Friday, March 31, 2017

POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE (1986) Blu-ray review

Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) d. Gibson, Brian (USA)

“They’re baaa-aaaack.” The highly unoriginal tagline packs a fraction of the chills of Poltergeist’s “They’re heeeee-ere,” which is about the size of things in this half-baked, money-chasing follow-up. Gone are the rollercoaster thrills, taut direction, and cohesive screenplay Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg brought to 1982’s haunted house extravaganza, leaving C-list director Gibson with a game cast and a gamier storyline.

Picking up a year after their Cuesta Verde misadventures, the Freeling family members are found residing at grandma Geraldine Fitzgerald’s house (seems the insurance company didn’t cover supernatural home loss). Thankfully, JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson’s congenial and realistic family dynamic, one of the previous film’s major assets, remains intact. When Will Sampson’s kooky medicine man enters the scene (with a backstory that expands on the original’s), the path is cleared for all manner of preposterous paranormal poppycock.

Despite a few bright moments of gooey (tequila worm, anyone?) and goofy (braces attack, anyone?) thrills and a cameo from diminutive exorcist Zelda Rubenstein, this is more silly than scary, with an unintentionally hilarious “other side” finale.

Oddly enough, amid the whizzing and fizzing, the sequel’s most terrifying element is Julian Beck’s eerie performance as the malevolent Reverend Kane, ranking right alongside Phantasm’s Angus Scrimm for sheer spooky presence. The gifted stage veteran (who died shortly after filming was completed), provides an unnerving electric hum to his every onscreen moment and dominates the otherwise hollow affair.

To their credit, Shout! Factory has given this lackluster outing the gold star treatment, including a new 2K scan of the interpositive (all together everyone: ooooooooooooooooooooh), two audio commentary tracks, the first by writer/producer Michael Grais and the second with webmaster of the official Poltergeist fansite David Furtney, and interviews with cast (Oliver Robins, who played son Robbie) and crew (special effects legends-in-the-making Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson, and Screaming Mad George).

There’s also an intriguing “Ghosts of Giger” featurette, examining the contributions of H.R. Giger, featuring rare photos and illustrations from the famed Alien artist.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side is available now from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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