Poltergeist III (1988)

MAY 26, 2008


Do you like hearing the name "Carol Anne"? I hope so if you plan to watch Poltergeist III, because it is said some 118 times in the 95 minute film. Some scenes, such as the one where she is trapped in a puddle, play out with a character saying absolutely nothing but "Carol Anne!" over and over. It's almost incredible to think that no one said "Hey, maybe Lara Flynn Boyle can shut the fuck up for 5 seconds instead of saying the same name over and over."

It's a shame that the movie is overall not very good, because the first half hour is pretty great. The subtle little mirror tricks are pretty creepy; my favorite is when the mirrored reflection of Carol Anne ("Carol Anne! Carol Anne!!!") enters a bathroom and talks to Boyle before it actually occurs. And once they write the rest of the Freeling family out of the movie, our new characters are pretty easy to accept as our new protagonists (Nancy Allen looking hotter than ever doesn't hurt). Some of the cutesy attempts to humanize them are overbearing (the nonsense about Tom Skerritt's fashion sense) but hey, at least they were trying to recapture the "lived in" feel of the first film, instead of focusing squarely on effects.

The other thing the movie does right is introduce a skeptic character in the form of Dr. Seaton, who runs the school Carol Anne ("Carol Anne! Carol Anne!!!") attends and often sounds like Stephen Tobolowsky doing a Paul Bartel impression. This guy is a delightful piece of work; in addition to being an insufferable prick (which we know he is, because he scolds his wife for forgetting the cilantro), he's also the most ridiculously skeptical man on the planet. He chalks everything he sees up to mass hypnosis/suggestion, even when it doesn't make any goddamn sense (he blames a colleague for breaking a mirror after watching a ghostly hand do it when Carol Anne ("Carol Anne! Carol Anne!!!") wasn't even in the room). He also has one of my favorite lines in the series; after Tangina (the only other person, cast or crew, to have a part in all three films) rambles some of her traditional nonsense, he snorts "There's a lot of crap that doesn't mean anything!". Oh man, I want to go drink with this guy. Sadly that is impossible, because he is killed a few moments later, in the series' first non-natural death.

After that, the movie just falls apart. Heather O'Rourke's death threw a pretty big wrench in the reshooting plans, which must be why the film's climax occurs out of nowhere and has almost zero tension. The fact that you don't even see Carol Anne's ("Carol Anne! Carol Anne!!!") face in the final scene is pretty telling, not to mention a sad reminder of her passing (you'd think they'd have the decency to use the ending she had shot, even if it wasn't a masterpiece). There are also some major unanswered questions, such as what happened to the Scott character, why his evil mirror double guy rips Boyle's face off, and why Allen or Skerritt's characters never bothered to call their sister and ask "Hey what do you do when Carol Anne ("Carol Anne! Carol Anne!!!") disappears into a shaft of light?"

There are some other plot contrivances that defy any sort of sense. Scott and Boyle sneak into a security office to shut off the cameras so they can fuck around in the pool, and Scott sees a security angle of a supermarket next door to the pool, which gives him the idea to buy beer. Fine, but why would a supermarket be on the 44th floor? That seems inconvenient for both shoppers and deliverymen. Also, Carol Anne ("Carol Anne! Carol Anne!!!") is shown being teased at her school; the other kids pretend they are ghosts and such and mock her. First of all, it's a school for special kids, which means they should be on common ground when it comes to their personality quirks. Second, why would a kid make fun of a girl who claimed to see ghosts? I would think that was awesome, and talk to her all the time! They also continue the complete ignorance of the other sister in the Freeling family; when Carol Anne ("Carol Anne! Carol Anne!!!") talks about how much she misses her family, she fails to mention poor Dana.

I did see this one as a kid, but recalled almost nothing other than it was about mirrors (that, and for some reason, Scott's hysterical delivery - "In the garage. In the garage! IN THE GARA-AH-AGE!") and wasn't as good as the others. My opinion hasn't changed, though again, it's a shame the DVD is completely feature-less. Like Poltergeist II, the trailer is better quality than the film itself. For that film it was simply better effects than what was seen in the final film, here it's a different aspect ratio. The movie is 1.85:1, but the trailer is scope (2.35:1, the same ratio that the other two films was shot in). It doesn't look cut off or anything, so why they'd go to the trouble is beyond me (especially since most trailers are presented full frame or in the smaller 1.85 format - I've never seen it go the other way). Maybe someday we will get special editions of the sequels, especially since the behind the scenes drama is far more interesting than the films themselves (moreso in this one's case).

In closing... "Carol Anne! Carol Anne!!!"

What say you?


  1. I felt like they should have just combined this movie with the second one. I really liked the whole mirror thing and thought they should have just included that in the second one and called it quits.

    Also, does the dvd you have include both Poltergeist 2 and 3? When I rented the movie at Blockbuster I got a combined DVD which was a great deal, two for the price of one. I have also seen this double deal at Best Buy. So if you don't already have these and don't want to cough up the money to complete a trilogy, try going for the double DVD, I think I saw it for 9.99.

  2. Yup, that's the one I got. I don't think the sequels ever got their own releases, in region 1 anyway. MGM sucks!

    However, at least they are on opposing sides, so the quality doesn't suffer, unlike the Friday the 13th box set which puts two films per side. Assholes.

  3. i was so scared of this when i was a lil one :(

  4. what you wrote about this one is perfect. file under "most annoying movie ever."

  5. defenitely my least favorite of the Poltergeist movies (my favorite when I was younger was defenitely the second, which along with the third was on tv seemingly every other week, though the first was rarely on)

    I haven't watched it in a while, but remember nothing really going anywhere (and if I didn't think it was going anywhere at the age of 10 or 11 then you know it REALLY didn't), then it ends with the old woman (whos name I forget at the moment) going into the mirror and taking care of the problem

  6. I just rewatched this movie last night, and like you said, it is the worst of the series, but it still has its creepy moments. I like the concept of the mirrors, and when the actions of the characters and their reflections don't match up it always freaks me out. There's something about mirrors that I find spooky- maybe it's due to my life-long fear of Bloody Mary...

    The psychiatrist guy in this film made me just want to punch him in the face for his stupidity!

    Also, I also wondered why Carol Anne gets made fun of at the school- is seeing ghosts really a reason to make fun of somebody? It reminded me of Halloween 4 where Jamie is made fun of for being an orphan.

  7. I saw this moviemail on TV the other night and was shocked at how much of the script was ("carol Anne! Carol Anne!!!") So I just Googled how many times do they say Carol Anne in poltergeist 3 and found this article. I've laughed many times thanks for the 113 estimate


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