Tag Archives: Poltergeist II

The Psychology Of The Scare: Gerontophobia In Horror Films

I’ve always been under the impression horror is what you make of it. Stories and films relay on our innermost fears and phobias to make an impression with the viewer, hence the art of the scare. I don’t care if you’re badass Kurt Russell or Samuel L. Jackson, everyone has one thing or another that makes them uncomfortable.

Horror films have utilized a wide-range of phobias to attract audiences to give them the “safe” scare adrenaline rush. Sub-genre horror movies with the focus on clowns, kids, psychological warfare are some of the most popular among fanfare. However personally speaking, the use of older folks in horror films as the core of fears is some of the most powerful I’ve seen – and most effective. GERONTOPHOBIA, which means the fear of elders or aging, is actually a fairly common fear amongst the populous. We associate looking at our elders with our own mortality and it can be a hard pill to swallow- so we place a heavy fear on it. As authoritarian as it sounds to place our once care-givers who have aged in years at the center of what we fear most sounds inhuman at best, in horror cinema it works to a degree; and all too well.

I mean, who WOULDN’T be horrified of this?!

The first film I saw as a young girl with an elder in a terrifying role was that of Julian Beck’s portrayal of the malevolent Henry Kane in Poltergiest II. That being said, I’m fairly certain I wasn’t the only one his performance affected in a unfavorable manner. To this very day I get very anxious when an elder comes knocking on my door mostly thanks to his frightening exchange with Craig T. Nielson in front of the Freeling home. Knowing later in my older years, Beck was suffering from pancreatic cancer and basically dying at the time of filming haunts me in waves of periodic guilt trips for being so petrified of the man; who literally giving a dying performance and the one most people remember him by. Whether that was his intention, and I’m sure it was to give it his all, I still can’t help but feel horrible that I myself associated his deathly appearance with such fear; and still kind of do. Little Heather O’ Rourke was so afraid of her on-screen antagonist that she cried and ran away from him on set upon first seeing him. I’m not sure if the mall scene in the movie IS the actual first time she saw him as I can’t confirm it at this time, but knowing that it did indeed happen as stated by crew members, makes this scene all the more believable.

That had to have stung.

Four years later came a more prominent display of gerontophobia in film in the form of William Peter Blatty’s TRUE sequel to The Exorcist, The Exorcist III based off Blatty’s PHENOMINAL novel Legion. Most of the story is set in the gloomy atmosphere of a hospital, particularly in the disturbed wards and of those suffering from dementia and catatonics. The demon this time around, James Venamun, ‘The Gemini Killer” has possessed a once-thought deceased Damian Karras and is tormenting both the fallen priest and old friend Kinderman (George C. Scott) as a revenge tactic on behalf of “friends” for the McNeill incident 15 years prior. If that couldn’t get any more fucked up, the Gemini hops from body to body in the wards possessing the older dementia victims and feeble-minded to carry out murderous acts; hammering home how vulnerable and horrifying it can be to age. Because now we have to worry about getting possessed by demons to boot.

Fantastic.

A more recent film by Adam Robitel, The Taking of Deborah Logan works on the same concept as The Exorcist III except the entire film is focused on this matter and not just an excerpt. Miss Deborah Logan (Jill Larson) is slowly slipping away with Alzheimer’s but something is obviously more sinister afoot with an actual possession going on here. This one really leans into the fears of mortality within us all and what happens when we have reached that bridge in our life span. The pain and the suffering can be tremendous and not only affects us as individuals, but our loved ones as well. The reality of the matter at hand is, if we so happen to live beyond our 70’s and 80’s, it is most likely to come with some painful challenges such as a degenerative disease as terrifying as that of Alzheimer’s- which mind you is displayed pretty accurately in this movie. If one has never suffered from good ol’ gerontophobia prior to seeing this one, chances are you’ll at least be thinking about it soon after.

There are many other film I could list here, some notable ones like The Visit or Ghost Story, but I think you guys are smart and get the point here. Old age in itself can be a source of true horror and is obviously an effective tactic as plot point in the genre. However, it can also be very damning unfortunately and further put a damper on our views of aging. The human experience is one hell of a ride isn’t it? Let’s just hope we don’t piss off any demonic entities’ along the way as we grow into our twilight years.

