There’s not much to recommend Poltergeist II: The Other Side, but it does promote family “values” while quite literally demonizing Christianity. That juxtaposing alone, however, does not make it worthwhile.
The film is the perfect example of a bad sequel. There are budget issues, plotting issues (the death of villain Julian Beck during filming couldn’t have helped) but also a strange refocusing of the characters. Somewhere in Poltergeist II there’s this compelling story of Craig T. Nelson overcoming his alcoholism to become a spiritual warrior of the Carlos Castaneda variety. Sadly, that story has no place here.
The Other Side shows exactly why good films should not be turned into franchises. Here, in order to stay relevant, the filmmakers turn JoBeth Williams into an unwilling clairvoyant, something she passed on to daughter Heather O’Rourke. But Williams has no other story. She’s appealing, but her performance isn’t particularly good. Same goes for O’Rourke, who has a lot to do. Oliver Robins, as the son, oscillates between okay and useless.
Special Native American mystical guest star Will Sampson is pretty good, at least seeming respectable. Given a much bigger part than in the first film, Zelda Rubinstein is awful. So is Geraldine Fitzgerald as Williams’s mother.
Beck is terrifying, easily the film’s best performance.
The special effects are decent, but visibly unenthusiastic. Jerry Goldsmith’s schizophrenic score–he uses both chants and synthesizers–is interesting.
It’s clear director Gibson understands what makes the first one great, but he can’t make this one acceptable.
Directed by Brian Gibson; written and produced by Michael Grais and Mark Victor; director of photography, Andrew Laszlo; edited by Thom Noble; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, Ted Haworth; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Starring JoBeth Williams (Diane Freeling), Craig T. Nelson (Steve Freeling), Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne Freeling), Oliver Robins (Robbie Freeling), Zelda Rubinstein (Tangina Barrons), Will Sampson (Taylor), Julian Beck (Kane), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Gramma-Jess), John P. Whitecloud (Old Indian) and Noble Craig (Vomit Creature).