Given Heather O’Rourke’s Tragic Death, Does DirecTV’s New ‘Poltergeist’ Commercial Go Too Far?

For several years now, I’ve enjoyed keeping an eye peeled for new ads from DirecTV; they’ve been playing off a nifty gimmick that brings stars back to their classic movie roles (Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens,” Robert Patrick in “Terminator 2,” Jessica Simpson in “Dukes of Hazard”…well, okay, maybe they’re not all classics) and has them taking a quick timeout to address us about the joys of satellite TV. Harmless enough, right?

Well, the fun is over.

The newest ad in the series targets “Poltergeist” and features a 2008 Craig T. Nelson conversing with Heather O’Rourke. And the objectionable thing ain’t just Nelson’s bad Eighties hairpiece.

After O’Rourke stares at the blank television and delivers her classic “They’re here!” line, Nelson sits up in bed and says “No honey, they’re not here…Forgetting to switch to DirecTV? Yeah, that’s going to come back to haunt me.” The majority of the time, he’s delivering the lines to what looks like a new young actress with long blonde hair obscuring her face.

It always bothers me when deceased celebrities are used to endorse products they sometimes never even lived to see exist (Fred Astaire shilling a Dirt Devil, Sammy Davis Jr. hanging out at Applebee’s, Kurt Cobain selling Chuck Taylors, etc.), but this commercial is particularly disturbing because of O’Rourke’s tragic tale. A promising young actress, O’Rourke impressively walked the fine line between innocence and evil as Carol Anne in three “Poltergeist” flicks, then died at age 12 from bizarre circumstances involving toxic shock and cardiac arrest.

Back in the day, MGM scrambled to market “Poltergeist III” in a respectful manner after the actress’ death. Apparently DirecTV has no such concerns over decency, and I can’t help but feel a bit disgusted every time the commercial comes on. Out of all the movies that have ever been made, they had to go here?

Quite simply, Heather O’Rourke never gave this performance. In creating the ad, they’ve taken away her free will, along with any desire she may have had to not participate. It’s creepy, disrespectful and just sad, and it sure as hell doesn’t make me want to buy DirecTV.

If O’Rourke’s family gave the okay to use her likeness, they should think again. The studio should be ashamed for licensing the footage, DirecTV should stick to using live celebrities who can make such the choice on their own, and Craig T. Nelson should show more concern for protecting the memory of a deceased co-star.

I’m all for freedom of speech; what bothers me is when speech is being inserted into the mouth of a deceased little girl.

What do you think? Does the “Poltergeist” ad upset you too, or do movie-lovers look dumb when they defend the memories of people they’ve never even met?