Creature Features: Facts and Trivia Behind The Special Effects of Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Whether you’re a fan or not of the follow up to Hooper/Spielberg’s 1982 paranormal pleasure Poltergeist, it goes without saying the special effects are spectacular and well-known throughout the industry as a majestic staple of the effects community. Hell, even the snooty Academy Awards recognized the visual terror of the film when it was nominated for Best Visual Effects during their 1987 award season.

While I can agree some of the plot points in The Other Side are a bit questionable, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s probably one of my horror movies period. Most of that credit goes towards Julian Beck’s portrayal of the malevolent reverend, Henry Kane; who basically traumatized a seven-year-old Patti into being terrified of old people for the next three years. Quite a feat and a legacy to leave behind as this was the actor’s last film role, and most likely, his most memorable. Just to refresh, Beck was suffering tremendously during shooting with pancreatic cancer and in terrible pain- which would account for his deathly appearance on screen and twisted look. It’s quite sad to think about it actually. However, at least we can take heart into knowing it wasn’t in vain as his character, at least in my own stupid opinion, is held in the highest regard as one of the most perfect villains’ in the horror universe.

I’m sure he’s smiling with his 10,000 teeth beyond the grave with that statement.

Tentacles seemed to be a recurring effect in the movie.  H.R. Giger, who provided the special effects designs, created several prospects but only two made it into the film, the vomit monster and “The Great Beast”. While I’m perfectly fine with these looks personally, some books on his art report that Giger was “very unhappy” with how his designs were translated to the film.

Before we get into the obvious scenes you’re expecting to see here, there were some other simple things like a dream sequence in which Diane is pulled into the ground by rotting skeletons, or another quick shot of dozens of ghostly spirits appearing all over the lawn that weren’t as recognized but looked visually stunning on film.  Then there was the part where Stephen and Taylor are having their warrior session and the smoke attacks him before entering his nostrils. And of course, the creepy toy scene where all the kids’ toys are possessed by Kane and his minions.

The movie was at one point to have been filmed in 3D. Several scenes such as the appearance of the Beast and the cheesy flying chainsaw during the garage escape were filmed to take advantage of the process. This idea was eventually abandoned after seeing the failures of other gimmicky 3D horror films of the decade such as the likes of Jaws 3-D (1983), and Amityville 3-D (1983), which were previous flops for studios. Speaking of the garage scene, it was originally written to have the infamous clown doll come back for a scare, trying to smash its way through the car windows! Even more cheesy? Maybe. But I’m ok with saying it would have been the most awesome cheese.

Those are all notable mentions, but the effects in the film really kick off with attack of the braces! The orthodontic horror kicks off the tentacle special effects theme throughout the film with poor Robbie getting nailed to a ceiling in a cocoon of metal thanks to his dental genetics.

Boss Film Studios, namely Richard Edlund, John Bruno, Garry Waller, and William Neil, was the design company handling the effects. They animated the magic through a mold that was placed over actor Oliver Robins’ head. The team placed straws inside the kid’s nose so he could breathe properly and a device attached to the mouth that would shoot out the metal tentacles through a remote. In the original script, Robbie was to be attacked by bees. However, the actor noted he had a debilitating fear against the insect. So hence, we get this glorious scene instead.

Moving further down toward tentacle terror, is the most recognizable scene from the film- The Vomit Creature. Kane was able to get into the house by possessing the worm in a bottle of tequila.  When Stephen swallowed the worm, it possesses him briefly until his body rejects the evil spirit. Out slithers this huge, slimy, H.R. Geiger inspired creature that quickly grows into a legless ghoul resembling the preacher.  That part was pretty horrifying.  It continued to grow until it resembled a massive column of evil, complete with monster claws that lifted Stephen off the ground; and then scare it off with that warrior smoke!

The creature, played by Vietnam veteran Noble Craig, was a triple amputee due to his war services. However, Craig is unsung in the horror community as playing multiple roles you might not even know about! Such as what is credited as “The Puddle Soldier” in 1988’s The Blob, “The Sewer Monster” in Big Trouble in Little China, and one of the very few people who got to play Freddy Krueger on the big screen in Nightmare 5: The Dream Child; in the scene where Freddy is bursting out of Alice’s body- that’s Craig.

The final few minutes of the film encounter the vomit creature Kane in it’s final form- The Great Beast. Unfortunately, the battle with the beast was originally much longer as with the rest of the film (a full forty minutes is said to have been cut from the movie), but nonetheless made its impact.

