More screens means more scares in new ‘Poltergeist’

SHARE More screens means more scares in new ‘Poltergeist’

By Bryan Alexander | Gannett News Service

In 1982’s “Poltergeist,” young Carol Anne Freeling carved out a place for herself in horror history when she eerily announced the arrival of malevolent spirits, saying, “They’re here.”

Well, they are back.

“Poltergeist” has been rebooted with a new cast and a contemporary setting more than 30 years after the original made the suburbs feel unsafe. Director Gil Kenan (“Monster House”) was rocked by the original film and vows to get the contemporary version right when it hits theaters in 3-D onFriday.

“Whenever someone approaches material that’s so beloved, there’s a reflexive reaction to be worried,” says Kenan. “It’s a responsibility we take very seriously. We’re working to make a ‘Poltergeist’ film that lives up to the original’s legacy.”

A key to Kenan and producer Sam Raimi’s plan has been to mirror key aspects of the original. Director Tobe Hooper’s 1982 version featured a screenplay co-written by Steven Spielberg and a stellar cast of Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams as parents fighting against angry spirits to take back their abducted daughter (Heather O’Rourke).

Sam Rockwell) and Rosemarie DeWitt) play the parents trying to save Madison (Kennedi Clements) in “Poltergeist.” | 20th Century Fox

Sam Rockwell) and Rosemarie DeWitt) play the parents trying to save Madison (Kennedi Clements) in “Poltergeist.” | 20th Century Fox

The reboot features a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist David Lindsay-Abaire and is led onscreen by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt as the parents.

“Unlike the traditional horror film, I wanted to put together a cast to give weight and reality to these characters. It’s the way to anchor the family,” says Kenan. “It’s such an emotional story at the core: parents fighting to get their child back from the beyond.”

The Bowen family members find themselves in a paranormal world of hurt when they move into a suburban fixer-upper, which is in worse need of spiritual cleansing. Kenan says he found his key central girl, Madison, in 8-year-old Kennedi Clements, whom he calls “a force of nature.”

As inthe original, television is a conduit from the spirit world. But in 2015, the screens are bigger, packing more menace. And there are screens throughout the house.

“The original film commented on how we’ve let television get out of control, babysitting our kids,” says Raimi. “It’s only gotten worse with the handheld portable devices. Screens are everywhere.”

Once the spiritual invasion overwhelms, the Bowens seek help from a respected supernatural researcher and clairvoyant (Jared Harris). But they really come together and rely on each other.

“The thing that keeps them a family is what they have to draw on, to stay sane, and also to win Madison back,” says Kenan. “The film is super-scary. And it’s scary on its own terms.”

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