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What the . . . PG-rated Poltergeist?

June 29, 2012

*What the…Friday? is a weekly Friday feature in which I resuscitate a video relic from the swampy pits of Pop Culture Wasteland.*

Today:  What the PG-rated Poltergeist?

Next Monday will mark my one-year blogoversary.

Uncensored Cinema was my very first blog post.

Which included an overabundance of italicized words.

And tiny, oddly-placed images.

And probably way too much about my kids because I don’t even write about my kids anymore.  Because who wants to hear about them — nobody.  But I still have them.  Both of them.  My daughter just asked me last week if the Care Bears from my childhood were made out of wood.  Precious, right?  And my son pastes boogers to my arm while I’m making dinner.  Isn’t that precious too?

Oh, and then I think only 15 people even read my first post.  Which would include those readers who stumbled upon it while googling “uncensored cinema” — or “porn” as it’s sometimes called.  But I think those readers appreciated that I at least included a picture of Snow White.  She was biting into an apple.  Of course she was.

It was a little over a year ago that my husband made me tell him for the fifty-eighth time about when, as a six year old, I went to see Poltergeist in the theater with my brother and his friend.

I didn’t mind telling the story again.  It felt good.  It felt liberating.  One of the most miserable, horrifying moments of my childhood reduced to fodder for a very special episode of Growing Pains.  Because just when I got to the part where I cried myself comatose, a canned laugh track broke in to save the day.

What other burdensome memories could I purge for relief?

Maybe the time I ate a tub of Play-doh?  Check.  Maybe the time I was forced to get naked in gym class?  Check.  Maybe the time I made up a fake boyfriend?  Maybe the time I maimed my dog with a rubberband bracelet?  Check, check.

Oh, it hurts so good.

Now to bring it back to where it all started, I present my WTF? feature of the week.

In 1982 Poltergeist hit theaters.  It was rated PG.  PG as in Parental Guidance suggested but not required — you know, maybe someone who’s an adult could accompany little Billy to help explain to him why there’d be skeletons emerging from a backyard swimming pool.  Someone to explain that demons can’t suck you into a television set.  Someone to change your pants after you wet them.

I’m sure you’ll see by this delightful movie trailer why it appeared to be a kid’s movie:

76 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2012 6:34 am

    Luckily for me, instead of taking me to this “family” movie, my Mom took me to “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”. According to IMDB they were released one week apart. I was only three years old and can remember bawling my eyes out when E.T. dies right along with Elliott. Thank you Steven Spielberg for one of my earliest and most traumatizing memories.

    • June 30, 2012 8:26 pm

      Wait, ET and Elliott died? No, they actually didn’t — you stopped watching too soon! See, it’s all okay because Spielberg gave it a Disney ending! See, it’s like all those scary, disturbing scenes never even happened! Except that they did.

      I saw ET in the theater that summer (along with Annie, which also came out the same year). I’m sure ET was a piece of cake for me after watching Poltergeist.

      • July 1, 2012 11:11 am

        Is that what happened? Ha! I’m sure at that point my Mom said something like “See! He’s alive! He didn’t die! Do you want me to give you something to cry about?” Cruel, cruel Steven Spielberg.

  2. June 29, 2012 6:40 am

    Thanks for the heads-up about Poltergeist – I have no memory of seeing it but know I did cause I can picture the scary little girl. I was planning an old movie marathon with my kids and forgot about these uber-scary scenes. Think I’ll go with Jaws or the Exorcist instead.

    • June 30, 2012 8:28 pm

      Yep, Jaws and Exorcist are nice choices — and I’d also add The Shining for good measure. Your kids are going to have a great time in therapy some day.

  3. June 29, 2012 7:03 am

    Oh, this had me in such a fit of giggles I nearly needed an adult to change my pants. I was 9 when my family sat down together to watch this charming movie gathered around a large bowl of popcorn. Neither of my parents suggested the kids should leave the room, even when we were crying. Come back 1982…all is forgiven.

