Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Haunted House Film  |   Release Date - May 23, 1986 (USA)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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The original Poltergeist mixed visceral scares and sympathetic characters in a way that really personalized the plight of the Freelings, making audiences suspend disbelief so totally, only the lights coming on in the theater convinced them the family was out of danger. So it's a bit nauseating watching Poltergeist II: The Other Side knowing that life and art really did cross over, that the actress who played eldest daughter Dana (Dominique Dunne) was strangled to death by her boyfriend. The stench of real death puts a damper on the film's potential, especially as it was crassly pushed forward despite Dunne's murder and the departure of both the original director (Tobe Hooper) and writer/producer (Steven Spielberg). Circumstances aside, Poltergeist II seriously lacks inspiration, content to restage set pieces that went over well the first time. When Robbie's braces shoot from his mouth to entangle him, it's a silly retread of the tree outside his old house that tried to get him, and Steven Freeling vomiting up a tequila-worm monster is serious shades of the chicken-maggot/face-peeling incident from part one. The one breath of fresh (or perhaps crypt-stale) air is the casting of Julian Beck as the haunting reverend Henry Kane, who sings chillingly unwholesome songs as he stalks the Freelings to their new home. The fact that the actor was dying of stomach cancer lends him a pitch-perfect skeletal horror, accounting for a lot more scares than the inorganically used special effects. A fault with both films -- all the more so here -- is that the finale collapses into ridiculousness. The so-called "Poltergeist curse" would continue with an unwatchable Poltergeist III and the death of young Heather O'Rourke soon after it finished filming.