The curse of ‘Poltergeist’ returns with a film about the tragic end of the protagonist girl, Heather O’Rourke

Horror cinema is full of supposedly ‘cursed’ films. A series of films that, in addition to being cinematic references, carry urban legends and supernatural theories about misfortunes that occurred on set or related to their participants. One of these sagas marked by tragedy is ‘Poltergeist: Strange Phenomena’ (1982, Tobe Hooper) and its sequels, related to several deaths and of which it was even stated that real corpses were used on the set. More than 40 years later, the documentary ‘She Was Here’ recalls Ella’s supposed curse by focusing on the figure of Heather O’Rourke, the girl protagonist of the ‘Poltergeist’ trilogy, who died prematurely after filming the third installment.

Heather O’Rourke//Getty Images

Dominique Dunnewho played the older sister in the first film, was strangled by her ex-boyfriend and died after remaining in a coma for 4 days, just a few weeks after the premiere. Julian Beck and Will Samson, prominent cast members of ‘Poltergeist II: The Other Side (Brian Gibson, 1986)’, also died shortly after working on the franchise. Beck was 60 years old and suffering from stomach cancer, and did not survive filming. Sampson died 2 years later after complicating kidney surgery when he was somewhat younger, at 53 years old. They played a reverend and a shaman, respectively.

But The most high-profile and most unexpected death was that of the little protagonist of the entire saga, Heather O’Rourke.. The actress suffered during the filming of ‘Poltergeist III’ (1988, Gary Sherman) the consequences of an intestinal parasite and, after a series of complications and misdiagnoses, an acute stenosis (an obstruction of the digestive system) ended her life early. after filming of the film was completed. The team never wanted to finish it, but was obliged by contract and, In the final cut you can see how, in several scenes, the character is played by a doublewithout facing the camera.

Ron Wolfson//Getty Images

The documentary ‘Heather O’Rourke: She Was Here’, which will seek distribution in the imminent Cannes 2024 Festival marketis, according to its official synopsis, “a film that will preserve Heather’s story, recently tarnished by rumors and false accusations, with the help of those who knew her best. The O’Rourke family, along with her ‘Poltergeist’ co-stars, “They will remember the actress up close and personal through their own stories, along with never-before-seen photographs and home videos.”

These “rumors and false accusations” mentioned by those responsible for the documentary seem to refer to some claims by Henry Winkler, O’Rourke’s co-star in ‘Happy Days’, in which he hinted that the child star was being “tortured by her father” and that “she committed suicide, or was murdered”. Although Winkler made these claims in 1988, social media has resurrected them in recent years:

Heather’s sister, Tammy, categorically denied the accusations three years ago in an interview with the documentary’s director, Nick Bailey, on his Fancounters podcast, and the truth is that Winkler’s statements are so strange that, most likely, it was a rather unfortunate confusion. But the truth is that, More than 40 years later, the curse of ‘Poltergeist’ continues to give something to talk about.

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Fran Chico is an expert in cinema and series, specialized in cultural dissemination and film criticism. He is a recognized critic on Rotten Tomatoes and Filmaffinity. Although his favorite genre is horror, the same thing tells you about the new blockbuster from Marvel’s MCU and about an auteur film to claim from the festival circuit. There is no series from Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video or Disney+ that escapes its radar, delving into the catalog of each platform to recommend and analyze its best content.

Fran has been writing in Fotogramas for more than a year, but his beginnings date back almost two decades ago in film forums and blogs such as Planeta Claqueta or Moviementarios. He was founder and part of the board of directors of the digital publication of film criticism and analysis Revista Mutaciones and a member of the Association of Cinematographic Informants of Spain (AICE), the organization that awards the Feroz Awards, as well as a voter for the Blogos de Oro al indie movies. After completing the Master of Film Criticism at the Madrid Film School (ECAM) taught by Caimán Cuadernos de Cine, he has collaborated and/or covered film festivals such as San Sebastián, Sitges and Filmadrid as a specialized press for more than 10 years, along the way interviewing relevant directors, actors and actresses from the national industry such as Penélope Cruz, Carlos Saura, Ana de Armas, José Luis Cuerda or José Sacristán and internationally such as James Wan, Edgar Wright or Dario Argento.

His knowledge and experience have led him to be a film video blogger for Fnac Spain and director and host of the podcast Holocausto Zinéfago, with more than 150 programs broadcast and available in which cinema and humor are mixed from a unique and original.

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