Jamie and Patrick are playing with their favorite toy dinosaurs. They’re mother stops by and pats them lovingly on the head. They’re father stoops down and spends some moments joining in on the imaginary fun. Jamie strains to see his father’s face but it’s clouded by an image of Scott Bakula. Imposter! But the joy of this dino adventure is enough and they continue to play together: Patrick, Jamie, and their imposter dad Scott Bakula. There is a knock at the door and there are two men in suits there. They are talking to Scott Bakula. They are pointing at a sheet of paper that says that all their measurables are off the charts. General Knowledge: 100th percentile. Gymnastics: 100th percentile. Martial Arts: 100th percentile. Dance: 100th percentile. Philosophy: 100th percentile. The list goes on and on. They frown at the list. Dinosaurs: 100th percentile is nowhere to be found. Not a list they care about. The men tell them they are going away, going to have everything because of this list. They cry. They hit these men with their dinosaur toys and try to run away.
Jamie shakes his head at the memory and jerks his arm away from Patrick and grabs one of the toy cars. “Michael!” he calls and the groundskeeper turns. “Why are these toys here? Whose toys are these?” he asks, his voice shaking with intensity. Michael chuckles a little. “Ah, so that’s what you’re sniffing around about. You’ve heard the stories,” he says but starts a little when he realizes they don’t know what he’s talking about. “You’re saying you’ve never heard the story of how this place is haunted?” Patrick and Jamie look at each other and shakily murmur, “A gh-gh-gh-ghost?” Michael nods. “Not just one ghost,” he continues, “Two.” That’s right! We’re watching not just one ghost film, but two. And they’re some big ones. We are tackling the two very poorly received sequels Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III… no subtitle for three, guys? That’s a shame. How about Poltergeist III: Tower of Terror? Let’s go!
Poltergeist III (1988) – BMeTric: 64.0; Notability: 34
StreetCreditReport.com – BMeTric: top 1.6%; Notability: top 10.4%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 9.0%; Higher BMeT: Caddyshack II, Mac and Me, Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach, Poltergeist III; Higher Notability: Action Jackson, Sunset, High Spirits, Big Top Pee-wee, Caddyshack II, My Stepmother Is an Alien, Moving, Cocoon: The Return, The Couch Trip, License to Drive, Vibes, Cocktail, Arthur 2: On the Rocks, Hot to Trot, The Seventh Sign, Mac and Me, Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach, Bad Dreams, The Presidio, Short Circuit 2, and 6 more; Lower RT: Two Moon Junction, Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach, Johnny Be Good, Fresh Horses, Watchers, Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, Hero and the Terror, Hot to Trot, Illegally Yours, The Blue Iguana, War Party, Caddyshack II, Return of the Living Dead II, Mac and Me, Cocktail, Dead Heat, Vibes, Arthur 2: On the Rocks, Action Jackson, The Prince of Pennsylvania, and 2 more; Notes: Much lower Notability, much cheaper movie, much worse experience. It looks like maybe we probably watched the top five BMeTric of 1988. I wonder how many years we can say that about.
Leonard Maltin – 2 stars – O’Rourke moves in with uncle Skerritt and aunt Allen – and is still pursued by strange evil forces. Undistinguished and occasionally plodding; eerily young O’Rourke died four months before the film’s release.
(Absurd. This movie is terrible. Just horrifically bad. I could maybe understand if it you gave a shoutout to the surprisingly good debut by Lara Flynn Boyle, but I just don’t get 2 stars here. It feels like someone didn’t watch this film.)
Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lCfugr2qJU/
(Oh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit, Poltergeist in the city yo! Clearly a very very Chicago film … terrible trailer though. Literally shows nothing scary, just floating through the city. That’s it.)
Directors – Gary Sherman – ( Known For: Dead & Buried; Vice Squad; Death Line; Lisa; 39: A Film by Carroll McKane; Future BMT: Wanted: Dead or Alive; BMT: Poltergeist III; Notes: He used to basically make music videos prior to music videos being thing. Was a television commercial director prior to working in film and on television shows.)
Writers – Gary Sherman – ( Known For: Death Line; Lisa; Phobia; Future BMT: Wanted: Dead or Alive; BMT: Poltergeist III; Notes: Back in the 90s he wrote and directed and produced a procedural called Missing Persons. He also wrote an episode of the Poltergeist television series.)
Brian Taggert – ( Known For: The New Kids; Of Unknown Origin; Future BMT: Wanted: Dead or Alive; Visiting Hours; BMT: Poltergeist III; Notes: He had a long history of horror writing, including eventually Omen IV and Trucks, the television remake of Maximum Overdrive.)
Steve Feke – ( Known For: When a Stranger Calls; Hadley’s Rebellion; Future BMT: When a Stranger Calls; BMT: Mac and Me; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Screenplay for Mac and Me in 1989; Notes: Huge television writer in the 90s. Uncredited on this, probably was too busy working on Mac and Me.)
Actors – Heather O’Rourke – ( Known For: Poltergeist; BMT: Poltergeist II: The Other Side; Poltergeist III; Notes: Wow, top billing. She’s incredible in the first film, some of the finest child acting (at least for someone that young) ever. Given things like E.T. I imagine a lot of that has to do with Spielberg who, for whatever reason, seems incredibly good at guiding child performers.)
Tom Skerritt – ( Known For: Top Gun; Alien; Steel Magnolias; Ted; Contact; A River Runs Through It; M*A*S*H; The Dead Zone; Harold and Maude; Poison Ivy; Singles; Up in Smoke; Ice Castles; SpaceCamp; A Hologram for the King; Big Bad Mama; Lucky; Smoke Signals; Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue; The Devil’s Rain; Future BMT: Tears of the Sun; The Rookie; The Other Sister; Fighting Back; BMT: Whiteout; Poltergeist III; Texas Rangers; Notes: Won an Emmy for Picket fences (nominated twice). He is a force to reckoned with in 90s direct-to-video and TV Movie work as well.)
