Ahead of the reboot of the 1982 horror classic, Poltergeist, former child actor Oliver Robins spoke out about the alleged curse that supposedly resulted in the deaths of five of his costars.
Steven Spielberg’s hit flick was centered on a suburban family, whose youngest, clairvoyant daughter Carol-Anne (Heather O’Rourke) communicated with a spirit located in the family’s TV set. In the movie, Robins played terrified middle child Robbie Freeling alongside his on-screen sisters, which also included teenaged Dana (Dominique Dunne).
While the film — also starring Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams as the beleaguered parents — achieved monumental box office success and cult status, the coincidental freaky deaths of Robins’ costar siblings led to rumblings about an alleged curse. Shortly after the movie’s release, 22-year-old Dunne was strangled in October 1982 by her abusive ex-boyfriend John Thomas Sweeney in the driveway of her West Hollywood home.
“When Dominique Dunne passed away I believe my parents told me, but they also wanted to protect me, so all that I learned during that period was that she had died and was having a funeral,” Robins, now 43, told the Daily Mail. “I did not attend the funeral but my parents went and I was just very upset by the fact that she had passed on because, as a child, most children aren’t really exposed to that at such a young age, so it gave me a sense of mortality and taught me that things can happen and you should celebrate every moment of your life because it is so fleeting.”
O’Rourke, who starred in all three films, died in 1988 at the young age of 12 from cardiac arrest during surgery. “I was in high school at the time, at a really intense prep school in the San Fernando Valley and so my only focus were my studies. I’d lost touch with Heather at that point and unfortunately I never knew she was actually sick until she passed away,” he told the paper. “I attended her funeral and it was really heartbreaking to see that happen. I was at an age where I had so many fond memories of her and I was able to reflect upon the experience, so it was tragic for me on multiple levels.”
Then, two Poltergeist II stars Julian Beck (who played Kane the evil preacher) and Will Sampson (who played Taylor the Medicine Man) passed away from health issues at ages 60 and 53, in 1985 and 1987, respectively. The most gruesome death of all, however, was the 2009 freak death of Lou Perryman, who portrayed construction worker Pugsley in the first flick. The actor was murdered with an axe inside his Texas home by an ex-convict.
Despite the odd instances, Robins maintained that his costars’ deaths had nothing to do with the movie. “To be completely honest, I don’t think anyone that was involved in the movie ever really took the curse seriously. There is no curse – it is just tragic coincidences,” he said. “With this curse mythology, I never spoke to Steven [Spielberg] about it, but I guess he thinks the events that took place were horribly tragic and awful but had no relation to the events that took place on set. People may try and connect the dots and make something out of it, but they are possibly going to make connections that probably aren’t there.”
The Poltergeist remake, starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Jared Harris, hits theaters on Friday, May 22.
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