In the realm of horror cinema, few films have achieved the iconic status of Poltergeist, the 1982 supernatural thriller directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg. The film’s chilling narrative and groundbreaking special effects captivated audiences worldwide, leaving an indelible mark on the genre. However, beneath the surface of this cinematic masterpiece lies a disturbing truth: the use of real skeletons in one of the film’s most iconic scenes.
The Controversial Scene
The scene in question occurs when the Freeling family’s youngest daughter, Carol Anne, is pulled under the floor of her bedroom by a malevolent force. Her father, Steve, descends into the crawlspace to rescue her, where he encounters a sea of skeletal remains. The scene is undeniably unsettling, and its impact is heightened by the revelation that these skeletons were not props but actual human remains.
The Truth Behind the Skeletons
The use of real skeletons in Poltergeist was confirmed by special effects makeup artist Craig Reardon during a deposition in 1982. Reardon stated that he had assumed the skeletons were made of plastic or rubber until he learned otherwise. The revelation sent shockwaves through the film industry and raised questions about the ethical implications of using human remains for entertainment purposes.
The Reason for Using Real Skeletons
The reason behind the decision to use real skeletons is somewhat unclear. Some speculate that it was a cost-saving measure, as real skeletons were reportedly cheaper to acquire than high-quality props. Others suggest that the filmmakers sought to achieve a more realistic and unsettling effect. Whatever the reason, the use of real skeletons remains a controversial aspect of Poltergeist’s production.
The Impact of the Revelation
The revelation that real skeletons were used in Poltergeist has had a lasting impact on the film’s legacy. While some view it as a mere trivia point, others regard it as a disturbing and unethical practice that taints the film’s reputation. The controversy surrounding the skeletons has also led to increased scrutiny of the use of human remains in filmmaking.
The Ethical Debate
The use of human remains in filmmaking raises several ethical concerns. Firstly, it is important to consider the respect owed to the deceased. Using human remains for entertainment purposes can be seen as disrespectful and exploitative. Secondly, there is the issue of consent. It is unclear whether the individuals whose skeletons were used in Poltergeist gave their consent for their remains to be used in this manner.
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The Legacy of Poltergeist
Despite the controversy surrounding the use of real skeletons, Poltergeist remains a significant and influential film in the horror genre. Its groundbreaking special effects and chilling narrative have cemented its place in cinema history. However, the revelation about the skeletons has added a disturbing layer to the film’s legacy, raising important questions about ethics and respect for the deceased.