    • June 30, 2012 8:32 pm

      Aw, I love a good tear-jerker. Be thankful your parents were at least in the same room with you while you watched it. My mom was probably off shopping a sale on corduroy culottes. Meanwhile I sat in an empty theater — not a single adult in sight.

  4. June 29, 2012 7:10 am

    My, times have changed. We watched ET recently with our kids and I screened it first because I explicitly remember the use of a particular word and “breath” attached to it. I couldn’t have my son going around saying that. And I feared he would. Thank goodness for cable and today’s family TV ratings. It was edited out. Whew. Of course, neither of my kids seemed as horror-struck by ET as I did. Maybe we should just go for Poltergeist?

    • June 30, 2012 8:35 pm

      Yep, I know exactly what scene and word you’re talking about. What about the scene where ET gets drunk? I remember thinking, “Gee, beer makes you funny.”

      • July 3, 2012 7:32 pm

        True story: We watched ET with my whole school in the gymnasium. After the offending “breath” line played, one of the teachers ran to the front of the room, paused the (probably 18″) TV, and clarified: “He said PEANUT breath. PEANUT. Breath. Got that? PEANUT.” Hahaha… it still slays me! (I’ve never seen Poltergeist, though. I’m such a weenie with scary movies. I didn’t even watch the trailer!)

      • July 5, 2012 8:21 pm

        Fantastic story, Dana! I love it, I love it, I love it!

      • July 6, 2012 1:38 pm

        Yeah, way to draw even MORE attention to it, teachers. ;)

  5. June 29, 2012 7:11 am

    By the way, the clown? WTF? I’m going to need my mommy in the middle of the night for a month after seeing that thing.

    • June 30, 2012 8:38 pm

      The clown was the worst of the worst of all the dreadful scenes. I think every kid who watched that scene immediately went home and threw a windbreaker over their toys’ faces.

  6. June 29, 2012 7:21 am

    I’m still stuck on “in a theater with my brother and his friend.” And you were six. Those days were so very different, weren’t they? My mom used to regularly drop my sister, a couple of friends, and me off at the mall for several hours when we were 10 or so. Eeek.

    Happy blog-a-versary! There are several of you celebrating all at once. Keep it up. You bring a little sunshine to my day every day, Angie. And unicorns. And rainbows.

    • June 30, 2012 8:43 pm

      Yep, my mom dropped me off at the theater at least a couple of times when I was that young — always accompanied by my brother or a friend. I don’t even know if my kids could understand the concept of buying a movie ticket — much less the basic exchange of currency. That would be an interesting test of survival.

      And thanks for your kind words, Shannon! Especially the unicorns and rainbows part.

  7. June 29, 2012 7:42 am

    We were so hard-core back then. The kids these days? Total pansies. As a kid, I saw Friday the 13th Part V in the movie theater. Yes, I had my hand over my eyes through the whole thing and slept on the floor of my parent’s room for a month, but I was so hard core.

    • June 30, 2012 8:48 pm

      I agree. It’s called character-building. What didn’t kill us made us stronger, and only slightly more likely to become serial killers. This probably explains why we’re both so personality-plus today.

  8. Tony permalink
    June 29, 2012 8:30 am

    The theater was empty and I remember the three of us sitting in the very front row. That clown and the guy’s facing falling apart really freaked me out. I don’t think I slept with my head above the covers for a week!

    • June 30, 2012 8:54 pm

      The clown, the guy’s face falling off and the skeletons in the swimming pool — those three scenes topped it off for me. Remember how your kids got really scared of the Abominable Snowman while watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer? Remember how old they were at that time? Yeah, that was the same age I was when I watched Poltergeist.

  9. June 29, 2012 9:12 am

    I always, always hated scary movies and have avoided them like the plague ever since some delinquent parent let me see Night Of The Living Dead. (See what I did there? The PLAGUE is another scary thing, so I wove it right into the comment, thereby providing continuity. Listen and learn, my child. Listen and learn.)

