Wednesday, 13th December 2017. 3:42:21pm ET
Reviews Movie Reviews Poltergeist II and III

Movie: Poltergeist II and III
Company: MGM
Format: DVD
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 2/23/04

They're back! Last year, MGM released a budget double feature containing both sequels to the original supernatural blockbuster Poltergeist. While they're a bit skimpy on the features (the special features consist only of the original theatrical trailers for each film) and the soundtracks don't appear to be remastered (and actually have noticeable hiss at times), it's still a fairly good set for a paltry price.

Poltergeist II finds the family settled into Carol Anne's grandmother's house after their house disappeared in the original. Unfortunately for them, it's not over yet. Soon, the force that almost took Carol Anne returns for her, this time in both supernatural form and a human form portrayed by the uber-creepy Julian Beck. Helping them fight this evil is a wise Native American spiritual guide. With his help, they will finally unravel the mystery behind the poltergeist that plagues them.

I remember loving (and being frightened by) Poltergeist II when I was younger and it first came out. Unfortunately, it hasn't age well, and seeing it again was something of a disappointment. The most notable effects here involve stop-motion animation and claymation monsters that look like they came straight from Beetlejuice. Some scenes try to mimic events in the first movie, like the possessed toy scene, with less satisfying results. Certain scenes are fairly effective, like the infamous "tequila worm" scene, although there's really nothing in this sequel that's even remotely on par with the original film. Perhaps the film's saving grace is Julian Beck, who does a fine job and gives a creepy performance as the film's unsettling antagonist. To the movie's credit, the story (including the history behind the poltergeist and the family's old house) is quite intelligent and plays out well. Unfortunately, unlike the original, most of this film's "horrific" moments end up being more campy than scary, and the film suffers as a result. Kids still might find this one frightening, but it'll likely be mildly disappointing for adults looking for something reminiscent of the much better original.

Poltergeist III is the least beloved and most generic of the three films. Carol Anne has been shipped off to live with her aunt and cousin in the mirror-filled skyscraper owned by her uncle. Sent to a special school and ridiculed for her alleged poltergeist experience, Carol Anne becomes frustrated when the poltergeist returns and nobody believes her. Soon, familiar images start appearing in mirrors and things escalate to the final resolution of the series' story.

Highlighted by simple-yet-effective special effects, Poltergeist III isn't nearly as bad as some would have you believe. The mirror-covered walls of the skyscraper are used to great effect. While there are few exceptionally scary moments in the film, there are a number of notable and effective horror events. The film, taking off on the mirror theme, also plays on reality and illusion with the poltergeist often taking the forms of other people to trick members of the family. Perhaps some fans may be put off by a few supremely frustrating characters who refuse to believe Carol Anne, but that may actually be the reaction that the filmmakers intended. Overall, the story is also generally good and well executed, albeit a bit cliched at times. While, in many respects, it's more of a straightforward horror film than the other two in the series, it's still a very satisfying entry in the series (perhaps more so than the 2nd after seeing the two again).

In short, this is a decent budget double feature. The DVDs are somewhat sparse and they aren't exactly the best horror films of all time, but they're certainly not anywhere near horrible. With PG-13 ratings (and even the "13" is probably overstepping it by today's standards), they're also good clean horror fun for the whole family. It's not really a must-buy, but at such a low price, it's at least a might-as-well buy.


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