Poltergeist II: The Other Side Recap


Seeing as Poltergeist III is a Daddio Special (a film that aired on September 1st, 1990) and Poltergeist II got dangerously close to a Twin Special (airing on October 3rd, 1991) I think I’ll just hop on over to October 9th, 1991 and see what we could have watched just six days after Poltergeist II for the Twin Special Celebration Spectacular. The answer seems obvious. Friday the 13th VII: The New Blood is not-so-secretly my favorite of the franchise and seems like a nice pairing with Poltergeist II which is… not my favorite Poltergeist film (spoiler alert). I have to admit it’s kind of hard to pass up The Sicilian, a Michael Cimino flop starring BMT fave Christopher Lambert and I have to shine a light on the short listings description written for past BMT film Shanghai Surprise: “Flat, watery egg-drop soup. Two at sea, by land.” Give The Times a god damn Pulitzer. It’s like a poem.

To recap, the Freelings are back, Jack! And now they’re sad! After the ghostly events of the first film, the family has moved into Diane’s mother’s house. They are poor because their house disappeared into nothing and the insurance company doesn’t cover that. Despite that (and the grandma who is all like “I know why you have ghosts. It’s because we’re ghost people.”) they are doing OK. That is until a creepy old-timey pastor comes stalking about looking for Carol Anne. Turns out there is a very detailed explanation for all the events of the first film (great!) that also doesn’t make much sense in the context of the first film (less great!). Basically this ghost pastor, Kane, was a crazy cult leader who went into the caves beneath the family’s house and killed themselves… so forget all that cemetery mumbo jumbo we told you about before. Grandma dies and everyone is sad and things are looking dire cause Kane is growing stronger. Thankfully a Native American shaman, Taylor, shows up to whip them into poltergeist battling shape. They seem to be doing OK until Taylor leaves. Kane shows up and they barely escape with their lives. They decide to battle Kane where he lives so they go to the caves and all get warped into the other side. From there it. Gets. Crazy. Like psychedelic bullshit. Almost unbelievable that there was a moment where you could sit in a theater and watch it with a bunch of people. It’s that ridiculous. Anyway, Craig T. Nelson gets thrown a spear by Taylor and he kills Kane with it. Carol Anne almost slips into the afterlife but good ol’ grandma shows up and is like “don’t worry ‘bout it.” THE END.

I think this entry in the series is specifically hurt by being the sequel to the much better Poltergeist. Some really good special effects (even nominated for an Oscar, which is something considering the reviews for the film itself) and a totally bonkers ending would have done quite well in the first of a lower budget series. Like a Wishmaster or Pumpkinhead. You could have imagined it garnering a loyal cult following in that context. But that’s hard to do when you are rehashing and rearranging aspects of a first (better) movie. So if you want to see a mediocre to slightly below average horror film with some wild and crazy stuff mixed in, then you just might be in the cult of Poltergeist II and you can refer to it as The Other Side and never compare it to the first one.

Hot Take Clam Bake! The lore in this film is actually better than the original. The first film is all about how the neighborhood they live in was built on top of a cemetery. They moved the headstones but not the bodies. I don’t get it though because they specifically go out of their way to say that the neighborhood allows you to do whatever you want on your property and our main characters are actively in the process of building a pool. So… where are all these bodies they should be digging up? Am I missing something? At the end we see them all up in that pool and popping out of the ground. So where were they before and why did it only impact the Freelings’ house? It really doesn’t make sense. Kane’s death cult burying themselves alive under the house and being activated by the family’s hereditary supernatural abilities somehow is the better explanation. So there you have it. Poltergeist II is the better movie. Hot Take Temperature: Swimming Pool.



‘Ello everyone! Poltergeist II: The Other Side? More like Polter-gross Boo: Run and Hide. I mean … long title that kind of works. I should have just left it at Polter-gross Boo though. That’s killer. Let’s go!

  • The main thing this film has going for it is that it still has JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson, who both continue to be great despite the decidedly sillier premise of the sequel.
  • It is a little shocking that even though they lampshaded the “Indian burial ground” explanation in the first film they … kind of do it for the second? They basically suggest that the bad guy, Kane, was a preacher who was butting heads with the local native people prior to him killing himself and his flock. It is much closer, an odd choice.
  • Taylor is fine in the film, but again, I just wish they hadn’t gone in the direction they did with the film with Kane.
  • I should probably get into Kane. Kane is to Poltergeist II and Jason is to Friday the 13th: Part II. He’s an attempt to tack from a defeated enemy of a hit horror film to something a bit more sustainable for a franchise. But yet, Kane is never ever discussed in the terms of horror villains. It is bizarre. Kane is, due to the sequels, inexorably a giant part of the franchise. And yet, you only vaguely hear about “They’re heeeeeeeeeere” and the vague notion of a house built on a cemetery. Nothing about Kane.
  • He’s an odd character. Honestly, he would have been a good character if he was hinted at at all in the first film.
  • Isn’t that the problem? The first film has a beautiful explanation that is tied up in the corporate greed of the time (“You moved the tombstones, but you didn’t move the bodies! Didn’t you!?”). They seem to indicate that there is kind of collective of lost souls on the other side which is tempting Carol Anne, which JoBeth Williams has to combat. I don’t know, the beauty of an explanation being unnecessary is a huge part of the charm of the film.
  • The second one, suddenly the house is built on top of a cemetery which is built on top of a chamber where a cult killed themselves? Now there is a preacher ghost named Kane who is obsessed with Carol Anne? Native Americans are tied up into the story? The film isn’t really that bad, but it isn’t good either.
  • As far as effects, some are quite good. I thought the braces monster was interesting, and a few of the larger effects as well. A lot is made of the vomit monster, but that was the least impressive to me. Clearly a triple or quadruple amputee in a costume. If they had went stop motion / reversing for some of the build up of the creature (a la Hellraiser) then it would be more impressive.
  • I guess I’ll throw half a review for the first film here: Loved it. The ability of Spielberg to get performances of very young actors is second to none. And for a film with a grand total of zero deaths, Poltergeist is funny in all the right places, and tense in all the right places, and surprising and unique, etc. I really liked it.
  • I think this qualifies for a Setting as a Character (Where?) for California. And honestly, I think Carol Anne is the living embodiment of the reverse MacGuffin (Why?) which I’ve just coined. It is basically the thing in a horror film where there is no explanation as to why the villains desperately want the person or thing, but boy golly do they want Carol Anne. This is probably closest to Good if I’m being honest, it still has enough of the original’s charm to coast on it, and some good special effects.

Read about the sequel Poltergeist III: Part 1: The Cult in the Quiz. Cheerios,

The Sklogs


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