Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Reviewed by Jeff DeLuzio
Rating: 3 Beans
oltergeist 2: The Other Side
The original "Poltergeist" may not have been great cinema, but its "family moves into house possessed by a Hollywood Special Effects Crew" premise provided some entertainment, so long as one did not view too critically.
The sequel attempts a little more but, sadly, accomplishes much less.
We have here not generic ghosties and ghoulies, as we did in the first film, but a hundred-year-old utopian cult whose members were led to a suicidal end, and whose spirits remain under the spell of their evil leader. This underlying concept could work quite well, particularly in the shadow of recent cultic activities. Julian Beck's performance as the evil preacher Kane certainly unsettles most viewers. Unfortunately, the premise becomes an excuse for "Poltergeist"'s long-suffering family to become repossessed, and for pointless, and-- more damaging-- aimless special effects.
As events progress, the film loses all sense of direction. Kane's identity is hopelessly confused. Is he a man whose evil reaches beyond the grave? Has he become a demon? Was he one in the first place?
What matters in a horror film are not the specific answers to such questions, but the fact that the filmmakers bother to ask them. It would indicate that they cared about the movie. Apparently, they only concerned themselves with the opportunity to show some nifty special effects. The vomit-creature segment, with a Giger-created beast, looks good on screen. Likewise, the horror of having one's parent possessed-- by alcoholism, indifference, or even a demonic preacher-- becomes frighteningly real, for a few moments. The director has no idea what to do with these concepts, however, and quickly drops them and shifts direction so that he can set up the next special effect shot.
Zelda Rubinstien reprises her roll as medium Tangina Barrons, but quickly takes second place to a new mystic champion, Will Sampson's Taylor. The character shows potential, but once again, no one knew exactly why he was in the film, except as a half-hearted concession to an interest in Native spirituality. Neither psychic serves any clear purpose. Neither, in any dramatically necessary way, assists the Freeling family.
"Poltergeist II", already chaotic, ends with a cliched visit to the Other Side worthy of a Televangelist's mail-order video, followed by a light final scene reminiscent of a 60s Disney adventure film. Neither segment works very well. With this film's lack of a context, however, I'm not certain what sort of ending could have worked.
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