POLTERGEIST (Tobe Hooper, 1982)
Tompkins Square Park
500 East Ninth St. between Aves. A & B
Thursday, August 16, free, sundown
When psychic Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) says “Don’t go into the light,” she means it in more ways than one, so be sure to take heed when Tobe Hooper’s classic modern ghost story screens for free in tree-lined Tompkins Square Park on August 16. Inspired by the 1962 Twilight Zone episode “Little Girl Lost,” Poltergeist, which also features the significant involvement of cowriter and producer Steven Spielberg, has all the elements in all the right places to just plain scare the hell out of you. Shortly after Steven (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane (JoBeth Williams) Freeling move into their new home in the planned California community of Cuesta Verde, things start getting very creepy, especially when youngest daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) announces, “They’re here,” then disappears into the television. Meanwhile, older sister Dana (Dominique Dunne) freaks out, and brother Robbie (Oliver Robins) has a bit of a problem with a clown doll and a tree branch. Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Lifeforce) lets the tension build slowly until it eventually explodes in a no-holds-barred ending that will have you digging into the cuticles of whoever is sitting next to you. And yes, those skeletons are real human bones, not replicas. The success of Poltergeist led to two sequels, a television series, and, unfortunately, a possible remake, but there’s nothing quite like the original, a deviously delicious frightfest that continues to send shivers down the spine no matter how often one sees it. And yes, Steven’s boss is indeed played by the Pathmark man (James Karen). Sadly — some say the result of a curse — O’Rourke died in 1988 at the age of twelve, and Dunne, the daughter of writer Dominick Dunne, was murdered by a former boyfriend in 1982 when she was just twenty-two. The Tompkins Square Park screening will be preceded by live music from East Village African rock group Timbila.