The 1982 classic film is revamped with a more modern take on a family whose house is haunted by evil forces and take captive their youngest daughter. The family must try to save her before she disappears forever. The film is directed by Gil Kenan who also directed Monster House. Sam Rockwell and Rosemary DeWitt play the parents, Erik and Amy Bowen. Jared Harris plays Carrigan Burke, a paranormal expert along with Jane Adams that plays a paranormal professor and former wife of Burke. The kids are played by Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, and Kennedi Clements, who play Kendra, Griffin, and Madison Bowen. Madison essentially gets pulled into the other side by the other worldly entities. This film will have you coiled up in your seat from all the suspense.
Rosemary DeWitt: When I was 12 was when I first saw Poltergeist…
Sam Rockwell: I know what you mean I don’t know why they are so scary.
Director Gil Kenan: I was thinking about it earlier, it’s a chicken and the egg thing. Did Poltergeist make clowns scary or were clowns always scary and were just pushed on children with out really stopping to think we were ruining their lives and childhood.
DeWitt: You’re right, old baby dolls are scary too.
Kenan: I think there’s something about freezing an expression in plastic or porcelain, it’s human but it’s dead. It’s worse when it’s smiling forever. The eyes catch just enough light to connect with you across the room. I don’t think it was ever cool.
Rockwell: I like playing this guy because he’s an ordinary guy in an extraordinary circumstance. I usually play psychopaths and weirdos. So it was fun to play the average Joe.
How did the concept come up to remake Poltergeist?
Kenan: I talked about this a lot with Sam Raimi (producer), we’ve done some interviews together, he knows a bit more of the history and I think it took a long time to come back to the Poltergeist name and sort of reignite the franchise. As he would tell it there have been some proto types but none of them feel right. They had certain elements that worked but they didn’t feel like they lived up to the Poltergeist films that have been. There’s a certain standard with Poltergeist, it’s not just a world or some iconic moments, it’s also about telling that story as well as it can possibly be told with the best craft and the best actors. That standard is what limited it for a while.
Was the set clean?
Kenan: It was not the cleanest set in the world. Everyone probably has their own personal experience. We all had a heightened awareness of the occult and the unknown or an unexplained element. We had unexplained incidents where lights would blow up and we couldn’t lock a GPS signal on the drone.
DeWitt: We were in Canada (Joking)
Kenan: Right (Laughs). There was some stuff. I may or may not have seen footsteps on the floor detected with my heat sensor in my 1830’s victorian house. I speak for all of us when I say that part of the joy of making a super natural story is that you’re up to the possibility of their being weird stuff out there.
DeWitt: Sam wore red underwear.
Rockwell: Yes I did…
DeWitt: Yeah, when we were getting it on.
Rockwell: Yeah, that was my prank.
The Decision to make it 3D.
Kenan: Basically I begged and pleaded long enough until they allowed me to make it 3D. From the very beginning, we don’t get a lot of haunted house films made to a level of spectacle that I want, or I wanted as a kid growing up. But I got to make a 3D film once before with my first film “Monster House” and it felt to me like the genre was so well suited to the experience of feeling transported out of your seat and into the screen. In my heart that’s how I wanted to make a film. Secretly when we were photographing the film I was aligning compositions the most out of depth and then we would sort of flip the switch pretty early in the production process and from that point on you never look back.
When we see the other side.
Kenan: That was one of the things that got me excited about making the new Poltergeist was being able to take the camera to the other side. We all have cameras, or have access to cameras, that can hover in space and float through the room. These drones that are proliferating and it’s such an amazing time to be able to tap in to existing technology that teenagers or adults that act like teenagers have access to and to use those elements in our story felt natural.
Sam, did you watch the original before starting the shoot?
Rockwell: I did watch the Poltergeist yet again in deciding whether to do the movie or not. Some of my favorite horror movies are great films, not just great horror films…It’s a great genre to be part of.
Poltergeist is in theaters May 22.