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Poltergeist II: The Other Side

tn_poltergeistiiWell, POLTERGEIST was a movie that people loved, so the best thing to do is to get the surviving cast members back together four years later (the actress who played the older daughter had been murdered), but not Spielberg or Hooper. The director this time is credited as Brian Gibson (WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT) but I bet Tobe Hooper secretly was uncredited director to make up for not getting full control last time. You can’t disprove it so go ahead and add it into wikipedia if you want.
Well they’ve moved into a new house now, but Zelda Rubinstein and a Native American colleague are digging around on the old property and find some kind of Indian grave or something that tells them Carol Anne is still in danger or whatever. It’s true, some kind of evil priest (Julian Beck) who looks like a 100 year old Gilligan in a pilgrim outfit keeps showing up talking to Carol Anne, appearing in her crayon drawings, or even coming to the house and trying to convince Dad to let him inside. He’s a real creepy looking guy, well cast, clearly an authentic old person and not just makeup. (Which is why he died during filming, though.)

And other ghostly shit also happens.

mp_poltergeistiiThe family jokes around alot. I think this was a conscious attempt to re-create the fun feel of the first movie, but I think it’s off the mark in this one. Like, they have jokes about dad calling up the insurance company and telling them the house disappeared so they use that as a loophole to get out of paying for it, ha ha. Also it ends on an illogical joke premise, that dad gives their car to their Native American exorcist guy, then realizes that they don’t have a way to get home. Because you just gave away your car, dumbass. You really want to end on that note?

What this reminded me of most was a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequel. It’s a variation on the story of the first one, but repeating it takes most of the power away. The family doesn’t want to have a TV anymore, so now the ghosts come in through a toy phone that Carol Anne can hear voices on. They add the information that their Grandma had “the gift,” Carol Anne does too and that’s why the ghosts like her. She’s ghost nip.

So it’s mostly just enjoyable as an excuse to string together gimmicky special effects sequences. There’s a scene where the son’s braces start to grow until they become a huge ball of wire that wraps around him and carries him to the ceiling – something Freddy might even do if he found a teen whose main characteristic was having braces. There are more animated ghost monster dudes that are even better than in the first one. But definitely the highlight is when Craig T. Nelson swallows a tequila worm (should’ve noticed the eyeball on it), then pukes up a weird pile of organs that turns into a beastie that crawls around the house and terrorizes everybody. The puke monster was designed by H.R. Giger and appears to be played by a quadruple amputee in a complex latex makeup job. The movie was actually nominated for the best visual effects Oscar, but lost to ALIENS. (The other nominee was LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.)

There is a nod to Spielberg – the kid has an E.T. poster hanging in his room. Also I think it’s probly meant as a tribute to Hooper when a levitating chainsaw attacks the family car in the garage.

Michael Grais and Mark Victor wrote and produced the sequel. Those are the guys who wrote the original draft of POLTERGEIST before Spielberg rewrote it, but presumably they got the job because somebody could sense that they would go on to write MARKED FOR DEATH. This isn’t as awesome, but it’s okay.

 

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 at 3:50 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

20 Responses to “Poltergeist II: The Other Side”

  1. I was just talking about the puke beast on the POLTERGEIST thread. It’s a great piece of old school latex effects work, but I think a lot of credit must go to Craig T. Nelson’s acting in that scene. He’d been kind of sleepwalking through the movie until that part, and then he really turned on the menace to an uncomfortable degree. He brings a real physical, even sexual threat to that scene that is so out of tune with the rest of the movie that it’s totally jarring. You’re still reeling from Dad trying to rape Mom on the floor that you’re caught off-guard when shit gets even MORE crazy by the appearance of the freaky flipper monster. Without Nelson setting it up with his legitimately unnerving performance, though, I don’t think it would have been as effective.