On the script sent to HR Giger, there was a scene in the entrance to the other side that involved a tunnel made with arms, bones and worms; and the Great Beast evolves into a massive living landscape that covers the other side. Which would have been cool to see but I’m guessing production budgets were an issue here. The ‘Beast’ itself was apparently a nightmare build for the team; so I suppose he sure does live up to his name.

Now, those are all fine concepts that looked great on film. But the most horrifying scene for me, was this goddamn transformation of Carol Anne becoming one with the beast.

And for the record, this just as creepy prop is the restoration of the Carol Anne bust that was partly used in that scene.

Tom Spina.com

Creature Feature: Reverend Kane, the Most Underrated Villian in Horror History

Nightmare Nostalgia Presents Creature Feature: An ongoing tip of the hat to some of horror’s greatest monsters throughout the genre that don’t seem to get the recognition they wholeheartedly deserve. 

On the heels of a recent Poltergeist II movie anniversary and what would have been the 98th birthday of one Julian Beck, we won’t just tip any hat, but our oversized black felt-wool head-huggers and sing the gospel of all the “Holy Temples” to the man who gave everything, including his failing health, to a character that will forever be burned into our brains as one of the downright scariest in horror history.

Born on May 31, 1925, Julian Beck wore many hats in the entertainment business, not just the creepy pastor topper we’ve all come to associate him with via Poltergeist II. The on-screen preacher began his love affair with the arts and dabbled in painting abstract expressionist pieces in the early 1940’s until meeting his future wife, Judith Malina who had a tremendously immense passion for the theatre. The love-connection turned into theater history and the pair later founded the prestigious, and often controversial, Living Theater which focused on giving the audience an immersive and shocking experience to take home, reflect, and learn from. Beck, a self-proclaimed anarchist who on several occasions had plenty of trouble with the law, lived by the saying, “If one can experiment in theater, one can experiment in life.”  With close to 40 years of embracing these types of convictions inside and out of the theater, Beck’s finest hour came (kind of ironically), in the on-screen role as a passed-on pastor from another time who beat to his own drum as well. I’d say in a way more terrifying and psychotic manner, but you catch my drift here.

 

 

Keeping in horror franchise tradition, (although usually via accident-you never know if a sequel will follow) we normally don’t get a whole lot of backstory on the main antagonist. As a matter of fact, the name of Henry Kane was never mentioned once during the first film. Good ole’ Tangina warned of a malevolent presence in the home that she referred to as only, “the beast”. The Other Side, the follow-up four years after the original Cuesta Verde neighborhood nightmare gives us all the answers and a face to said beast with, of course, Julian Beck. And because of his creepy ass performance, I briskly walk a little bit faster past any senior living communities.

His soft-spoken demeanor could go from 0-100 real quick during his little temper tantrums, giving way to a visual about 8,000 teeth in the man’s mouth. Of course, I’m exaggerating a tad but I’d call you a liar if you didn’t think he had an extra set of chompers in there when his face twisted with anger. Besides angry dentures and walking around softly singing culty hymns, Kane’s dagger of a stare was enough on its own to make you avoid this dude walking down the street. Proving that an over-abundant amount of gore and make-up aren’t needed to give someone the skeevies. Not to take anything away from Kane’s other forms in the film including that incredibly EPIC H.R. Giger Tequila-Worm vomit monster (played by Noble Craig). But as Carol Anne said herself in Poltergeist III, “remember, less is more.”

Hr Giger

Unfortunately, however, Beck’s look of a resurrected corpse throughout the film wasn’t movie magic but due to a 1983 diagnosis of the often fatal pancreatic cancer. Beck knew his days on Earth were coming to an end and gave everything he had to the role that launched his name into horror infamy. Often in pain on set, and if you look closely into his eyes via the clip above it’s painfully obvious, Beck used his unfortunate circumstances and threw himself into the role of the nefarious cult leader. Little Heather O’Rourke herself was so frightened by his unfiltered skeletal appearance, she burst into tears upon the pair’s first meeting.

I would have run like a bitch too sweetheart.

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Today on the anniversary of the life of one Julian Beck, we appreciate his dedication to a role that was to be his last, and sadly never lived to see on screen. I can also appreciate that due to the Kane character, I’ve never wanted to open my door on a rainy day; especially to an elderly gentleman on the other end. Thanks for the eternal nightmares Reverend.