Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Dir. Brian Gibson (1986)
After the grandmother of a “recently troubled” family dies, the little girl starts getting calls from beyond the grave. Strange(r) things begin to happen… again.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
At a certain point, you have to teach your kids not to talk to dead people. You’d have thought Heather O’Rourke would’ve learned that after the first movie, but she apparently did not. When her grandmother dies, she gets a call on her fake little kid phone in her room, and she answers it, assuming that it will be grandma. Spoiler alert: it’s not, and it opens a doorway into another world. The folks on the other side are not happy that they’re missing out on the fun of being alive, and they want to rectify that by coming after her and her family.
And Tangina, who is back in an ultra-short role (no pun intended).
Shortly thereafter, when a Native American who claims to be sent by the psychic from the first movie comes to their door, rather than listen to him, the family flees to a truckstop. There, they are warned by a woman who is speaking with the voice of the dead grandmother that whatever is after them will keep coming after them wherever they go. The family should already know all of this, as well, because of the first movie, yet somehow they do not, and this makes for a lot of fun scares and one of the creepiest bad guys in cinematic history in Reverend Kane, played by the sadly-terminally-ill Julian Beck. It’s a shame that the actor was actually dying from cancer, because I could’ve watched an entire movie centered around him, as he’s truly terrifying. Unfortunately, his screen-time wasn’t enough for me, and I think that Poltergeist II suffers a good bit from this. Once Kane is out of the picture (or, rather, his corporeal form), the movie kinda descends into a bit of nonsense and spirit-world fighting, finalized by Coach Craig T. Nelson tossing a Native American spear at a ghost.
Would’ve been so much better if he had tossed it at this guy.
There are some great scary scenes in Poltergeist II, but the movie simply doesn’t have the charm or the scares of the first one. The first one is one of the scariest American movies, especially since we’re generally introduced to it as children, but this one is a tad lacking. There’s a huge debate on the internet as to whether Tobe Hooper or Stephen Spielberg directed the original, but there’s absolutely zero influence from either of them in this film. And I’m Team Hooper, by the way, and anyone who isn’t has no idea what they’re talking about.
The movie definitely doesn’t hit on all cylinders, but the acting is great, the directing is at least competent, and there are a few scary scenes sprinkled about. The scene where the little boy’s braces attack the family is interesting, and the scene with the worm in the tequila bottle has scarred more than a few erstwhile drinkers, but beyond that… meh. I loved the introduction of Will Sampson’s Taylor, and he became an archetype for Native American characters in horror movies that is still being used today. Craig T. and JoBeth W. are awesome as well, as per usual. Beyond that… as stated above, a little meh.
Who this movie is for: Fans of the original, All horror fans who need to see it at least once, Followers of Kane
Bottom line: As a sequel to one of the greatest American horror movies ever made, it falls short in a few places. It’s still a worthwhile, and occasionally scary, movie though, and it’s definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before. It’s worth it for Heather O’Rourke and Tangina alone.