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Poltergeist: The Sequels That Never Came to Be

Given the success of the original Poltergeist, it was inevitable that a string of sequels would follow in its wake. Surprisingly, however, the franchise never made it past its terrible third installment. After the death of young star Heather O’Rourke and the poor box office performance of 1988’s Poltergeist 3, the once profitable series fell completely off the Hollywood radar.

Of course, Poltergeist was given the remake treatment this year, almost three decades after the franchise’s last installment. The modern day revival landed into theaters this past weekend, pulling in nearly $30 million and scaring up mostly negative reviews. It was yet another pointless remake, lazily recreating iconic moments and bringing no new ideas to the table.

Though the box office failure of Poltergeist 3 spelled the end of the original franchise, and directly led to this year’s inevitable remake, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t ever plans for a Poltergeist 4. In fact, according to the information that is publicly available, there were at least three different iterations of Poltergeist 4 in the works at various points in time.

Scary picture in 3, 2, 1…

Reverend Kane

One of the ideas that was tossed around in the early 1990s, not long after the release of Poltergeist 3, was to make a prequel film about creepy villain Reverend Kane, telling the character’s origin story that was only briefly explored in Poltergeist 2. It was to be a psychological thriller with little in the form of special effects, taking the franchise in a new direction.

Allegedly, one of the ideas being tossed around was that the prequel would attempt to tie Kane directly to the Freeling family, explaining why he specifically decided to aggressively target them. According to an industry insider by the name of Macklin Crux, it was eventually going to be revealed that Carol Anne was the great-great granddaughter of the once-respected Reverend Kane.

A prequel centering on Kane is no doubt an interesting proposition, as Kane was without question the best thing about Poltergeist 2. His story of starting a Jonestown-like cult and convincing his followers that the end was near is one that could easily be expanded into a feature, and it’s somewhat of a bummer that it wasn’t – even if such a film would be, at the end of the day, quite unnecessary.

It was many years before another peep was heard about Poltergeist 4, and by the time talks resumed, the project had taken a completely different shape. News of a new sequel hit the net in 2005, when it was revealed that Clint Morris had been hired to write a film titled Poltergeist: Kayeri. It was to be a direct sequel to the second film, mostly disregarding the events of the third.

The plan for Kayeri was for Craig T. Nelson to reprise the role of Steve Freeling, a character so haunted by the past that he ditched his family and became a hermit – living alone in the mountains of California. But the patriarch of the Freeling family of course cannot truly escape his family’s curse, as the persistent spirit of Reverend Kane eventually finds him – engaging him in one final battle.

Poltergeist Kayeri

Steve Freeling was to be aided in the battle by both an Indian friend as well as a young band filming a video in the mountains, the latter characters being written into the script to cater the film to a younger audience. In the end, Steve was going to reunited with both his wife and daughter, and it was at one point rumored that Hilary Duff would play the fully-grown Carol Anne.

One thing Poltergeist 2 touched upon was how traumatized Steve Freeling was after the events of the original film, as he was haunted by the fear that he couldn’t protect his family. He turns to booze and refuses to ever own another television, so becoming a full-on hermit seems like somewhat of a natural progression for the character. Again, would’ve been very interesting to see.

The death of Kayeri, it seems, was the merger between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony. The project had apparently been in the works back in 2003, but when Sony bought MGM in 2004, it simply wasn’t a priority for the studio. By the time we learned about the sequel in 2005, it appears as if the film had already been dead in the water for at least a year.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available about the third attempt to resurrect the Poltergeist franchise, which was going to feature the return of Poltergeist and Poltergeist 2 co-writer Michael Grais. The news broke in 2007 that Grais was hired to write Poltergeist: In the Shadows, which was described as a sequel that had no connection whatsoever to Kayeri.

But much like Kayeri, Poltergeist: In the Shadows vanished shortly after it was announced. A remake of the original classic was set in motion the following year, and after a few changes of both writers and directors, production finally began in 2013. The lackluster Poltergeist remake, it seems, has forever vanquished any and all hopes of the Freeling family’s return.

If you could bring only one of these three sequels back to life, which one would it be? And why? Comment below and let us know!

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If you don't get enough of me here on Halloween Love, you can also find me on Dread Central, iHorror and Shock Till You Drop. Contact me via john@halloweenlove.com.
  • Jason Wells

    Kayeri seemed the most promising to me. Would’ve loved to have seen Nelson return to the role one last time.

    A prequel for Kane, tying him to the Feeling family, though it sounds good, is really unnecessary.

  • William Smith

    I would also have liked the second or third idea more than the prequel idea especially since the idea that Kane was Carol Anne’s great-great-great-great grandfather would be preposterous,unless they were to say that Kane’s son or grandson decided to change the family name to Freeling or maybe Wilson, the Diane Freeling character’s maiden-name.

  • JohnandFrederick Forgas-Feeley

    See, I want to write a Poltergeist Part 2, the house comes back, not dealing with the Freelings,but dealing with an adult Carol Anne and having to protect her children. I am a horror writer with three books out. I would love to tackle this but I don’t want to get into any trouble from the owners of the copyrights, etc etc

  • John Squires

    I agree that the idea of connecting Kane to the Freeling family like that is totally silly and dumb, but I do love the idea of a full-on Kane prequel. The backstory they present for him, in Poltergeist 2, could’ve easily been its own movie.

  • Trevor

    “Kayeri”, for sure. “In the Shadows” could’ve been an alternate title. Sounds like the most sensible progression of the series, as Steven’s arc in the second film was one of the best things about it. Considering ALL the remakes of classic 70’s and 80’s Horror films have basically killed their respective franchise (due to actual poor quality or the disapproval of a strict fan base), “Kayeri” might see some new life, if Nelson’s around to partake in it that is. Might want to give it a couple of years though, like the span between “Evil Dead” (2013) & “Ash vs. Evil Dead” (2015).

  • Leon donald

    Heather orourke was the dominant caractor in all three films “poltergeist” 2..Kane wasnt the dominant individual in this film as heather was..however I know what u mean by your comments..but the trilogy was heathers just face up to it! She was the main actor through out all three films.

  • Aaron King

    I think they should’ve done both the prequel and Kayeri. Would’ve made good bookends.