Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
What’s It About: The poor Freeling family, still recovering from their haunted house imploding in front of their eyes [and their eldest daughter written out of the movie’s script], are now living with their grandmother and fighting why their house implosion is not covered by their insurance company. Even though they moved away from the house the poltergeists are following them because both the mother, Diane and young daughter, Carol Anne have strong clairvoyant powers and the ghosts wish to use them to get to “the other side.” Also, coincidentally, their old house wasn’t just on an old cemetery but also on a cavern where a religious zealot named Reverend Henry Kane, took his cult on the eve of his failed projected apocalypse and they all died. So what’s the odds that not one, but two, groups of ghosts are haunting one family?
So, the very creepy Reverend Kane tries to get close to Carol Anne but a very clairvoyant Native American named Taylor as well as Tangina Barrons (the medium from the first film) is aiding the family to combat the poltergeists and Kane. Taylor teaches the father, Steven some supernatural Indian tricks to fight evil spirits so he can defend his family against Kane. They are mostly successful until Steven drinks too much tequila with Kane possessing the Mezcul worm and then possesses Steven who tries to rape Diane and get Carol Anne. Diane’s undying love for Steven helps him fight out the sinister Kane and he reveals himself to be a demon and retreats back to the cavern under their old house.
With the help of Tangina and Taylor the whole family confronts Kane in the cavern to the “other side.” They defeat him but also lose Carol Anne to the light of the other side. However, their recently deceased grandmother, now an angelic spirit, sends her back to the family.
Is It Actually Scary: YES! The first Poltergeist is a bona fide classic in my mind with very creepy and frightening scenes. This is one decently made sequel, in that it takes the story of the original and adds to the story with the ghosts being a dead religious cult stuck in limbo and adds some scares along the way.
Scariest Moment: I remember fondly watching this film on cable 25 years ago and having to cover my eyes in fright when Steven violently vomits up the reverend Kane who then morphs into this grotesque and twisted version of Kane with no arms or legs waddling away. Not only was the special effects great and disgusting but before this vomit creature leaves the room he looks back at the distressed Steven and Diane and gives them a very sinister grimace. Even as a kid I did not get scared easily but that scene always gave me the creeps. Kane, himself just walking down the street singing his creepy religious hymn over and over again was creepy enough.
How Much Gore: Virtually none. This being a ghost story with no casualties there’s no opportunity for gore. When Carol Anne is captured by Kane in the final battle she quickly decomposes which is horrifying but not gory.
Dumbest Moment: I did say this was a good sequel, and in the pantheon of horror flicks that is saying A LOT, however the final battle is completely rushed, has laugh-out loud music (the creepy hymn Kane sings is sung like a Gregorian Monk chant as they are flying in the limbo state of the Other Side), bad special effects even for 1986 and as Carol Anne is floating away to the light the family just watches and grieves, not trying anything to get her back.
Any Nudity: Not in this picture pal.
Overall: I love Poltergeist. It is easily on my top 5 list of horror films. It has the distinction of being one of 3 movies to genuinely scare me with the the “clown scene” and this sequel being one of the remaining two to also give me the willies. They also are great, fun films to watch and re-watch after all these years and advancement of special effects. Also the music by Jerry Goldsmith is fantastic in both pictures. Reverend Kane is one of the creepiest villains in my opinion just by talking. His southern drawl coupled by his 19th century attire add to his nefariousness and possibly made me leery of southerners (subconsciously anyway). Here is a video of Kane’s greatest hits:Score: 9