the 1982 movie poltergeist used real skeletons as - tymoff

The 1982 Movie Poltergeist Used Real Skeletons As – Tymoff

The classic 1982 supernatural horror film “Poltergeist” continues to terrify audiences with its chilling story of a suburban family plagued by malevolent spirits. But beyond the iconic special effects and tear-jerking moments, a rumor has persisted for decades – one that adds a layer of unsettling realism to the film’s hauntings. The rumor? That the skeletons used in the film’s climax were actually real human skeletons.

Unearthing the Evidence: Special Effects Artist Speaks Out

For years, the story of real skeletons in “Poltergeist” remained an urban legend. However, in 2002, special effects makeup artist Craig Reardon shattered the realm of speculation with a bombshell revelation. During a sworn deposition, Reardon confirmed that real human skeletons were indeed used in a pivotal scene of the film.

This disclosure sent shockwaves through the horror community. The idea that the audience wasn’t just witnessing masterful special effects, but actual human remains, added a new dimension of unease to the film.

Why Real Skeletons? A Cost-Effective Choice with Disturbing Implications

The decision to use real skeletons stemmed from a surprisingly practical reason: cost-effective movie magic. Creating realistic-looking plastic skeletons in 1982 proved to be a more expensive and time-consuming endeavor compared to acquiring real ones.

Special effects supervisor Richard Edlund corroborated Reardon’s claims, stating that procuring medical-grade plastic skeletons wasn’t readily feasible. Real skeletons, on the other hand, could be obtained from scientific supply companies, albeit with a layer of ethical ambiguity that the filmmakers might not have fully considered at the time.

The Pool Scene: A Nightmare Steeped in Reality

The infamous scene in question takes place in the Freeling family’s swimming pool. As young Carol Anne sinks beneath the churning water, the pool becomes a chaotic vortex spewing forth skeletal remains. The translucent figures, illuminated by an eerie glow, sent shivers down the spines of countless viewers.

Now, with the knowledge that these skeletal figures were real human forms, the scene takes on a whole new level of disturbing realism. The weight of history and the finality of death become undeniably present, adding a macabre layer to the film’s hauntings.

The Cast Reacts: JoBeth Williams Learns a Shocking Truth

Actress JoBeth Williams, who portrayed Diane Freeling, the mother of the family, was completely unaware that real skeletons were used during filming. In a later interview, she recounted the experience of wading through a tank filled with what she believed to be movie props, only to discover the unsettling truth much later.

This revelation undoubtedly added a layer of personal discomfort to Williams’s experience. The knowledge that she was interacting with actual human remains during such an emotionally charged scene would undoubtedly leave a lasting impact.

Ethical Concerns and the Legacy of “Poltergeist”

The use of real human skeletons in “Poltergeist” raises a number of ethical questions. Were proper procedures followed in obtaining these remains? Did the filmmakers consider the potential emotional impact on the cast and crew who unknowingly interacted with them?

While the legality of using medical-grade skeletons for filmmaking purposes in the early 1980s remains unclear, the ethical implications are undeniable. The film’s legacy is forever intertwined with this unsettling detail, adding a layer of darkness to its production history.

Beyond the Skeletons: The Enduring Power of “Poltergeist”

Despite the controversy surrounding the use of real skeletons, “Poltergeist” remains a landmark film in the horror genre. Its innovative special effects, compelling narrative, and relatable characters continue to resonate with audiences today.

The film’s ability to tap into primal fears of domestic disruption and the vulnerability of children makes it a timeless classic. The unsettling truth about the skeletons adds another layer to the film’s mystique, ensuring its place in horror movie history for years to come.

A Haunting Reminder: The Importance of Transparency in Filmmaking

The “Poltergeist” skeleton incident serves as a cautionary tale for filmmakers. Transparency and ethical considerations are paramount, especially when dealing with sensitive or potentially disturbing elements.

The audience’s trust is vital, and the knowledge that real human remains were used in a film can be unsettling for some viewers. Open communication and a commitment to ethical practices are crucial in maintaining that trust.

The use of real skeletons in “Poltergeist” adds a disturbing layer of realism to a film already renowned for its chilling atmosphere. While the ethical implications remain a point of contention, the revelation undoubtedly adds another dimension to the film’s enduring legacy.

Whether viewed as a clever cost-cutting measure or a misstep in judgment, the use of real skeletons forever changed the way audiences perceive this iconic scene.

The enduring questions surrounding the “Poltergeist” skeletons continue to spark debate and intrigue. Did the filmmakers truly understand the weight of their decision? How did the use of real remains affect the production and the performances? These lingering questions add to the film’s mystique, ensuring its place as a genre-defining horror classic with a chilling secret.

Beyond the Skeletons: Exploring the Special Effects Legacy

“Poltergeist” pushed the boundaries of special effects in the early 1980s. The film’s groundbreaking use of Industrial Light & Magic’s (ILM) techniques revolutionized the way filmmakers could portray the supernatural on screen.

Key innovations included:

  • Miniature sets: ILM constructed intricate miniature versions of the Freeling home, allowing for realistic scenes of objects flying and furniture rearranging.
  • Stop-motion animation: Stop-motion techniques were employed to create the now-iconic sequence of toys coming to life and attacking young Robbie Freeling.
  • Physical effects: Combined with the miniature sets, a variety of physical effects were used, including pneumatic tubes, wires, and puppeteering to create the illusion of objects moving on their own.

These advancements in special effects blurred the line between reality and fantasy, leaving audiences questioning what was real and what was movie magic. The use of real skeletons, while ethically questionable, undeniably added a layer of unsettling realism to the hauntings depicted in the film.

The “Poltergeist” Curse: Fact or Fiction?

Adding to the film’s chilling legacy are the persistent rumors of a “Poltergeist” curse. Several cast members and crew members tragically died during or shortly after the film’s production, fueling speculation of a supernatural connection.

However, investigations into these deaths revealed natural causes in most cases. The deaths, while unfortunate, were likely a tragic coincidence. Still, the rumors persist, adding another layer of unsettling lore to the film’s enduring legacy.

Conclusion: A Timeless Tale of Terror

“Poltergeist” remains a landmark film in the horror genre, captivating audiences for over four decades. The unsettling story of a family haunted by malevolent spirits, interwoven with groundbreaking special effects that redefined the portrayal of the supernatural, continues to terrify and intrigue viewers. The shocking revelation of real skeletons used in a pivotal scene adds a layer of disturbing verisimilitude, blurring the lines between movie magic and unsettling reality. This unexpected twist has cemented “Poltergeist” not only as a genre-defining classic but also as a film shrouded in mystery and ethical debate.

Whether you’re a horror aficionado or a casual moviegoer, “Poltergeist” is a film that stays with you long after the credits roll. The lingering questions surrounding the use of real skeletons and the chilling rumors of a curse only add to the film’s mystique, solidifying its place as a true horror classic.