Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III – Blu-ray review

Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Director: Brian Gibson
Stars: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke

Poltergeist III
Director: Gary Sherman
Stars: Heather O’Rourke, Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen

Review by Brian M. Sammons

After the mega-hit that was Poltergeist came out 1982, you would figure a sequel would have been a no-brainer and just around the corner. But nope, it took four years before we had a return visit with the haunted Freeling family to see how their life was going after their house literally imploded one night. After that it only took two more years for the triple dip, this time the threequel just focusing on Carol “they’re here” Anne and ditching the rest of the Freelings in favor of Chicago high-rises and Tom Skerrit’s creepy moustache (seriously, that thing always gave me nightmares). How did these two follow-ups fare in the long shadow cast by the original? Well, turn off the TV, hide the tequila, quit staring at yourself in the mirror and let’s find out.

Poltergeist II has the Freeling family living in another nice suburban neighborhood and everything is a-ok until evil finds them once again. This time evil has a face, and a creepy as hell one at that. The old, singing, smiling, and completely crazy preacher, Kane, once killed a bunch of folks under the family’s old house. Yeah, according to this movie, it wasn’t just moving the headstones but leaving the bodies in a cemetery that was the cause of all the problems. Anyway, Kane has his sights set on little Carol Anne to ferry him and his angry, dead followers to the other side, so before you can say, “Oh no, not again,” the haunting shenanigans start up. Highlights include an attack by mouth braces, one badass tequila worm, the aforementioned Kane, and the return of most of the original cast, including the magic munchkin herself, Tangina. Poltergeist II is pretty much more of the same from the first movie, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not a patch on the original, but there is still some spooky fun to be had here.

The same can’t be said for Poltergeist III, unfortunately. The only returning character is Carol Anne, who is foisted off on an aunt and her new husband who live and work in an all-encompassing Chicago skyscraper. Once again Kane finds the little girl, and the spookiness begins. Or not. Yeah, the scares are pretty weak sauce here, combined with weak acting from the usually solid Tom Skerritt and Nancy Allen, and some eye-rolling plot contrivances done only to push the story on down the road a few more feet. There are some good things done with the repeated theme of mirrors and reflections, and more than one of those gags made me smile and nod with appreciation, but that’s about it. So if you want to see a small collection of good ideas get bogged down by bouts of boredom, then this might be the movie for you.

On to the extras for both of these new Blu-ray releases from Scream Factory. For Poltergeist II there are, aptly, two commentary tracks. The first is with writer/producer Michael Grais, and the other is with the Poltergeist II webmaster (uhm, why?) David Furtney. There’s an interview with actor Oliver Robins who played the tin-grinned Robbie Freeling that’s over 14 minutes long. There is a combo interview with the special effects designers that’s 22 minutes. There is a featurette on the artistic influence H.R. Giger (he of Alien fame) had on the look of the creatures in the movie that’s over 21 minutes long. There is a vintage making-of featurette that’s six minutes, another on the monster shop that made the beasties for this flick that’s almost three minutes, and a third for the visual effects that runs six and a half minutes.  Trailers, TV spots, a still gallery, and even the script for the movie can be found here.

Poltergeist III also has two commentary tracks. The first is with the director, Gary Sherman, and the other has webmaster David Furtney returning. There is an interview with co-screenwriter Brian Taggert that’s 16 minutes, actress Nancy Allen gives a 12-minute interview about her time in this movie. Special effects creator, John Caglione, Jr. also has a 12-minute interview. There is even an alternate ending here. A trailer, TV spots, a still gallery, and another movie script for this flick bring these extras to an end.

I can easily recommend Poltergeist II. It’s not as good as the first film, but it does its job well, has a few good creepy moments, and it gave us the wonderful Kane. For that alone it’s worth a watch. As for Poltergeist III, that one I can’t recommend. It’s not scary, rather boring, and a sad way to end an otherwise pretty good franchise. But hey, it’s not as sad or as bad as the remake, so that’s something, I guess.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.