** Contain Spoilers **
I have been a fan of the film Poltergeist for 2 decades now and consider it one of the best, if not, the best ghost movie ever filmed. It is somewhat surprising that it took me this long to read the novelization of the film. The book is a fantastic read and as expected, differs a lot from the motion picture although the basic plot remains the same.
The Freeling family is terrorized by unseen forces in their new suburban home. Their youngest daughter, the angelic Carole Anne, begins to talk to the television set and is discovered (in a scene not in the film) during a visit with a therapist, that she is also having dreams, visions of other-worldly spirits. After a terrifying assault on the family, Carole Anne is whisked away to another dimension. A world filled with wondering and lost souls, malevolent prancing demons, a benign spirit - "The Lady in Waiting" and a monstrous demon referred to as "The Beast".
Meanwhile, miles away, Dr. Lesh, a parapsychologist and her team, are conducting tests, and one of her subjects is a psychic dwarf, Tangina Barrons, who approached the doctor because she is being plagued with dreams. During one of these dreams, Tangina see's a little girl, lost in an other-worldly plain, surrounded by the undead. Tangina realizes that this little girl needs to be rescued and leads Dr. Lesh and her team of parapsychologists to the Freelings. While Dr. Lesh begins her investigation and tries to rationalize the paranormal activity in the Freeling's home, a determined Tangina, in a self imposed trance, confronts the monstrous entity and tries to weaken it to prepare for the final confrontation when Carole Anne will finally be saved.
It is no surprise that a film almost always differs greatly from the novelization and this book is no exception. In parts, the book remained loyal to the film, in other instances, it is a completely different animal. The character of Tangina for example, is given a much meatier role in the novel. In the film, she receives no more than 15 minutes of screen time and she is introduced almost towards the end, when Dr. Lesh brings her to the Freeling family to cleanse the house of the invading spirits. In the book, her character is given a lot more depth and history spread throughout various chapters. The "other side" is given a lot of focus here as well and unlike the film, is visited and visualized several times. The confrontation between Tangina and the Beast in the other-worldly realm, is fantastical (but would have been hard to visualize on film).
The character of Marty is also given more attention and in the novel we understand why he did not want to return to the Freeling's home. In the film, we get that gory and delightful scene of the crawling steak, the maggot infested chicken and Marty's horrific hallucination of self mutilation. The book offers a bit more carnage in a sinister scene involving hungry spiders, rats and worms and in a final encore, Marty himself becomes overcome by the Beast in an insane metamorphoses which has him eating chards of broken mirror off the bathroom floor. There are moments when the description of events in the book are chilling - Marty's mental decent during his various hallucinations, the various dream sequences of the other side, the dancing demons etc. With so many great set pieces, it kind of makes you wish more had been visualized in the film. Although, as mentioned previously, it would have been hard to visualize in 1982 and several of the more morbid scenes would have guaranteed an "R" rating, which is something the makers of the film did not want.
Despite the same basic premise, the book offers many layers and depictions that are not in the film. It is a creepy and bone-chilling read, rich in imagination and dread and is recommended, even if you have seen the movie multiple times.
But I must warn you ... the day I got the book from Amazon.ca, on a Friday night, I started reading it immediately. Two hours later I decided to put the book down and go for a cigarette. When I returned, my sister, looking terrified, asked me if I had somehow programmed the TV remote control to change the channel. Of course, I was a little confused "program the remote?" and seeing the look of dread on her face, I asked why she was asking me this. Well, it turns out the TV started changing channels on its own. When my sister, got up to look for the remote control, she found it resting, next to my new "used" copy of the book "Poltergeist", A novel by James Kahn. True story... yikes... Now, I may have placed the remote next to the book but I cannot explain the channels changing on it's own and I won't even get into "The Mystery of the Open Front Door", the event that occurred the following week because I still have to live in that house.
Read the book but beware the poltergeists.