  2. Ooh, baby, this means POLTEGEIST III is next!

    The tequila worm is my biggest memory of the series, followed by the mirror image people in III. Then comes the girl sliding across the floor in I, which I still think is irresponsible parenting. It may look like a fun ride but what’s to stop them from taking the girl through the wall? Although it’s easy to criticize from our post PARANORMAL ACTIVITY world, like people who say people in old movies shouldn’t have smoked.

  3. Excellent point Majestyk – the dad in that one scene in Poltergeist II was legitimately scary and unnerving. I think it tapped into a weird Oedipal(?)/Freudian feeling how everyone’s kinda afraid of their dad. Or maybe that’s just me.

    It’s weird that the Grais/Victor combo wrote Poltergeist 1+2, Cool World, and Marked For Death. Kinda makes me wonder if there was more supernatural stuff with Screwface in MFD that got changed during production.

  4. This was a strange film, with some incredible scares that even to this day give me the chills, like the creepy priest. The scene where he’s begging to be let into their home was tense and made me nervous watching it. It was like a long creepy set piece, which started with him approaching Carol Anne at the driveway.

    The film’s all over the place though. I don’t think they figured out what the theme of the movie was, or what the story was really about. Is it about a family that has a “gift”? Is it about a family being terrorized by beings from another dimension? What is the purpose of the paranormal attacks? To divide the family? To bring Carol Anne into their world? On top of this, they live in a new house but their old house still seems to be a gateway. So is it about closing the gateway?

    And what’s with the Native American dude? Isn’t he a redundant character when you’ve got the fat psychic chick. What was with all the native american subtext? Are these native american spirits rising from the dead?

    Too many questions. That’s why it wasn’t ever as good as the first one. It’s a mish mash of ideas and themes that never quite come together.

    I did like the scene with Craig T Nelson trying to rape his wife and then vomiting out a giant monster. However, it was so tonally backwards to everything. It came out of left field. Sort of like the humorous bits did. The funny scenes were not funny. I’ve noticed that in the first movie too, when they both start laughing when they go to the neighbor’s house. This family is fucked up. I’m glad a monster tried to eat them. The end.

  5. I first saw this in 2008, quite a while after I saw the original, I watched it mostly because I was curious

    it’s not too bad, but still pretty mediocre, it’s one of those “middle of the road” sequels like Jurassic Park 3 where it’s not a total insult, but still leaves you feeling pretty cold compared to the original

    that floating chainsaw is cool though

    by the way, I remember reading on Aint It Cool once that Spielberg’s (and possibly Hooper’s?) original idea for a sequel to Poltergeist would have been about the portal that sucks the house in at the end of the first movie staying open, just floating there, so the military cordons off the whole neighborhood and brings in a team of scientists to study it, but they get sucked through to the “other side” and encounter “The Beast” (that big skull head thing), but MGM didn’t like that idea because they wanted the original cast to return and so Spielberg (and possibly Hooper?) departed

    however I have never been able to find any more info on that other than the AICN article (and I’m not sure I can even find that again), does anyone else remember that or know what I’m talking about?

  6. For me Poltergeist 2 is one of the best bad sequels. Vern, you know that the monster that Nelson pukes up is supposed to be the priest, right? When it smiles at them Jo Beth Williams screams in recognition, plus the hymn for the priest plays as this happens. Fucking great.

  7. This movie is all about Julian Beck. The scenes with him represent some of the scariest acting in movie history.

    By the way, if Will Sampson’s been shaman/excorsist all this time, why the hell didn’t escape from the cuckoo’s nest sooner?

  8. Griff – Yeah I actually remember that proposed POLTERGEIST 2 plot being reported by AICN. That……would’ve been an improvement on what we got.

  9. This film is forever seared into my brain. I don’t have any clear memories of any of the shots, but I have vague mental impressions of the braces scene and the puke monster. And I definitely remember that they scared the shit out of me as a kid. I remember I couldn’t go to sleep properly for a week and had to sleep next to my mom and dad.

    Same with THE AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON – especially the mirror scene and the bed-in-the-woods dream. Same sort of memorable scenario. But of course I checked that film out later as an adult on DVD, and it brought a smile to my face. It was really fun to see the scenes through a different lens. To see the moments that were mind blasting horror as a kid to be “only” cool pieces of make up effects and effective directing.

