Writer, producer and director Sam Raimi may be best known for his work on the Tobey Maguire-starring “Spider-Man” trilogy, but he got his break in 1981 as the director and writer of the cult horror classic, “The Evil Dead.” So for Raimi, working as producer on the “Poltergeist” remake is something of a journey home, a much welcome return to his roots.
“I remember seeing it for the first time in a movie theater and it was a mind-blowing experience for me,” he says. “I was terrified, and yet at the same time, I so connected with the characters, and it was a very moving story. Together it was a very powerful combination, and even though I’d been a giant fan of great horror films, I’d never experienced characters before that I fell in love with and was so emotionally connected to in a horror film. It made the movie so terrifying.”
When considering a re-make of the 1982 classic Poltergeist, he looked to Israeli-British-American director Gil Kenan, best known for his work on the sci-fi fantasy film “City of Ember,” and 3D animated fantasy comedy “Monster House.” Thirty-nine-year-old Kenan received a degree in animation from the University of California, where for his graduate thesis he made a 10-minute stop-motion/live action film, The Lark. Shortly after its public screening, he was snapped up by the Creative Artists Agency, who showed the movie to Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg. In 2006, the high profile duo would offer the young filmmaker the director’s chair on “Monster House,” which went on to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Picture.
Now he’s tasked with directing a film originally conceived and written by one his mentor’s, Steven Spielberg, and like Raimi, he has enormously fond memories of the original. “My initial Poltergeist experience was a VHS one – I didn’t see it in the theater,” he says, “But I remember picking it off the shelf at my local video store. Most of my growing up as a film lover took place between the Cult and Horror sections at the video store in my suburban neighborhood, and I remember the feeling in the schoolyard was that it was a quality film. It had this great and terrifying quality of feeling like it was a perfect mirror of my life at the time, and that of course made it relatable, but it also made it that much more terrifying.”
Starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jared Harris, Poltergeist is the story of an ordinary family dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Set in America’s nondescript suburbs, our young family-of-five move into a new home only to find it possessed by angry poltergeists. When these angry spirits abduct their youngest daughter, Madison, they recruit a team of scientists and psychics – including the clairvoyant reality star Carrigan Burke (Harris) – to get her back.
“Poltergeist” will open this June 24 (also available in 3D) in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.