Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

Genre: Supernatural Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: May 23rd, 1986 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Brian Gibson Actors: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson, Julian Beck, Geraldine Fitzgerald

 


 

I

nstead of opening subtly before getting into the occult happenings, “Poltergeist II: The Other Side” immediately begins with ghostly occurrences, as a Native American performs an inexplicable ritual high up on a windy mountain. It’s a bad start, considering that it removes some of the potential for slowly building dread, as well as the scariness of unexplained specters. When the mysteries are detailed before the plot even gets going, it spoils the enchantment. Plus, flashbacks to the previous film prevent this second chapter from having much of an independent identity.

Experienced exorcist Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) oversees an excavation of the former Freeling house, which previously saw dozens of corpses surface from the swimming pool hole before the whole property was sucked into the earth. Wise elder Taylor (Will Sampson) joins her to take a look at some mummified remains from what used to be an enormous subterraneous tomb. Meanwhile, the Freeling family has moved, as it has been about one year since the residence was plagued by supernatural beings – but they haven’t gone far enough away to be completely rid of the poltergeist activity.

Little Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) is just as perky and fun-loving as ever, seemingly unaffected by her terrifying ordeal amidst ghosts from another realm. Her brother Robbie (Oliver Robins) is comparably normal, somehow proficient in shutting out the exceptional psychological traumas. Similarly, parents Diane (JoBeth Williams) and Steven (Craig T. Nelson) haven’t lost their zest for life, though they’re now dependent on residing with Diane’s mother (Geraldine Fitzgerald). They’re unable to purchase a home of their own again, as the insurance company is still fighting them on the “disappearance” of their first dwelling. It soon becomes evident that Carol Anne is linked to the “other side,” as she’s able to communicate with her grandmother after she passes, and when a skeletal, pale stranger in black (Julian Beck as the perfectly unnerving Reverend Henry Kane) begins stalking her.

It’s a shame that some of the scares in this sequel come from replaying bits of footage from the original picture. Additionally, further “boo” moments arrive in the form of repetitive nightmares about events that afflicted the old home (and familiar mirror gimmicks). At least most of the principal cast returns, which isn’t always an easy feat. And though some new elements of horror show up, including a a toy phone that keeps ringing and some killer braces (along with a possessed tequila worm, which turns out to be, by far, the best special effects of the project – showcasing some obvious notes from conceptual artist H.R. Giger), it’s a bit too unbelievable and silly that all of this would be taking place yet again to the same family. “They’re back!”

Nevertheless, the flimsiest notion is that Steve initially refuses to believe that a fresh poltergeist is following them around and wreaking havoc. Surely he would be the very first person to jump to such a mystic conclusion; it’s not as if he disavowed the paranormal catastrophes from before. And yet, as if bound by a decided impermanence in danger – as well as keeping in line with the practically family-friendly tone seen in the 1982 classic – the evil nemesis and the Indian warrior utilize powers that resemble fanciful magic more than a proper haunting and exorcism, which further adds to the childishness and lessens the severity. It’s designed to be an adventurous ghost movie rather than a bloodcurdling one, but, unfortunately, it isn’t thrilling enough in any regard to be a worthwhile venture.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10