    So I really want to check out POLTERGEIST 2 again for the same reason.

  10. I didn’t see the whole movie as a kid, but I did see parts of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON as a kid and what really scared the shit out of me in that movie were the Nazi werewolves

  11. BTW, the trailer for this is actually seriously creepy (Thanks to the prominent use of Kane)
    http://youtu.be/F8TrCJQAid0

  12. Just imagine Kane in the first POLTERGEIST. That would be the scariest movie ever.

  13. I have a real soft spot for this movie, yeah it’s flawed and not even close to being as good as the original, but it’s still way better than 3, you can tell that the filmmakers really tried with this one, there’s lots of interesting ideas and moments even if it didn’t completely gel in the end.

    As an 80’s also ran, it’s pretty decent and worth watching, I really can’t emphasize enough how much I love the floating chainsaw sequence, it almost single handily saves the movie, it’s like you have poltergeists, which are known to makes thing float around, right? so what’s the worst possible thing you can think of for a poltergeist to mess around with? That’s right, a mother fucking chainsaw!

  14. Saw this again last night (probably the first time all the way through), and I honestly had a hard time falling asleep afterwards. My gf even said this one was creepier than the first one, which sounds crazy but it’s true in some respect – the first one has the technical showmanship that kind of distanced me on the last watch, and kept me smiling with delight at how it was done (the film nerd in me simply got too much joy out of watching a master at work like The Shining) – the second one doesn’t have that mastery of filmatism, it’s more like a traditional horror movie but has some absolutely traumatizing images and an all-time great villain in Reverend Kane (putting a face, especially THAT face on the threat goes a long way, and he has a very memorable theme song that’s still stuck in my head now). Plus the extended sequence with the attempted rape and the puke monster, I’d argue is more horrifying than anything in the first movie.

    The ending is way too rushed and honestly a bit too unfilmable (i don’t think the Other Side sequence and Granny’s ghost coming to the rescue would work even with today’s effects) but I still admire the places the story goes. The emasculated-dad-turning-evil bit is such a good idea I’m surprised it wasn’t in the first one (the remake sorta tries to throw that in there for two seconds), and I really like this is a movie about the protagonists not running anymore, and facing their fears/trauma by going back to the site of the first film to take the fight to the baddies. (This actually came out a few months before Aliens!) Oh and as a bonus you get JoBeth Williams sideboob which is nice.

    Other notes: it’s weird Jerry Goldsmith seems to have imported his Omen score with the demonic chanting into this one, it sounds nothing like the John Williams-y score from the first one. And did anyone notice the light-spirits coming down the stairs in the first one were all dressed like Reverend Kane (with the old-timey western costume and top hats)? I figured they were his followers but you find out here they weren’t dressed like him in the flashback, so maybe that was a whole bunch of Reverend Kanes? Either way I’m curious if the original film always had the “suicide cult” story in mind or if that was something Victor/Grais created for this film (since it kind of retcons the whole graveyard thing from the first one).

  15. The scene where Kane tries to talk himself into the house is just the best in any of the three movies.

  16. The scene where Kane is trying to talk his way into the house is the best in the whole series.

  17. I agree, POLTERGEIST 2 is pretty underrated, I still don’t think it’s as good as the first, but it’s not bad.

  18. Thomas Caniglia

    May 4th, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    When I was a kid, I didn’t know about tequila worms, or that they were put into bottles, so to me in that scene it seemed like the dad was completely out of his mind, had a worm in his bottle that should not have been there, and drank it anyway

    As I remember, the puke monster kind of looked like Julian beck, like it was his character in another form. Is that right?

  19. Thomas Caniglia

    May 4th, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Anyway, my favorite part of this movie was Beck at the screen door screaming “YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!!”

  20. Thomas, that’s true. The puke monster looked like him, which probably made it even creepier.

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