The film is strikingly similar in many ways to a Twilight Zone television
episode entitled "Little Girl Lost" that may have inspired the
movie. In this episode a little girl falls through a porthole to another
dimension in her bedroom and can be heard calling to her parents from
different locations in the house to come rescue her.
While the on-screen director's
credit goes to Tobe Hooper there is a wealth of evidence to indicate that
writer/producer Steven Spielberg was responsible for most of the creative
decisions in the movie, with Hooper merely responsible for the mechanics
of shooting scenes.
Movie on the TV in an early bedroom
scene is A Guy Named Joe (1943), a film about a pilot who returns to the
world as a ghost. It was later remade by Steven Spielberg into Always
The hands which pull the flesh off
the investigator's face in the bathroom mirror are Spielberg's.
The house that gets sucked into a
black hole at the end was actually a model about 4 feet across. The model
took several weeks to complete. The scene was shot as follows: camera
placed directly above model, which was mounted over an industrial strength
vacuum generator (the front door was facing directly up, straight at the
camera). The model also had about 100 wires attached to various points of
the structure. These wires went down through the back of the house, and
down through the vacuum collection sack. The camera was turned on, and
took 15 seconds to wind up to the required 300 frames per second. When
ready, the cameraman gave the cue. The vacuum was turned on, the wires
were yanked suddenly, and several SFX guys blasted the house with
pump-action shotguns. The entire scene was over in about two seconds, and
they had to wait until the film was developed before they knew if they
would have to do it again. When played back at 24 fps, would take
approximately 12 seconds for the house to collapse. Luckily, they got it
right on the first go. The finished scene was sent to Spielberg, who was
on location shooting E.T. He gave it to a projectionist, who assumed it
was just the "dailies" from ET. The scene came on, and the
projectionist said "Holy shit! What was that?" Spielberg had the
remains of the model encased in perspex, and it is now sitting on his
piano. The model itself was worth well over $25,000.
Mrs. Freeling's line "Mmmm...
smell that mimosa" is taken directly from The Uninvited (1944). The
sign at the Holiday Inn reads, "Welcome Dr. Fantasy and
Friends." Dr. Fantasy is a nickname for producer Frank Marshall (I).
O'Rourke, Heather, who played the
little girl Carol-Anne, and Dominique Dunne who played the teenage
daughter, are buried in the same cemetery: Westwood Memorial Park in Los
Angeles. Dunne was strangled into brain-death by her boyfriend in 1982,
the year of the film's release. Six years later, O'Rourke died of
The film was originally given
a "R" rating, but the filmmakers protested successfully and got
a "PG" rating.