A friend of mine, who is convinced that I have bad taste in horror movies (which is completely untrue by the way), recently sat me down for...

Birth and Motherhood in Poltergeist

A friend of mine, who is convinced that I have bad taste in horror movies (which is completely untrue by the way), recently sat me down for a viewing of Poltergeist at a sleep over. Unlike some of my fellows in horror, I didn’t grow up watching Poltergeist or the Exorcist, so coming to this film was a new experience altogether.

I was surprised at the interesting references to birth and motherhood that pop up throughout the film. Diane Freely is not exactly mother of the year and in between sexcapades with her husband and taking care of her kids, she somehow finds the time to smoke weed. When things get spooky at the house, she sends her son off to grandma in a cab ALONE with the dog and tells him to call her later (I realize the 80s were a simpler time, but still!). And did I mention her daughter gets sucked into the TV? Obviously she’s not doing something right and the house and the spirits trapped within are trying to punish her for it.
There is also a lot of birth imagery in Poltergeist. When Diane goes into the light in search of her daughter, she gets yanked into the physical realm via a rope/umbilical cord and emerges from the vortex with her daughter covered in clots of viscous gore. Though it seems Diane has been “re-born” as a good mother, the repressed refuses to stay down and makes another violent appearance at the end of the film.
Believing that the house is now “clean” after the psychic’s visit, the Freeling family decides to stay one more night before they move away (at this point I’m screaming: “Get out of the house lady!”) But instead of a ghost free house, the family find themselves at the mercy of a spiritual horde that’s still pretty pissed off. They lash out at Diane in particular and the audience watches as the spirits attack her in a manner akin to rape while she lies abed after taking a bath. Fighting with an invisible force, she climbs the walls and tries to keep it from removing her clothing. Then there’s the house’s gaping, ectoplasmic vagina which tries to suck in Diane and the children, in an effort to devour what it has already given birth too.
Poltergeist is an interesting case of the maternal manifesting itself as the supernatural. Diane has failed as a mother, bringing down the wrath of a greater supernatural force on her entire family. Who you gonna call?


  1. Wow, I never noticed that, and Ive been seeing this movie for years and years (this trilogy is all time favorite of mine) kudos for pointing all that out!

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  3. I don't think there is such a thing as bad taste in horror films. I just believe everyone has their own thing.

    And I never noticed the birth imagery either. Very interesting. Once you think about it it does make perfect sense.