Welcome to a bona fide Daddio Special. Airing on September 1st, 1990 we could have plopped down as a family at 7pm to watch Poltergeist III. Now we are jazzed. We just got Poltergeisted. We’re like “Daddy, daddy, we can’t go to bed yet. Best birthday ever!” and so he unfurls the newspaper. Will it be Casualties of War, Stand and Deliver, or Leviathan? Nah. The Times is telling him to “spare yourself” (at least regarding Leviathan). Oh ho, but what’s this on TMC? UHF!?!? Literally our favorite film growing up that we watched over and over and over and over?! It’s destiny. Then off we go to bed, having laughed and loved with Poltergeist III and UHF. The perfect birthday pairing. Once we are in bed, though, Daddio works his way through Night of the Demons and The Iron Triangle so he can finish his birthday right: a 2 am showing of Citizen Kane. Beautiful symmetry.
To recap, the Freelings are back, Jack! Well not really. Only Carrrooollll Annnneeee, who has been sent away to live with her Aunt Pat and her new husband Bruce and his daughter Donna. Bruce is all like “the more the merrier” while Pat is a bit rude and has some ‘tude towards her niece. She’s got an art gallery to run, damn it! They live in a fully mirrored skyscraper that Bruce runs (don’t want to see his bill for Windex, emiright?) and Carol Anne goes to a special school for special children run by a very not special (and particularly awful) child psychologist who thinks Carol Anne is manipulative and delusional. But she’s not delusional. Not at all. That’s cause Kane is back, Jack and ready to snack… on Carol Anne’s soul. Bwahahaha. While Pat and Bruce are out at a party and Donna is doing some partying of her own, Carol Anne is attacked by Kane. She is able to escape but is soon pulled into the Other Side. Donna and her maybe-more-than-a-friend Scott witness this on the building’s security cameras and are also pulled into the Other Side when they go to try and help her. Things are looking pretty dire (3-0 Kane by my count), but Scott and Donna make a surprise return so really it’s 2-1, advantage good guys. Bruce runs off to try to find Carol Anne and in a big ol’ twist Donna and Scott kill the psychologist cause they are actually mirror people! Back to a 0-3 shutout by Kane. Boooooo! But Pat realizes she has to lose the ‘tude and only by showing how much she loves Carol Anne can she defeat Kane’s hate. Bruce, Pat, Carol Anne, and Donna are reunited. 2-1 good guys and they never get Scott back cause fuck him, right? THE END.
Wowza. This movie is really quite bad on every single level. Acting? Dire. Storyline? Confusing. Visuals? Over the top mirror world (read: actually kinda fun at times). Everything about this films screams “for the love of God do not release me to theaters.” Oohhhhh, but they did. This hits some top marks and will be on some short lists at the end of the year. This has a lot going for it, but I especially like how nice it is as an example of how lore can go bad (in this case a desperate attempt to make their own Jason/Freddy/Myers in Kane) and really bury a franchise. It’s no wonder that it took decades for them to revive the property because the Kane stink must have been strong. Who wants to grapple with all that jazz? Gotta wait and just reboot the original, which is exactly what happened.
Hot Take Clam Bake! I’m gonna plant my flag right now on the question that has been eating at all the Poltergeist III heads out there for decades: Scott (the real hero of the film) is not dead. He definitely popped out somewhere else when Kane was defeated. How do I know? Carol Anne was the prize, that’s why. Kane probably didn’t even want Scott. What would he need to take Scott over to the Other Side? He’s a loser with bad style. That’s not mean, it’s just the truth. He uses him for his mirror magic and them pooped him out somewhere and probably Scott was like “actually can I come to the other side with you, Mr. Kane, sir?” and Kane was like “No.” Hot Take Temperature: Perfect Stranger.
‘Ello everyone! Poltergeist III? More like Poltergeist: Tower. Gremlins, Poltergeist … why didn’t we see more horror films going for the tower sequel? Let’s go!
- I did genuinely like the setting of this film. I’m not joking: why aren’t there more horror films in towers / films in towers in general. Then again, Skyscraper was the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen so …
- The acting in this movie is dire. I think it exposed a few things. First, that JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson are very good actors who were too good for the schlock being dished out in the Poltergeist sequels. Second, that as good as Heather O’Rourke was in the original Poltergeist she ultimately was a child actor, and the more you asked of her the more dicey things got. And finally, that the fringe players (like Zelda Rubinstein, woof!) even in the original series weren’t very good, but you only noticed it once the main actors and material got bad enough.
- Again, and I can’t stress this enough, this is one of the most poorly acted films I’ve ever seen. It is laughable. How much that is “bad material begets bad performances”, I don’t know.
- But, the exception is Lara Flynn Boyle, who is actually solid in her debut, so I don’t think the material is entirely to blame. They just cast the film weirdly. There is a reason that none of the other teenage actors and (especially) the psychiatrist really acted in anything even close to the level of this film.
- The film isn’t scary.
- Some of the effects were pretty good though. Lara Flynn Boyle coming out of the crumbling Zelda Rubinstein model was actually quite cool. And while very obvious as to how it was done (and sometimes … it wasn’t done very well) the mirror motif and effects were at least fun.
- There really isn’t a lot to the film, but the whole idea of all this stuff being some hallucination caused by child genius Carol Anne is absurd.
- They say the name “Carol Anne” a billion times, and yeah, it is pretty funny. It is mostly funny when Zelda Rubinstein does it because she does it over and over in some scenes. Most of the other occurrences are just Kane whispering sinisterly.
- Plot Hole Alert!! So … what happened to Scott? You see that he is maybe his mirror image, and him and mirror image Lara Flynn Boyle go back into the mirror. But at the end only Lara Flynn Boyle is saved from the mirror universe. So was Scott killed?
- Because this is actually important. As crazy as it sounds the body count for the entirety of the Poltergeist series is either one (Dr. Seaton who is certainly killed by mirror image Lara Flynn Boyle by being pushed down an elevator shaft), or two if Scott indeed died. But it is almost impossible to tell.
- Setting as a Character (Where?) for Chicago, set in a new skyscraper there. And MacGuffin (Why?) for Carol Anne as usual for the Poltergeist series. It isn’t really a twist in the end, because didn’t we all know that Kane just wanted to be guided to the afterlife? Seemed obvious. So incredibly BMT it is hard to articulate, the film is absurdly bad in multiple ways.
Read all about the ultimate sequel Poltergeist III: Part 2: The Mirror in the Quiz. Cheerios,