped Robbie and Carol Anne, and most likely the mother. He could have waited for the father and Dana to come back, and had them sucked into the vortex, along with the house.
   Now, what I have said so far may be thought of as enough to clash with what was explained in the film. But, not quite. It was never explained that the excavation of the pool was what woke up the spirits in the first place. It was never explained to the paranormal investigators, or Tangina, that this was the case, nor were they aware that the family’s house was brand new. It was also never explained to them that the spirits’ bodies were still buried on the house’s property.   
   The only one who would know or suspect would be Tangina, but as much as says in the film, there’s also much in what she does not say.
   The amount of energy “The Beast” generates throughout the film is also telling. Within the context of the film, and although it is the wish of the spirits, and not the villain, to cross over, this alone suggests his motive , his ultimate objective, is on a grand scale.  For no one deals with energy on that grand a scale unless their goal is on an equally grand scale, or much grander scale, which the use of energy in the film is highly suggestive of.
   There is a theme that runs concurrent throughout the film. It is much more evident in the second film than the first film. All the ways this theme manifests itself is not always obvious to the audience, and may not be obvious to the films’ crew, but as I have said before, it does exist therein.  It is a theme that cuts across, and cuts to the quick. It works consciously, and subliminally.  Timeless, effective, it can be used in all sorts of ways. It is the theme of being buried alive.
   First, it has come to my attention that there are faces which can be seen within the tree when Robbie is climbing it if one looks closely.  Faces of spirits buried within said tree, one might say.
  Speaking of the tree, it comes alive and either tries to eat, or swallow Robbie into its trunk. This is not very far away at all when it comes to being buried alive. Rather, almost the same thing. Also, the tree’s limbs grab hold of Robbie and try to drag him into the ground. Of course, the other evidence of the theme within the film may not be quite as obvious.
   Another part of the film that falls into this theme is the bathroom scene, where Marty hallucinates. Originally, I didn’t think it had anything to with the theme, but after thinking about it from every which way that I can, I have found that it does. The skeletal features of the face when delved into, combined with the clawing action of the hands, hints of the spirits’ bodies trying to claw their way out of their graves. It also strongly hints that there is something buried within the property. This scene also foreshadows the finale with the coffins and bodies rising up from the ground.  
   Naturally, of course, the pool scene, along with the coffin rising from the ground, is the most obvious evidence for the theme existing within the film. Even though “The Beast” at this point is causing the coffins and bodies to rise, and though the construction of the pool woke them up in the first place, their rising up is highly suggestive of some life stirring within their bones. 
   Also, the difficulty the mother has in trying to escape the makeshift pool is highly suggestive of being buried alive as she fights her way past the bodies and claws her way out as her hands keep slipping in the mud.
   Poltergeist II, on the other hand, is a whole other beast altogether.   Some have said that it copies many things from the original film, and in some ways it does, but as a sequel, what it does achieve well is that it is scarier than the first film. Of course, there are not merely aesthetic reasons for that, but also scientific. The time between the continuity of the two films has nothing to do with this, however. At the end of the first film, the villain has grown in power. He has managed to take hold of his flock again and absorb them into himself, making him even stronger.
   This has allowed for him to follow his prey from California to Arizona. But, as much power as he has now, it is not enough for him to walk in and take Carol Anne when he wants to.  Her Grandmother’s existence forms a psychic barrier of protection, but once she dies, that barrier is gone, and the villain, now known as Rev. Henry Kane, manages to slip the power of his flock into the house.
   Coming in through her toy phone, the spirits are now Kane’s right hand, infesting the house the family now lives in. Though, he cannot come inside yet.  It is at this point when the family tries to leave, the Indian, “Taylor”, shows up.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before this happens, Kane shows up in human form at the local outdoor mall, appearing only to the family and no one else.  Making sure only the family sees him shows his growth in power.
   When the family returns after trying to leave, the spirits are nowhere to be found, but that is only a short-lived respite. Kane show up again, at the family’s home, and does his best to convince them to let him inside. All the while, the mother has visions of Kane, due to his close proximity. His powers have grown which allow for him to nearly mesmerize the father to let him in, but Carol Anne breaks Kane’s concentration. For all his power at this point, he is still at his weakest when he appears human.
   Since he cannot merely walk in and take Carol Anne, he does his best to wear the family down psychologically. The mother has a dream that turns into a nightmare that shows her walking in the backyard and corpses reach up from the ground and pull her in with them.  In a deleted scene, and which is also featured in the novelization, Carol Anne has a dream/nightmare where Kane appears to her and reaches into his chest and pulls out his heart.
   Rev. Henry Kane transcending the dreamscape on two occasions to give two characters nightmares, and himself appearing in one of them, is further evidence of his growth in power.
