Friday Night Frights: "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" (1986) and "Poltergeist III" (1988) | Movie Reviews

Welcome back to Friday Night Frights! This week we are continuing our journey through the Poltergeist franchise (you can find the rest of the reviews here). Since I accidentally skipped last week, I thought I would combine the two sequels in today's post. There also are some similarities in my thoughts about Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) and Poltergeist III (1988), so the two reviews actually go pretty well together. Unfortunately, I can't say I enjoyed either of the movies.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Genre: Horror
Release Date: May 23, 1986
Runtime:  1 hr. 31 min.
MPAA Rating: PG-13

This sequel takes place a year after the events of the original Poltergeist, when the Cuesta Verde neighborhood from the first film is being turned into a paranormal archaeological dig. Meanwhile, the Freeling family has relocated to Arizona in hopes of starting over and staying safe, but they don't realize their troubles are far from over—Reverend Kane, a crazy deceased preacher is out to get Carol Anne. While a premise like this one could have gone either way in terms of quality of the story, Poltergeist II really looses any kind of charm the original film had.

Despite the first film looking pretty dated at this point, there is a certain level of nostalgic enjoyment to be had with it: the characters are relatable, the situation is creepy, the story is interesting and memorable. When it comes to Poltergeist II, I'm not going to lie, I actually had to look up what in the world was the logic behind this movie. This doesn't happen to me often, but this movie's plot managed to have me question if I somehow spaced out and missed a crucial element that makes everything make sense. Well, Poltergeist II, it's not me, it's you. From cheesy dialogue to plot holes and inconsistent pacing, this film turned out to be a typical example of an averagely disappointing sequel.

The only two things I actually enjoyed here were some of the practical effects, and Reverend Kane himself. While a lot of the visuals look exactly the way you would imagine them to look in 1980s, there is some excellent use of practical effects here. A few scenes really had me appreciating how well these things can hold up, if done properly, and how nice it is to see actors working with tangible things rather then green screen and post production. As for Reverend Kane—I have to give props to Julian Beck who really brought this character to life. He is the single most memorable part of this movie, a genuinely creepy, unhinged character that would have surely given me nightmares if I saw this movie when I was a kid. 

However, even taking those two things into account, I just can't get this movie to 3 stars because in the end I simply didn't like it. If you're like me and the original Poltergeist is something you enjoyed but weren't the biggest fan of—skip this and check out a different classic horror franchise instead. If you're a really big fan of the first film—you may be able to appreciate this a little more than I did, but it still won't come anywhere near the original experience.


Poltergeist III

Genre: Horror
Release Date: June 10, 1988
Runtime:  1 hr. 38 min.
MPAA Rating: PG-13

The third installment of the Poltergeist franchise actually started off better than I expected it to. Sure, the cheesy dialogue was still there, but I was actually interested in the story... until everything devolved into nonsense. In Poltergeist III Carol Anne has been sent away to Chicago to live with her aunt and uncle, and here she attends a school for gifted children. Of course, the Other Side just won't leave her alone, no matter where she goes.

I will go as far as saying that the first 40 minutes are pretty decent, and enjoyable. It's a completely different setting, there is some nice creepy imagery, and the story actually makes sense. For those first 40 minutes you may sit there and wonder why this movie is considered the worst of the trilogy. Unfortunately, Poltergeist III falls apart quickly after this in the midst of clichés, unreasonable action of the characters, and plot holes. It also doesn't help that the movie insisted on including the character of Reverend Kane again, but since Julian Beck sadly died before this film was made they replaced him with a different actor that doesn't look or sound nearly creepy enough for the role.

I'm actually not going to go into this much further because I really don't think anyone needs to watch this film, unless they want to see how a potentially enjoyable sequel can turn into something barely watchable. If you're one of those people, I suggest this: drink (alcohol) every time someone says "Carol Anne!" You will be wasted by the time the film gets really bad. On second thought, this may be a bad idea because you may get alcohol poisoning doing this—the number of time "Carol Anne!" is said or yelled in this movie is well over 100.

Bottom line: even the practical effects and the decent setup can't make Poltergeist III worth watching. Just like with the second movie, I suggest checking out a different classic horror franchise instead.


*If for some reason you want to purchase your own copies of these films (which I obviously don't recommend), you can do so while also supporting my blog and channel by using these links: Poltergeist II (1986) and Poltergeist III (1988).