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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Poltergeist II: The Other Side  (1986)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: January 31, 2017) – Tackling a sequel to any well-regarded, hugely successful film is a daunting task, and too often those who attempt it try to simply repeat what previously worked while going bigger and overcomplicating the narrative. It can safely be said "Poltergeist II: The Other Side," directed by Brian Gibson, falls victim to this trap, acting almost like a loose yet inferior remake. What was fresh and chilling in Tobe Hooper's 1982 masterpiece "Poltergeist" feels just a little too familiar here, losing its way especially in the latter half due to a lot of hokey business involving Native American mysticism. And yet, in spite of its shortcomings, "Poltergeist II" still entertains and does not lose its soul, remaining steadfastly connected to the returning Freeling family (Dominique Dunne was tragically killed in 1982 shortly after the release of the first film, and her character of eldest daughter Dana is never seen and only passingly mentioned here).

One year after the Freeling clan narrowly escaped with their lives from their nightmarish, graveyard-built suburban home in Cuesta Verde, Steven (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane (JoBeth Williams), along with son Robbie (Oliver Robins) and daughter Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), are still trying to pick up the pieces while staying with Diane's mother, Grandma Jess (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Soon after Jess passes away of natural causes, Carol Anne begins receiving nighttime calls from her on her toy phone. What is on the other side, however, is not her granny. The Freelings are once again being hunted—and haunted—this time by the maniacal, deceased Reverend Kane (Julian Beck) and his evil minion spirits looking for a way back to an earthly plane.

"Poltergeist II: The Other Side" reunites with characters old (Zelda Rubinstein's empathetic psychic Tangina) and new (Will Sampson's kindly Native American shaman Taylor) while introducing a particularly skin-crawling villain in Kane. Julian Beck, who passed away from stomach cancer during the film's shoot, leaves an indelible mark with this final role, bringing a raw desperation and believable spectral aura to his deranged preacher. Additionally, the use of Carol Anne's toy phone proves an effective stand-in for the original's use of a television as conduit to the other side, and set-pieces involving an attack from Robbie's braces and possession by way of a demonic tequila worm approach the creepy funhouse feel of its predecessor. "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" falls in line with formula while leading toward a sappy climax that, effects-wise, doesn't hold up with 21st-century eyes. While it is perhaps the most dated segment from any film within the series, the picture as a whole retains enough jittery pleasures and tension to be a worthwhile follow-up.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Poltergeist II: The Other Side" was previously released on Blu-ray by MGM in 2011, but for Scream Factory's new Collector's Edition disc, they have gone the extra mile to provide a new 2K scan of the inter-positive. The results are a definite step up and the best this film has ever looked on any physical media format. The new scan has freshened up the film, both in terms of its clarity, its color, and its grain structure. The increase in detail doesn't exactly help some of the green screen and optical effects (by now on the dated side), but it brings a new appreciation to its top-notch practical effects and ickily inspired creature designs. In addition, this transfer is clean, with negligible speckling and a filmic naturalism that should excite fans. Audio-wise, both a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and a 2.0 one are offered. They are equally solid, with the 5.1 track haunting one's home theater with an enticing surround experience, particularly in the more action-centric moments, and the 2.0 perhaps coming through slightly clearer in its separation between music, sound effects, and dialogue.

Blu-ray Features
  • NEW Audio Commentary with writer-producer Michael Grais
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Poltergeist II webmaster David Furtney
  • NEW "Robbie Return: An Interview with Actor Oliver Robins" Featurette (14:25, HD)
  • NEW "The Spirit World: An Interview with Special Effects Designers Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson and Screaming Mad George" Featurette (22:09, HD)
  • NEW "Ghosts of Giger" Featurette (21:02, HD) – a look at the contributions of artist H.R. Giger featuring rare photos and illustrations and interviews with Giger's friend and agent Les Barany and special effects designers Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson and Screaming Mad George
  • "They're Back: The Making of Poltergeist II" (6:15, HD)
  • "Monster Shop" Featurette (2:45, HD)
  • "Ghostmakers: The Magic of Poltergeist II" (6:28, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:22, HD)
  • TV Spots (2:04, HD)
  • Still Gallery (6:12, HD)
  • Poltergeist II Script (10:17, HD)
Bottom Line
Even if you bought MGM's barebones 2011 Blu-ray release of "Poltergeist II: The Other Side," it is safe to say you're going to need to repurchase based on Scream Factory's stupendous, remastered, features-packed Collector's Edition. This is a pretty standard sequel to a phenomenally successful, much-loved haunted-house movie—and, in regard to certain dated optical special effects and use of green screen, it doesn't hold up nearly as well as its predecessor or "Poltergeist III"—yet there is still much to appreciate. As a fan of the series, I wouldn't dream of passing this release by. Highly recommended.

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© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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