Steve Freeling is the main protagonist of the first two Poltergeist movies. He is played by Craig T. Nelson.
Steve and Diane Freeling live a quiet life in a California planned community called Cuesta Verde, where Steve is a successful real estate developer and Diane is a housewife who cares for their children Dana, Robbie, and Carol Anne. Carol Anne awakens one night and begins conversing with the family's television set, which is transmitting static following a sign-off. The following night, while the Freelings sleep, Carol Anne fixates on the television set as it transmits static again. Suddenly, an apparition blasts from the television screen and vanishes into the wall, triggering a violent earthquake in the process. As the shaking subsides, Carol Anne announces that "They're here."
Bizarre events occur the following day: a drinking glass spontaneously breaks, silverware bends, and furniture moves of its own accord. The phenomena seem benign at first, but quickly begin to intensify. That night, a gnarled backyard tree comes alive and grabs Robbie through the bedroom window. While Steve rescues Robbie before the demon tree swallows him, Carol Anne is sucked through a portal in her closet. The Freelings realize she has been taken when they hear her voice emanating from a television set.
Steve goes to meet with a group of parapsychologists from UC Irvine. When asked about the disturbances, Steve states that he just wants his daughter found. Dr. Lesh, Ryan, and Marty come to the Freeling house to investigate and determine that the Freelings are experiencing a poltergeist intrusion. They discover that the disturbances involve more than just one ghost. Steve also finds out in an exchange with his boss, Teague, that Cuesta Verde is built where a cemetery was once located.
After Dana and Robbie are sent away for their safety, Dr. Lesh and Ryan call in Tangina Barrons, a spiritual medium. Tangina states that the spirits inhabiting the house are lingering in a different "sphere of consciousness" and are not at rest. Attracted to Carol Anne's life force, these spirits are sidetracked from the real "light" that has come for them. Tangina then adds that among these ghosts, there is also a demon known as the "Beast", who has Carol Anne under restraint in an effort to manipulate the other spirits.
The assembled group discovers that the entrance to the other dimension is through the children's bedroom closet, while the exit is through the living room ceiling. As the group attempts to rescue Carol Anne, Diane passes through the entrance tied by a rope that has been threaded through both portals. Steve meets the "Beast" face-to-face. Diane manages to retrieve Carol Anne, and they both drop to the floor from the ceiling, unconscious and covered in prenatal-like fluids. After Steve revives them, Tangina proclaims that the house is now "clean."
Shortly thereafter, the Freelings begin the process of moving elsewhere by packing up their belongings. During their last night in the house, Steve has decided to resign, and attends a meeting with Teague, while Dana goes on a date, leaving Diane, Robbie, and Carol Anne alone in the house. While Steve is gone, the "Beast" ambushes Diane and the children, attempting a second kidnapping. Though at first trapped in the house, Diane, after swimming through a pool full of skeletons and running down an expanding hallway, gets Carol Anne and Robbie out of the room, and eventually, out of the house, meeting Steve at the door. Upon seeing the skeletons and coffins, Steve immediately realizes that Teague merely had the headstones moved and left the bodies behind, desecrating the burial grounds, and rebukes him. The Freelings flee Cuesta Verde. While Robbie says to go faster, Steve admonishes his family not to look back. The house itself implodes into another dimension, to the astonishment of onlookers. The family checks into a hotel for the night, and Steve shoves the room's television outside onto the balcony.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Four years after the events of Poltergeist, Steve, Diane, Robbie, and Carol Anne, have relocated to Phoenix, Arizona and now live in a house with Diane's mother, Jessica "Grandma Jess" Wilson. Having lost his real estate license, Steve is reduced to selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door while filing repeated insurance claims to cover the missing home. Grandma Jess later dies from natural causes, but not before telling Diane one last time that she'll always "be there" if she needs her. Steve, Robbie and Carol Anne comfort her after this happens.
Taylor shows up as Kane begins his first assault on the home. Unable to get in through the television as the family has removed all television sets from the home, Kane's minions are forced to find another way in, this time through Carol Anne's toy phone. The attack fails, and the family gets out of the house quickly. Taylor introduces himself and convinces them that running would be a waste of time since Kane would only find them again, and they return to the house, which Taylor has made safe for the time being.
Kane himself shows up at the home one day in human form, and demands to be let in, but Steve rebukes Kane and forces him to leave. Taylor congratulates him for resisting Kane, and then takes Steve out to the desert and gives him the Power of Smoke, a Native spirit that can repel Kane. Taylor warns the family that Kane is extremely clever, and will try to tear them apart, explaining that Kane hates them because of their love for each other.
One night, Steve lets his guard down and gets intoxicated, swallowing a Mezcal worm that is possessed by Kane, who temporarily possesses him. He attacks and tries to rape Diane, who cries out that she loves him. Steve then begins fight Kane in his mind and vomits up the worm possessed by Kane, which grows into a huge, tentacled monstrosity. In this form, Kane strikes Steve from the ceiling, but Steve uses the smoke spirit to drive him out. Steve decides to go, with his family, back to Cuesta Verde, where they will confront the Beast on his own turf, the Other Side.
The Freelings return to Cuesta Verde and enter the cavern below their former home, where Kane pulls Diane and Carol Anne over into the Other Side. Steve and Robbie jump in after them through a fire started by Taylor. On the Other Side, Steve, Diane, Robbie, and Carol Anne unite, but Kane (now an horrifying, gigantic monster) grabs Carol Anne. Taylor gets a charmed Indian lance into Steve's hands, and Steve stabs Kane with it, defeating the monster and causing him to fall into the afterlife. Carol Anne nearly crosses over into the afterlife as well, but Grandma Jess' spirit appears and returns her to the family. The Freelings then return safely to The World of the Living, and thank Taylor and Tangina.
- He doesn't appear in Poltergeist III.