   He then further attacks by influencing his flock to attack Robbie by making his braces come alive in the bathroom and cocoon him on the ceiling, acting as a diversion the same way the tree attacking in the first film was also a diversion. Taylor guarded Carol Anne this time, preventing Kane from taking her, showing that he was for all his power, he was not all-powerful. 
   I must address another deleted scene that occurs when Tangina shows up again to help. This is when the father, and Taylor, go off in the Arizona desert, and Taylor gives him the smoke spirit to help him. 
Kane shows up in human form while they are gone and confronts the mother and Tangina, whom he recognizes. This is another instance showing his limitations when he appears human. 
   Kane finally manages to gain access to the house in the cleverest way. Taking advantage of Steven’s, the father’s, drinking as he does one night outside, Kane takes possession of the worm inside the tequila bottle from which Steven drinks.  After swallowing the worm, Kane proceeds to possess Steven’s body and thus enter the house.
   Confronting the mother, arguing, and attempting to rape her, she tells him desperately that she loves him. Unable to stand a genuine, pure sign of love, Kane is disgusted.  It breaks his concentration and hold over Steven’s body and is forcibly expelled. It oozes under the bed, forming a demonic amoeba, and quickly grows into a skeletal worm creature.
   Being able to take possession of living people, and non-living things such as the worm in the tequila bottle, not only shows Kane’s growth in power, but clever resourcefulness, ingenuity, as well as desperation.
   After gaining access to the house, it attacks Steven, but now in the form of a Medusa-like creature, grabbing him by the neck with claw-like appendages. It is here that the smoke spirit comes out of Steven’s mouth and acts as the equivalent of mace sprayed in the face to Kane. Another instance of Kane not being all-powerful. 
   The family escapes the house and decides to fight Kane on his home turf, going back to where their old house disappeared from.  Going down into the caves underneath the property, and finding the skeletons of Kane’s flock, and of Kane himself, the mother and Carol Anne are easily kidnapped by Kane and taken to the other side; the dimension he currently inhabits. 
   The ease and swiftness in which he kidnaps them is further proof of his growth in power. But, the ultimate proof is when the father and son go after them. After appearing as the medusa-like creature
again in the dimensional void, it is here that the faces of the spirits of Kane’s flock can be seen in the creature’s abdomen. These spirits that have been absorbed by Kane are proof positive not only of his growth in power, but also his lust for ever-increasing power.
   It is also proof as to why Kane was after Carol Anne in the first place.
   His attempted possession and absorption of Carol Anne into his abdomen is proof that with his level of power that that moment, if he achieved this act, his level of power would have been tipped over the edge. It is an edge from which his power would have soared to unimaginable levels. If he did achieve this possession, he would have been able to transcend many barriers that make up the physical world and spiritual world, such as time, space, and many dimensions. 
   His lust for power would have drawn him to seek out key figures in various points in time, unique beings throughout the universe, and beings of matter or anti-matter in dimensions. Seeking beings of high intelligence and psychic perception would cause his power to grow exponentially. It would also cause him to remake whatever world, dimension, or time, in his own image, for it would be irresistible to him.
     It is the only path he could have been on. The levels and type of power he used, and the growth of power caused by possessing his flock. From the first moment of the kidnapping in the first film to the final attempted possession in the second film, it is this grand jump in power in which he initially covets.
   I have mentioned before the buried alive theme exists within the first film. It is more obvious in the second film, and in some instances, maybe even less obvious for some. The skeletons found at the beginning and at the end of the film, in the cave, ties in with the flashback vision the mother has of Kane leading his flock into the underground cave, sealing it up, and not letting them leave. Also the nightmare the mother has where she is pulled into the ground by corpses.
   When Robbie is attacked in the bathroom and his braces come alive and cocoon him on the ceiling is another example.The Kane worm possession infecting Steven does not appear to fall into this theme, but looking at it from a rather roundabout manner, from how Kane takes over Steven’s body and mind, to how the worm exits his body, I believe it technically counts.
   Lastly, the medusa form in which Kane appears in at the end of the film; The faces of the souls of his flock that appear in his abdomen; the souls that he has buried within himself, and which he tries to do the same to Carol Anne.
   Before I conclude, I want to bring you to attention of the influence of H.P. Lovecraft within the two films. I am not an expert of his work, nor do I prefer it among others of the horror genre, but the general otherworldliness, and the tentacles coming out of the vortex towards the end of the first film, and the physical nature of Rev. Henry Kane’s medusa form at the end of the second film, would seem to be enough to support this. I’m sure a true expert on Lovecraft can point out all the ways he has influenced
the film better than I could.
   In the grand scheme of things, horror films entertain for the most part.  Even in the heyday of eighties, when the cinematic genre was at its peak in every way possible, only a handful managed to truly terrify, then, and now.  Sometimes there are puzzles within these films, waiting for the right person to solve them.  I hope I have brought to your attention things you may not have thought of regarding these films, as well as a new understanding.

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