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Poltergeist II / Poltergeist III : Double Feature

Though now more famous for the controversy of who really directed it and the people who died after it was made, the original Poltergeist (1982) was a big hit, and there were bound to be sequels. Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) has the Freeling family (sans daughter Dominque Dunne, who was murdered after the original picture was filmed) still trying to get over their Poltergeist experience. Dad Steve (Craig T. Nelson) won't let them have a television, while mom Diane (Jo Beth Williams) is still bickering with the insurance company on how to settle the damages done to their house. Thus, they're forced to live with Diane's mom (Geraldine Fitzgerald), who's convinced that Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) — like herself — is a bit of a psychic. But the spirit-world still has its eye on little Carol Anne and a strange preacher named Kane (Julien Beck, who died shortly after filming) keeps following her around, while medium Tangina (Zelda Rubenstein) recruits spirit-warrior Taylor (Will Sampson, who died in 1987 of stomach cancer) to help them in their battle. Though it manages some successful gross outs, Poltergeist II has no idea how to explain why the Poltergeists are following the Freeling family, which means the running-time meanders trying to put them into and then get them out of danger (in one ghost-attack the family is assaulted by a chainsaw — perhaps a nod to original helmer Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre?) Nelson and Williams do have great chemistry together as the struggling Freelings, and their scenes together give the film its few bright spots. But the duo is not seen in Poltergeist III, which sends Carol Anne to live with her aunt Patricia (Nancy Allen) and her husband and stepdaughter (Tom Skerrit, Laura Flynn Boyle). But — what do you know? — Poltergeists show up, including Kane (now played by Nathan Davis). With Rubenstein and O'Rourke the only returning players, III is as low-rent as it sounds; O'Rourke was hitting an odd age where her face looks like it's in transition from baby-fat cute to adolescent tubby, so she just looks awkward. Also, and this is hard to acknowledge since O'Rourke died whilst filming the project, she's not very good in the scenes she did complete, though admittedly her dialogue is atrocious. Regardless, the film is an unscary mess. MGM presents both Poltergeist II and Poltergeist II on the same disc in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 for II, 1.85:1 for III) and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Extras consist of trailers for both films. Keep-case.
—DSH



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