Thursday, February 9, 2012

Movie Review: Poltergeist 2: The Other Side (1986)

Poltergeist is my bestest horror movie bud. All-time favorite, you know. The memories of the sequels to this awesome haunted house movie were buried somewhere in my mind, mostly lost and forgotten. I finally relented and rewatched both Poltergeist 2 and 3, though I was sure that it would only muddle the beautiful feelings I have for the original. But... the second one wasn't so bad. Wasn't so great, either, but it has it's moments.

The Freeling family is back (well, minus one due to horrific real-life circumstances) and now living with Diane's mother because their house sort of disappeared into thin air. They are once again thrust into the realm of the supernatural when an reverend named Henry Kane starts following Carol Anne around. The psychic Tangina sends the family a Native American shaman, Taylor, to help them fight the assault from the relentless Kane.

Do I like Poltergeist 2? Eh, it's a toss-up. I like that it has the original cast members, and that it still has that touch of humor that made the first one so charming, and that it introduced one uber-creepy villain, but it's just not the same. The light shows and strange happenings seem like they were trying too hard to make this sequel more exciting visually instead of focusing on creating a compelling story that makes sense. The movie is entertaining enough, and it hurts to constantly feel like I have to compare it to the first Poltergeist, but seriously. Do you really expect me not to considering the fact that Poltergeist is like, my favorite horror movie EVER?

The best thing about Poltergeist 2 is the acting. JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, and even little Heather O'Rourke are just as likable and lovable as they were before. Zelda Rubenstein's Tangina is hardly around at all, which is a disappointment (and she was nominated for a Razzie for this role - ouch). Heather gets a chance to show some real acting chops here and she's practically perfect. Nelson is funny as always, especially in his hilariously charming moments with the wonderful Will Sampson, who plays Taylor. And Nelson is great in the scene where he's possessed by the tequila worm - delightfully uncomfortable.

The important thing that's missing from the whole movie, though, is the connection of the family. They are still a great and loving family, but there doesn't seem to be any real emotion there. Their desperation and breakdown about getting Carol Anne back was beautiful in the first movie, as well as their reluctant acceptance of the supernatural. Now their attitude is just "oh not this shit again" and it doesn't seem as serious.

But of course the big star of the movie is Henry Kane, played by Julian Beck. His skeletal frame, wispy white hair, and straight, yellow teeth combine to give Kane an insanely scary look - one that any child, or adult for that matter, would run away from on the street (even though Carol Anne didn't, but I think Kane used his demony hypnotic powers on her with the song and all). His voice and speech patterns are also unsettling, with that undefinable accent. His whole character is somewhat cliche in how exaggerated he is, but the actor is good enough to pull it off here.

I understand the need for strange supernatural experiences in a movie like this, but did they really have to include a scene where poor Robbie is attacked by his freaking BRACES? I didn't like that scene at all. Stephen vomiting up the worm monster was a little better. The effects are really awesome in that scene and I was no doubt very grossed out by the imagery. The thing morphing into an armless, skinless ball of jelly? Ewww. Then it slithers out of the room, grows all these tentacles and attacks Stephen. But sadly the big "fight" scene with this monster was boring and over too quickly.

Likewise the climax was also rather hurried and boring, despite the big light show when the whole freaking family went to "the other side." That was hokey as hell... but really, what did I expect them to make the other side look like? Like most of the rest of the movie, this ending seems to be there just to show off the visual effects. It's nice but less meaningful than the first film.

So yeah, I'm on the fence about Poltergeist 2. It's alright I guess, but it's no Poltergeist. The comparison between the two is almost not there and it's obvious which one is better. The sequel has some good elements and the acting is pretty good, but the story is what is most lacking and the connection between the characters.


  1. Poltergeist IS the best horror movie ever! You're right about the sequels. Part 2 is pretty "meh" but at least its not Poltergeist 3.

  2. I was 8 when "Poltergeist" came out. My Dad -- either because he wanted to be a dick, or because he didn't know what he was taking me to see (apart from it having the name "Steven Spielberg" on it) -- took me to see it, and I was so scared that I spent the vast majority of the movie turned around in my seat staring at the back of the theatre.

    Years later, it's one of my absolute favorite scary movies, and because of that, I've never felt any desire at all to watch the sequels ... which seem like they can be only pale imitations, at best.

  3. @Alex: Meh is probably the best way to describe part 2! I could have just had a one word review.

    @Bryant: That's exactly why I had decided to forget about the sequels but curiosity got the best of me. They are pale imitations indeed. Well, maybe not even imitations. They turn away from most of the elements that made the first one so good and rely on the visuals to do the storytelling for them.

  4. This is my next review and I agree with you. Just a bland, mediocre sequel that probably shouldn't been made. At least it's better than part 3. Yeesh...