A number of cast and crew (including composer Jerry Goldsmith and visual effects artist Richard Edlund) return for Poltergeist II: The Other Side and while Julian Beck seems truly terrifying as Kane, the film doesn’t have the Spielberg or Hooper magic that made the first film such a hit.
The Freeling family, Diane (JoBeth Williams), Steven (Craig T. Nelson), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) are staying with Diane’s mother (Geraldine Fitzgerald) while they try to figure out what to do with their lives.
Unfortunately, Diane and Carol Anne’s foray into the Other Side at the climax of the first film caught the attention of something else that resided near their now missing home. So that means ‘they’re back…’
Aided by a Native American, Taylor (Will Sampson) and Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) the Freeling family attempt to gird themselves against the supernatural onslaught that is Kane.
I think the film makes a huge error in revealing Kane’s nature so early in the film, they could have built up a true sense of menace even as Beck’s preacher character stalks the screen. In fact, the whole film may have been better served by a slightly longer runtime. The film barely clocks in at ninety minutes and feels a little rushed.
There is some solid effects work, including some gorgeous matte paintings, though the final act of the film seems to overstep the effects budget and flounders a bit. There are also a couple of narrative touches that kind of ruin the grounded nature of the family, particularly the clairvoyant story thread.
That being said, the chemistry between Nelson and Williams is still wonderful, and they feel like a real couple, laughing and loving together, and those moments in the first film are echoed in this film and are perhaps the best moments in it.
Despite Beck’s menace, the film isn’t very scary, it lacks the punch of the original film, and despite the chemistry of the actors playing a family, there’s not a lot here besides that. That could be changed should a director’s cut ever be released.
I remember when I first saw this film (in my early teens), dipping my toe slowly into the horror genre I was truly terrified by Kane. For this rewatch, he’s still creepy, but I want more from the story and the characters, and wanted a little more depth from all of it. Not to mention some solid scares.
I will say this, the film maintained my crush on Williams.
The first film seemed more about mothers and daughters, this time around, the script seemed to want to do more to tie Steven into that relationship a little stronger. Unfortunately, that leaves poor Robbie, not to mention the family dog, E. Buzz, out in the cold.
This one didn’t really stand up.