This year’s “Poltergeist” and the 1982 original give audiences a roller-coaster ride of thrills and fright with a story about the abduction of a family’s youngest child by supernatural and increasingly hostile forces. The rest of the clan then wages a gruelling battle to get her back safely. But the new film updates the story’s perspective, place and characters.
Unlike the original “Poltergeist,” which was set in a comfortable economic time during the 1980s, this film is situated in the rapidly fading, disenfranchised American ideal we know as suburbia. A rundown, cookie-cutter community of three-bedroom homes, unkempt yards and chain link fences in an Illinois neighborhood sets the scene for the unsuspecting protagonists, the Bowen family. It reminds audiences that life in suburbia can sometimes be a long way from comfort and safety.
It is the children who first notice that something is off about the house, even before the Bowens take ownership. Griffin, the middle child, catches his younger sister Maddy having a conversation with an unseen…something…in what will soon be her bedroom closet. By the time the family moves into their new home, the stage is set for the discovery of otherworldly forces.
It makes sense that Maddy and Griffin are the first to experience these forces, says blockbuster filmmaker Sam Raimi who produces Poltergeist, because children are usually “more open to new situations and using their imaginations. So our child characters were more likely to perceive these supernatural entities that invade their home. Adults don’t tune into new ‘frequencies’ as easily as kids do.”
Maddy, the youngest and most susceptible child, loves the house thanks to her new “imaginary” friends in the closet. Griffin is a shy, introverted and easily frightened kid who likes the idea of moving until he learns his room is in the creepy, secluded attic – and begins thinking that a nearby tree is threatening him.
Kennedi Clements plays Maddy, the poltergeist’s main target. “Finding Kennedi resulted from an exhaustive search of children from around the world because, says director Gil Kenan, “she has soulfulness, brightness, and sense of humor that's easy to love. This is important because in the short time we spend with Maddy we need to fall in love with her, to experience the sense of loss and heartbreak that her family feels when she's taken. “Kennedi plays an absolutely fearless Maddy,” Kenan continues. “She's the one who, when confronted with voices from the TV or the closet, answers back with wide eyes. Maddy doesn't doubt and she's not afraid, and that fearlessness makes her vulnerable.”
“Poltergeist” opens June 24 in cinemas from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.
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