    I’d like to see a picture of your precious child pasting precious bogies on your arm so I can use it as my new screen saver.

    • June 29, 2012 6:11 pm

      Peg, I NEVER see scary or suspenseful movies, either. Why do I want to be scared?? I don’t like that feeling.

      • July 1, 2012 2:42 pm

        Yes, I don’t particularly like the feeling of being afraid for my life either.

    • July 1, 2012 2:41 pm

      I still haven’t seen Night of the Living Dead — zombies right? Piece of cake.

      That precious child works in boogers like other artists work in clay.

  10. June 29, 2012 9:15 am

    Yep! Totally appropriate for children. We were much tougher back then.

    Happy Blogaversary to you!!! I’m so glad I found your blog. Just think of all the laughter and reminders of awkward teenage moments I’d have missed out on if I’d never found you :)

  11. June 29, 2012 10:01 am

    Congratulations on your blogoversary! I’m too scared to watch this trailer. Amityville Horror was the one that scared me. Oh, and The Shining. And Killer Clowns was another one.

    • July 1, 2012 2:37 pm

      Thanks, Amy. The Shining — I am so lucky I never saw that until college. I recall I kept a light on in the hallway of my apartment for a while after seeing that movie. I can’t imagine what it would’ve done to me as a child!

  12. June 29, 2012 11:08 am

    Happy Blogoversary, Angie!!
    Yeah, that’s totally a kids movie – honestly, I don’t even think I can handle watching Poltergeist now and I’m 25!

    • July 1, 2012 2:38 pm

      Thank you, Audrey. I later watched Poltergeist as an adult, and I don’t think it lost much of the fear-factor. I pretty much wet myself all over again.

  13. June 29, 2012 1:14 pm

    I have always been terrified of THAT particular clown. Uh, thanks for bringing it back in vivid color.

    • July 1, 2012 2:40 pm

      My china doll, Phoebe, slept in the closet through most of my childhood — I worried she might be in cahoots with the Poltergeist clown doll.

      • July 2, 2012 11:49 am

        Clown dolls were banished from my room. I also think those creepy Precious Moments kids were not so innocent or precious.

      • July 5, 2012 8:19 pm

        Precious Moments were so not precious — thank you for validating my long-time phobia. I sold Precious Moments when I worked in a drug store during high school. As you can imagine, it was like working in a horror film wax museum.

      • July 8, 2012 9:51 pm

        Oh. Wow. And, that’s WOW in a holy-new-nightmare-for-me-kind-of-way..

      • July 10, 2012 10:22 am

        It’s always nice to have new nightmares — the usual ones begin to grow stale over time.

  14. beck16 permalink
    June 29, 2012 1:59 pm

    This movie scared the bejesus out of me! I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw it, but I had already been introduced to Michael Myers, the Shinging, Jason Voorhees and quite possibly Fred Krueger. So, I probably assumed I could handle it. To this day, I still can’t eat cold chicken and as a kid none of my toys with a face, faced me while I slept.

    Happy anniversary! :)

    • July 1, 2012 2:52 pm

      Thanks! I saw the first Friday the 13th while I was in junior high — and all I can remember about it was Jamie Lee Curtis doing laundry in her house. I must’ve blocked out the rest to protect myself.

  15. June 29, 2012 6:19 pm

    I have never seen the whole move. I’m very scared of scary, horror movies or a lot of suspense. I really don’t like being scared. Yes, I’m a chicken! :)

    • July 1, 2012 2:56 pm

      I don’t do well with horror flicks either — I was even scared while watching Blair Witch Project! Which is considered more of a punchline now than a horror flick.

  16. June 29, 2012 8:36 pm

    I loved – and was terrified – by Poltergeist. And I was 31.

    • July 1, 2012 2:47 pm

      It is a great flick — even if I do resent it for what it did to me.

