As needless a sequel as one could envision, Poltergeist II: The Other Side has a few genuine scares, and plenty of slime and gore, but for each memorable moment there is a scene of laughable absurdity. Poltergeist II is a film, in the light of its predecessor’s success, that forgot what made the story work.
After surviving an all-out assault on their middle-class suburban home in Cuesta Verde, California, the Freeling family—Steven (Craig T. Nelson), Diane (JoBeth Williams), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and psychic Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke)—have begun to rebuild their lives in Phoenix, having moved in with Diane’s mother, “Grandma Jess” (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Steve is barely getting by selling vacuums while Diane watches the kids. Sadly, actress Dominique Dunne, who played elder sister Dana, was murdered in 1982 shortly after the release of the first film. A scene where filmmakers explained her absence by placing her at college did not make the final cut.
Anyway, “Grandma Jess” discovers she shares clairvoyant abilities with Diane and Carol Anne. Throwing logic out the window, the poltergeists aren’t concerned about haunting the people hanging around the Freeling’s old home—psychic Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) and Indian shaman Taylor (Will Sampson). However, a very creepy Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck, who died during filming) has stalked them to Phoenix. He follows them around a mall, and then visits them at their front door where he preaches fire and brimstone, sings a threatening spiritual and attempts to hypnotize Steven to gain entrance into the home. It safe to say, “They’re baaa-aack…”
The narrative attempts to explain why the spirits are still after the Freelings. While I can accept the explanations, director Brian Gibson is all too willing to rehash scares from the original film. The rocking furniture, ghosts in the mirror and malfunctioning electronics are all there. Other scenes are just ridiculous, bordering on parody. One scene that comes to mind: Steven’s near rape of wife Diane is only upstaged by his vomiting of some hell spawn onto the carpet. Slightly over the top, I’d say.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side isn’t really the total disaster that some claim. It’s just unnecessary. Clearly, the filmmakers wanted to give audiences the scares that where experienced in the first film, but they lost sight of how to accomplish their goal.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side comes to Blu-ray with a 2.35:1, 1080p transfer. While not the cleanest of prints, grain is filmic with no sign of DNR. Color is not overly striking, but it’s much better than any of the standard DVD releases.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is as good as I’ve ever heard this film. While it isn’t particularly front heavy, but dialogue is clear, and music and effects are handled well enough.
French and Spanish 5.1 DTS tracks also are available, as are English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
The only special feature is the film’s “Theatrical Trailer” (1:26, SD).