There’s really no way to make a good sequel to Poltergeist and retain any sense of dignity in the doing. But even if you go into Poltergeist II: The Other Side knowing it’s one of the most unnecessary sequels ever made, you’ll probably still find yourself disappointed. The Freeling family (JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, and Oliver Robins) are back, living with grandma (Geraldine Fitzgerald) after their house was sucked into oblivion at the end of the first movie. But of course, the supernatural evil that haunted them before finds them again. Re-enter the freaky little munchkin lady from the first movie (Zelda Rubinstein). Since this is a sequel, though, let’s give her a Native American witchy-poo partner (Will Sampson) who can lay the groundwork before her arrival.
Despite the effort of great actors like Williams, Nelson, and Sampson — who all deserve better scripts than this — Poltergeist II fails to recapture any of the mystery, terror, or spectacle of the first film. The script limps along on shaky internal logic that culminates in one of the most ridiculous horseshit finales you’ll ever see. I mean, if there were ever an award for ‘Most Horseshit Ending’ ever, Poltergeist II: The Other Side would most definitely be a nominee. The visual effects, despite a curious Oscar nomination, are woefully subpar, too — though the makeup effects are quite good.
The good things about Poltergeist II can be counted on one hand. While none of them save the movie, they are worthy of mention. Supporting actor Julian Beck lends this unworthy film one of cinema’s creepiest-ever ‘scary preacher’ performances. Dressed in turn-of-the-century black and white and walking in step to his own gospel singing, he manages to leave an indelible mark in horror movie history despite everything working against the movie. Composer Jerry Goldsmith, famous for giving every single film his best effort, delivers the goods, too. And then there are the film’s two genuine horror moments: one involving Robins’ braces coming alive and enveloping him, and another involving Nelson’s demonic possession by way of a tequila worm. Directed by Brian Gibson.
Oscar Nomination: Best Visual Effects