“They’re back”: ‘Poltergeist II: The Other Side’ Review

Posted in Screening Room by - October 31, 2017
“They’re back”: ‘Poltergeist II: The Other Side’ Review

Poltergeist II: The Other Side, directed by Brian Gibson, has a lot of things going against it (like the fact that both Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg aren’t involved in this sequel) but thankfully this second chapter is scary and genuinely creepy.

No, it isn’t as great as the original Poltergeist, which is a stunning combination of Hooper’s more horror-oriented sensibilities and Spielberg’s family drama, but Gibson’s sequel has a lot of really wonderful ideas and exciting set pieces that make it a worthwhile continuation.“They’re back”: ‘Poltergeist II: The Other Side’ Review

The Freeling family, after the catastrophic events of the first film, is at a crossroads in life but when the opportunity arrives to move into a new home, they think their troubles with the supernatural are over. Sadly it seems that there are a lot more problems standing in their way, including the menacing presence of Reverend Kane (played in a spine-tingling performance by Julian Beck). Kane, who’s revealed to be the main antagonist of the film and a villain that wants Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke in another standout performance) for himself, is one of the film’s strongest assets and Beck plays that role in a superb fashion. Imagine if the Preacher from Night of the Hunter was a ghost who looked like the Crypt Keeper and is intent on tormenting this family until he gets what he wants and that’s Kane. Beck’s performance is something that needs to be seen, and even though he has two incredible sequences, it is his second one where he torments Steve, (Craig T. Nelson) that is incredibly unnerving.

While the family focus is a little bit weaker since Spielberg isn’t around. Some of Hooper’s more boundary-pushing sequences (like the face peeling scene in the first film) are missed, Poltergeist II still has a lot of really wonderful stuff including a delightfully eerie score by Jerry Goldsmith and some truly spectacular creature work by the legendary H.R. Giger (Alien). Along with Will Sampson’s Taylor, who acts as a great mentor for Steve and a guardian for the family, the cast again delivers exceptional work including JoBeth Williams.

Some of the themes that Gibson, along with his writers Mark Victor and Michael Grais, explore more of the Indian mythology and relationship with the supernatural, the dark side of a husband as well also including some fascinating ideas about religious fanaticism. Poltergeist II doesn’t provide an in-depth look at all those, but it’s a sequel that at least attempts to build upon the world that the first one established and it somehow even manages to get crazier and crazier by its third act. It’s also worth mentioning that Poltergeist II has the benefit of being shot by the great Andrew Laszlo (The Warriors, Innerspace) and he manages to conjure up some truly frightening visuals in this sequel, including a cave that is very creepy.

It’s missing a lot of the moody build-up, strong family drama and Hooper visuals but Poltergeist II: The Other Side is a really strong sequel that still offers a lot of spooky stuff to the viewer. It’s well acted, and some of the creature effects are terrific, but it’s Beck’s performance that makes it worth watching as his Kane is a spectacularly mysterious and villainous presence that remains insanely disturbing.

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