  17. emisformaker permalink
    June 29, 2012 11:56 pm

    The first movie to scare me was Ghostbusters, but the most lasting scare came from watching Nightmare on Elm Street at eight years old. I was already uneasy with the dark, getting to sleep, etc. Because of that movie, I slept with a light on for eleven years. True story.

    • July 1, 2012 2:49 pm

      I never saw Nightmare on Elm Street — I don’t think I could handle the concept of being at risk when you fall asleep at night. Eeeeek. When I think of Ghostbusters, I think of that librarian ghost scene — creepy, creepy, creepy.

      • emisformaker permalink
        July 1, 2012 10:05 pm

        The part that got me was the kidnapping by armchair. I also once had a nightmare that I was in a garden of blooming flowers, and from each flower emerged a Slimer. I’ve since grown to love that movie as it deserves to be loved.

      • July 5, 2012 7:11 pm

        Ha — from each flower emerged a Slimer! That is some wacky dreaming going on there. Ghostbusters does deserve to be loved — movie awesomeness aside, it helped launch the catchiest movie theme song of all time.

      • emisformaker permalink
        July 7, 2012 7:29 am

        And ruined the question, “Who you gonna call?” for any other purpose.

  18. June 30, 2012 8:12 am

    That movie scared me so much! And then later, the familiar voice of Zelda Rubinstein gave me a very uneasy feeling while watching “Teen Witch.” Which also had an inappropriate rating, if you ask me.

    • June 30, 2012 9:10 pm

      Yes — that voice! Creepy-creeperton. She also played on Sixteen Candles in a couple of scenes — just slightly less creepy.

  19. June 30, 2012 6:03 pm

    Poltergeist is STILL scary. It’s such a great movie. Freaked me right the hell out when I was a kid, though.
    Why it was possibly rated PG:
    1. Raters only watched the first 15 minutes. Oh, ha ha ha, suburbs, TV clickers, grown men on kid’s bikes. Good stuff.
    2. Hm, Mr. Spielberg is very powerful. I have no intention of making him mad. Looks good! Oh, was that guy peeling off his own face? Why, didn’t Grover do the same thing last week on Sesame Street?
    3. Typo.
    4. MPAA loves puns/irony. P olter G eist.

    • June 30, 2012 9:08 pm

      That is some stellar list you got there — I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, B-Man. I would humbly add to it — 5. Heather O’Rourke starred on Happy Days and played a lovable sidekick to the Fonz. Now she’s playing sidekick to some kind of TV people. What could possibly go wrong here? 6. JoBeth Williams reneged on her agreement to show some skin.

      • June 30, 2012 9:58 pm

        Yeah, but the JoBeth’s “Underwear, floating up the wall” scene? Not so PG to these young eyes…

    • July 1, 2012 2:46 pm

      Oh, yes — how could I forget that climbing up the wall scene? But wasn’t JoBeth still wearing her oversized jersey nightshirt — sort of like the one Janet always wore to bed on Three’s Company? Non-threatening and non-sexy?

      • July 1, 2012 3:10 pm

        The t-shirt that’s just begging to “oopsy” up? Terror Code Orange threatening. Painfully sexy.

      • July 1, 2012 3:21 pm

        We are talking JoBeth Williams, exalted ruler of the Lifetime Network, television for women, aren’t we? Just checking. Actually, most men have a thing for Florence Henderson so maybe this does make sense.

      • July 1, 2012 3:23 pm

        Well, I was speaking in general. But JoBeth in Poltergeist + Newly pubescent me = sure, you bet.

  20. July 1, 2012 9:11 am

    Wait wait wait. What do you mean you had to get naked in gym class? …Sorry. I’m as bad as your husband ;)

    I was spared Poltergeist as a kid (but oh, there was movie-inflicted trauma, believe you me…Pet Sematary, anyone?!), but thankfully won’t be spared an anniversary post…right? Right?! Don’t make me put boogers on your arm while you’re cooking.

