Poltergeist II (Blu-ray)
Let me start by saying something nice about POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE. It’s not the worst movie ever made. It’s probably not even in my Top 10 worst… believe it or not, an important distinction. This is the type of movie that probably should never have existed. However, it is a perfect example of the state of cinema in the late 1980’s – making a cash grab sequel without the talent (actively involved crew, in this case) from the first movie. If that sounds familiar, consider that this situation has actually come full circle. How many of the movies you saw this summer in the theater were sequels? Did they catch the magic of the original (if there was any)? POLTERGEIST (the original) caught magic in a bottle, mostly because of a young, very involved writer/producer named Steven Spielberg and some incredible, JAWS-like pacing. This movie benefits from neither.
POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE, is the continuing story of the Freeling family, consisting in this film of mother Diane (JoBeth Williams, recently of DEXTER), father Steve (Craig T. Nelson of PARENTHOOD), and siblings Robbie (Oliver Robins) and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Not returning from the first movie is older sister Dana (actress Dominique Dunne was killed shortly after the first movie wrapped). This might not be a big deal if the movie didn’t take place immediately following POLTERGEIST; but it does and they dropped the ball. To make matters worse this film takes and warps the general storyline of the first film, adding layers that make things more confusing and more forgettable.
POLTERGEIST II opens, (following a confusing scene with an Indian ritual/exorcism?), with some quick cuts from the first film, to give the audience a general impression of the horrors experienced by the Freeling family. This is competently done and would really aid the film if there wasn’t such a huge drop off in ability immediately following. The family is now living with Diane’s mother, who notices [repeatedly, so that we don’t miss it] that Carol Anne has some special abilities. The family seems to remember very little about their prior experience, and when pushed to think about/discuss it in the films opening exposition (most of the first 45 minutes) they really bring out the soap opera dramatics.
The family has been living a mostly normal life since their first encounter with “the other side”… but strange things are starting to happen again. Carol Anne has a trippy encounter with a scary looking man (Julian Beck, playing the evil preacher Kane) who at first appears to be creepy but maybe harmless… then stranger occurrences with toys coming alive and, well, basically the exact same troubles/jump moments from the first movie.
This is the primary failing of POLTERGEIST II. It treads the same water as the first movie, but in a much more convoluted way. Ultimately, this means that POLTERGEIST II becomes the most forgettable entry in the series, but it’s also by far the most incompetent. Williams and Nelson are over the top as the parents in ways that just don’t mesh with the other film. Similarly, Heather O’Rourke does nothing in this film that she didn’t do in a much more believable way during the first movie. The Blu-ray gives the film nothing more than it deserves, which is to say that it includes absolutely nothing in the way of special features. Not bad enough to be fun to watch, just terrible; this is one to avoid.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen) The special effects look especially dated in high definition, but they are typical for 1986, and at some points really doing some cool things.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) Sound is important in movies like this, but it isn’t something that can elevate them beyond mediocrity. In this case the dialogue is well handled but the effects-heavy scenes are poorly mixed causing the viewer to keep their hand on the remote.
The only special feature on the disc is the inclusion of the Theatrical Trailer.