They don't come much more ridiculous than Poltergeist II: The Other Side (okay, Poltergeist III), but this horror sequel from Brian Gibson (What's Love Got to Do with It?) has its (campy) moments. The follow up to the Spielberg-produced, Tobe Hooper-directed 1982 hit reunites the Freeling family—Steven (Craig T. Nelson), Diane (JoBeth Williams), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and psychic Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke)—for more torture from pesky poltergeists (that is, ghosts with psychokinetic powers of domestic disruption). Cue the otherwordly Jerry Goldsmith music.
After surviving an all-out assault on their middle-class suburban home in Cuesta Verde, California, the Freelings have relocated to Phoenix to live with Diane's mother, "Grandma Jess" (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Defying logic, the poltergeists haven't refocused on haunting the folks still poking around the Freelings' old property—psychic Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein, totally tangential) and Indian shaman Taylor (Will Sampson). Instead their main man, the Beastly Reverend Henry Kane (a super-creepy Julian Beck, who died during filming) has stalked the Freelings to Phoenix, where he follows them around the mall and makes a front-door visit to preach hellfire, sing a threatening spiritual ("God is in His holy temple/Earthly thoughts be silent now..."), and attempt to hypnotize Steven to gain entry to the home (which is a bit odd, given that he otherwise comes and goes as he pleases). Put simply in the franchise's little-girl catchphrase, "They're baaa-aack..."
Poltergeist II willfully frustrates by making Steven such a slave to his anger issues that he unaccountably resists hearing out Taylor, who calmly offers the family information and guidance; later, when it's clear that Steven has a grave responsibility to protect his family's safety, Steven swigs away at a bottle of tequila. All this after a prologue that assures us Steven is a good-humored lovable suburban dad trying his best—as opposed to an alcoholic idiot. Still, the tequila serves as pretext to the film's most memorably bizarre setpiece, in which the bottle's swallowed worm—actually the antagonistic Beast—invades and then disgustingly expels itself from Steven (methinks the H.R. Giger visual consultation mostly came in here...).
Stay tuned for a bit of borrowed Twilight Zone involving a toy phone's ghost chat line, the ultimate teen nightmare in the form of Robbie's braces gone haywire (Cronenberg-style), and an extended climax involving the family car, a chainsaw, an unscheduled road trip back to Cuseta Verde and a spectral family flight that's like Mary Poppins on acid. Don't bother trying to make sense of it; in fact, just don't bother.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side makes its Blu-ray debut in a bare-bones disc from MGM. Like most films of this vintage, Poltergeist II: The Other Side comes off pretty darn well in well-lit (especially daytime exterior scenes) and not quite as well in darkly lit or nighttime scenes, which can succumb a bit to crush. Fans should be pleased with this transfer, though, which is head-and-shoulders above standard def. The photographic special effects sequences come across better than one might expect: while not the cleanest of prints, grain is healthy and natural (no DNR) and the picture shows good contrast and color. Audio is not surprisingly front-heavy, but the potent LFE, clear dialogue and solid support for music and effects suggest that this lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track isn't likely ever to be topped. The sole bonus feature is the film's "Theatrical Trailer" (1:26, SD).
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