MARCH 30, 2008
Ah, I remember it like it was only 22 years ago. Poltergeist II: The Other Side was the first horror movie I saw in theaters (for the record, of which no one is keeping, the first R rated one was Child’s Play 3). I don’t know for sure if I had seen the entire thing again since; while some sequences (such as the chainsaw to the car) seemed very familiar, others I had zero recollection of whatsoever, such as that baffling and ridiculous finale.
For a movie in which the original director(s?) and producers did not return (though the script has the same non-Spielberg guys credited), it’s not really all that bad. The original Poltergeist is the best haunted house movie ever, as far as I’m concerned, so it’s not like I was expecting a film equally as good (even as a kid I probably knew better). A couple of the scare scenes work well (the braces attack and Kane’s LET! ME! IN! sequence), and the ties to the original are thorough without rewriting things. It seems strange that a movie in which the message is “Family must stick together” would completely ignore the Dominique Dunne character (apparently she was written off as being away at school, but this scene was cut), but otherwise, it FEELS like a continuation, despite a mostly-new creative team.
Speaking of Dunne, this movie seems to be the most plagued by the so-called Poltergeist curse. Kane, Diane’s mother, Taylor, and obviously Carol Anne have all since passed on (Kane, aka Julian Beck, actually died during production), as have Goldsmith and director Brian Gibson. It also suffers the absolute worst effects in the entire series, and in pretty much any theatrically released, fairly big-budgeted (20 million) horror movie of the past 25 years. I don’t know who the hell did the compositing on here, but for the love of Christ not a single effect in the entire movie (except the braces) looks even remotely natural. Some of the matte effects even have plainly visible lines where different elements were placed over others. Worse, the chainsaw scene for some reason looks better on the trailer than in the finished film:
As you can see, the trailer version (2nd pic) has a blue tint to it, which suggests they knew their effects sucked and tried to hide it for marketing, but why not just do that for the film itself? It’s dark, it should be blue! I don’t know how Hooper/Spielberg/et al were able to sell an entire room full of toys flying around, 4 years prior and on a lower budget, better than these guys were able to pull off a (should be) simple monster in the same room as our characters, but it’s borderline embarrassing.
There are also a few times in the film where some editing (rumor has it that nearly 40 minutes were cut from the film) is painfully obvious. Craig The Nelson’s hair is long at the start of the film, suddenly it’s short for the rest. Tangina completely disappears from the finale. Carol Anne at one point startles Robby in the bathroom. His mouthwash disappears, and then Carol Anne walks away without ever explaining what the hell she wanted in the first place. Etc. By themselves, it doesn’t mean much, but altogether, it’s very distracting. Plus a lot of things seem very abrupt, such as the battle with the worm-monster, and the “Other Side” sequence. You’d think that the section of the film that dealt with the film’s subtitle would last more than 75 seconds, but you’d be wrong!
One thing they did get right was the dry humor from the first film. I love the two old broads at the restaurant, discussing one of them having an affair. And Carol Anne’s suggestion that they live at Dunkin Donuts ensures that I would be in love with her if she was still alive today. Speaking of which, if you have a Dunkin’s near you, feel free to mail me an apple n’ spice donut or two. Or twelve. And even though it’s been four years in between productions, the film claims it was only a year ago, and other than Jo Beth Williams’ severe drop in hotness (I blame her awful hair), the aging seems right. Then again, Oliver Robins looked the same age from 1980 (Airplane II) to this, so it’s not really a surprise.
Uneven. That’s the best way to describe the film. It's not particularly good, but not particularly bad either. For everything that works, something else doesn’t. It’s just a shame that the best haunted house movie ever was sullied by two sort of lazy sequels. Oh, and that pretty much everyone involved with the damn thing is now dead, which results in a REALLY lousy DVD.
What say you?