    • July 1, 2012 2:44 pm

      Didn’t everyone have to get naked in gym class? Oh, no, that’s right — that was only those of us with sadistic perverted gym teachers.

      Anniversary blog post? I need to do one of those? Do I also have to attend a card shower?

  21. July 2, 2012 9:08 am

    These are so classic!!

  22. July 2, 2012 10:56 am

    My mom would always use this movie experience to embarrass me. She and her best friend took me and my best friend to see it. Being the cool 12 year olds that we were, Barb and I opted to sit several rows in front of them, because we were so grown-up and didn’t want to be seen with an adult.

    That skeletons in the pool scene? That was the point at which we were so freaked out we ran up the aisle and climbed onto their laps, crying. She laughed about it until the day she died, but we were so, so traumatized. Not sure if it was more from the movie or the shame of ending up in a lap at the age of 12, but either way, we were mortified.

    • July 5, 2012 8:14 pm

      Great story! I think I’d end up on my mommy’s lap at age 36 if I were to watch it in a theater now. No shame there, my friend.

  23. July 2, 2012 11:04 am

    The best part is that Poltergeist is one of the movies that caused us to have PG-13 as a rating. Between Poltergeist, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Gremlins, they had to create a new rating. If I remember correctly, I think Spielberg himself even suggested it. Better to get a PG-13 than straight up R.

    • July 5, 2012 8:18 pm

      And then there was also Splash. PG. Yep. Writing a post about it soon. Daryl Hannah was a little, um, how do I say it, let’s see, oh, yes — naked.

  24. July 5, 2012 12:16 pm

    oh yikes. did the fact that little you looked like the little blonde actress make the movie that much more frightening?

    • July 5, 2012 8:53 pm

      Are you referring to my gravatar? Did the little blonde actress get high on rubber cement? If so, we could do this comparison justice.

  25. July 7, 2012 12:14 pm

    My nightmares started when I nearly strangled my sister while watching House on Haunted Hill when I was 4 or 5. A scary part came on and I grabbed tightly to something, anything. It happened to be my sister Judy’s neck. (Sorry Jude, but you chose the movie.)

    I agree with Country Man’s Wife — that little girl looks so much like you!

    • July 24, 2012 7:41 pm

      Oops, I never got around to this comment. I suck. But I have to protest that I was much, much too awkward looking to resemble that little girl. Perhaps I looked a bit like how she looked after she was assaulted by demons.

  26. July 20, 2012 7:56 pm

    My husband is a fully formed adult man and he cannot watch the Exorcist. Pussy.

    • July 22, 2012 6:58 pm

      I see nothing wrong about that. If I even walk into a room where The Shining is playing on the TV, even during the “we’re all just one big happy family” first fifteen minutes of the movie, I still can’t sleep that following night.

      • July 23, 2012 7:01 pm

        I hate scary movies. I usually end up having to watch them through my fingers. But I don’t find the Exorcist all that scary. So I get to gloat over my husband on that one.

      • July 24, 2012 7:38 pm

        Yeah, you know, now that you mention it — I really didn’t think it was that scary either, once you get past the weird music. Vomiting split pea soup? What’s scary about that? Not too far off from watching an episode of You Can’t Do That On Television.

  27. stacy permalink
    January 24, 2014 5:00 pm

    Sorry I’m a little late to the convo…I just discovered your blog. I do not really like blogs but I am insanely nostalgic and am thrilled to discover someone else is too! soooo … the exorcist is horryfying to me! I saw it when I was 4. I happened to live in Maryland where this “true” story occured. And my parents were nice enough to walk me up the steps the preist died on anytime we were in georgetown. Only movie that ever scared me. I still to this day can not watch it or even see a clip of her face.


    • January 25, 2014 2:45 pm

      Ooh, that one is creepy as hell! You poor thing! I’ve heard numerous adults say it was the scariest movie they ever saw. I was lucky that I didn’t see it until recent years.

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