How do you make a sequel to one of the most frightening, exciting, well acted, infamous & visually pleasing horror movies of the 80s?
“God is in his holy temple”
Simple…tell the same story for the most part, throw in marital strife, some awful CGI & the scariest preacher character to ever grace a horror movie screen. When you ask people to name what they remember about Poltergeist II: The Other Side they will no doubt say, the Reverend Henry Kane.
Set one year after the events of the first movie, The Freelings are trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. The family are living with Diane’s (JoBeth Williams) mother in Arizona but Steven (Craig T Nelson) is struggling with the arrangement. He feels like a bit of failure as a father, unable to protect his family & forced to sell vacuum cleaners door to door.
Back at the original Freeling home a dig discovers an underground below the house & inside a sight that no-one should ever have to see. Filled with corpses, one in particular stands out as it sits higher then the rest, almost like the other corpses are in subjugation to it.
This is the Rev. Henry Kane an insane preacher who led his followers into the cave under the belief that the world was going to end. The date came & passed, the world didn’t end & he refused to let them leave. They all died there…
This detail is shown in a flashback later in the movie & it is just one of the many darker & more disturbing moments of this sequel.
Kane wants Carol-Anne (it’s not explicitly pointed out that this is the figure who Carol-Anne said was keeping her hostage in the first film but it’s fairly obvious it is) & will go to great lengths to get her including appearing in human form to try & drive a wedge between the family.
He goes after the cracks between husband & wife, Diane & Steven, resulting in some great scenes & awesome practical effects (also some terrible CGI). It’s also very cool to see a harder edge to the couple’s relationship especially when Steven gets possessed by Kane. This sequence is harrowing yet emotional as we see this couple fight against the evil trying to destroy them.
It’s not all serious;y dark moments though, Poltergeist II has plenty of more slapstick moments such as Robbie’s braces coming to life & tying him up with metallic wires!
This sequel has a bunch of tense & creepy moments, stuff that sticks with you long afterwards but one in particular deserves mention. Carol-Anne (Heather O’Rourke) receives a call, a call from her Grandmother on a toy telephone. Yeah, it’s very creepy & that is heightened by Carol-Anne’s innocence. Heather O’Rourke was a very talented child actor & it is such a sad story that she would die so young.
There is so much to praise in this sequel, a sequel that could never live up to or better the original but it also has some unfortunate flaws.
The CGI has been mentioned a few times here already but it can’t be stressed just how awful it is. There were films set years before with a way lower budget that have better looking effects then this film. When it uses practical effects it results in some fantastic looking imagery but they are used too sparingly unfortunately.
Perhaps the worst thing about this movie is it’s over-reliance on the ‘family’ strength’ angle. An angle that was used well in the first film but is abused to cringe-worthy levels here. It results in an ending that must have embarrassed everyone involved when they watched it back.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side has an impossible task but it makes a commendable effort to tell a compelling story. It does a good job in most departments but lacks heavily in others. Well worth watching just to see the most terrifying portrayal of a preacher in horror.
“Earthly thoughts, be silent now”
Poltergeist II - The Other Side