Nancy Allen – ( Known For: RoboCop; Carrie; Out of Sight; Dressed to Kill; Blow Out; 1941; The Last Detail; The Philadelphia Experiment; I Wanna Hold Your Hand; Strange Invaders; Home Movies; The Buddy System; The Last Victim; Acting on Impulse; The Patriots; Not for Publication; Sweet Revenge; Kiss Toledo Goodbye; Against the Law; Circuit; BMT: RoboCop 2; RoboCop 3; Poltergeist III; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actress for Dressed to Kill in 1981; Notes: Was married to Brian De Palma for a hot second. Apparently she’s also the cousin of Jim Breuer.)
Budget/Gross – $9.5 million / Domestic: $14,114,488 (Worldwide: $14,114,488)
(See, they dropped the budget, but then it didn’t end up doing nearly as well. If it could have pulled $20 I bet they would have tried to reboot the whole thing with Kane terrorizing some other family. Probably try and keep with the eeeeeevil techmology angle.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 16% (3/19)
(Fine, I’ll make my own consensus: Impressive camera trickery involving mirrors aside, the movie is a catastrophically soulless schlock.)
NY Times Short Review: The weakest yet.
Poster – Ghosty Spooktacular III: Lightning City
(This poster is bad but also I kind of want to hang it in my imaginary man cave. Fuck it, I’m giving it a B.)
Tagline(s) – No matter where Carol Anne goes… she never goes alone. (F)
(Noooooope. That is long and hurts my ears. It’s so clunky that the poster is better off not having a tagline than that tagline and that’s a crime.)
Keyword(s) – Citizen Kane
Top 10: The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Goodfellas (1990), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983), The Terminator (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Aliens (1986), Groundhog Day (1993)
Future BMT: 75.0 Look Who’s Talking Now (1993), 71.9 Teen Wolf Too (1987), 61.0 Pet Sematary II (1992), 59.6 Suburban Commando (1991), 58.5 Rocky V (1990), 56.4 The Karate Kid Part III (1989), 55.6 Ringmaster (1998), 54.2 Who’s That Girl (1987), 53.2 Made in America (1993), 52.4 Blank Check (1994), 51.5 The Pest (1997), 50.5 Getting Even with Dad (1994), 50.0 Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), 49.9 3 Ninjas (1992), 49.1 My Girl 2 (1994), 48.3 My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988), 47.9 Three Men and a Little Lady (1990), 46.7 House Party 3 (1994), 46.4 Zapped! (1982), 45.8 Sidekicks (1992)
BMT: Batman & Robin (1997), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), Troll 2 (1990), Super Mario Bros. (1993), RoboCop 3 (1993), Grease 2 (1982), Caddyshack II (1988), Bio-Dome (1996), Mac and Me (1988), Anaconda (1997), Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996), Double Team (1997), Fair Game (1995), Leprechaun (1993), Body of Evidence (1992), A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child (1989), Cool World (1992), Poltergeist III (1988), Wild Orchid (1989), Sliver (1993), Chairman of the Board (1997), Red Sonja (1985), Nothing But Trouble (1991), Ishtar (1987), Toys (1992), Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993), Shanghai Surprise (1986), Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), Exit to Eden (1994), Fire Down Below (1997), Color of Night (1994), Graveyard Shift (1990), No Holds Barred (1989), The Lawnmower Man (1992), Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988), Maximum Overdrive (1986), Fire Birds (1990), Cocoon: The Return (1988), Jingle All the Way (1996), Raw Deal (1986), Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986), Crocodile Dundee II (1988), Hudson Hawk (1991), Navy Seals (1990), Critters 2: The Main Course (1988), Hot to Trot (1988), Rambo III (1988), Terminal Velocity (1994), Meatballs Part II (1984), Cobra (1986), Ernest Goes to Jail (1990), Hard to Kill (1990), Conan the Destroyer (1984), The Golden Child (1986), Another 48 Hrs. (1990), Hard Rain (1998), Under the Cherry Moon (1986), Mannequin (1987), K-9 (1989), Days of Thunder (1990), Blame It on Rio (1984), No Mercy (1986), Senseless (1998), The Wizard (1989), The Marrying Man (1991), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), The Cannonball Run (1981), Stone Cold (1991), Tango & Cash (1989), Lock Up (1989), The Good Son (1993), 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), Dangerous Minds (1995), Young Guns II (1990), Event Horizon (1997), Dutch (1991), Police Academy (1984), Road House (1989)
Best Options (Horror): 64.2 Poltergeist III (1988), 61.0 Pet Sematary II (1992), 44.3 DeepStar Six (1989), 42.3 Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986), 34.6 Leviathan (1989), 32.2 The Seventh Sign (1988), 31.3 Student Bodies (1981), 28.1 Deep Rising (1998), 27.4 The Phantom of the Opera (1989), 26.1 The Bride (1985), 25.0 Bad Dreams (1988)
(Bam, finally. We finally hit up the top spot for one of these. And we love franchises, Jamie is the self-appointed Franchise Man. So this seemed like a perfect choice.)
Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 13) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Tom Skerritt is No. 1 billed in Poltergeist III and No. 3 billed in Whiteout, which also stars Kate Beckinsale (No. 1 billed) who is in Pearl Harbor (No. 2 billed) which also stars Josh Hartnett (No. 3 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 3 billed) => (1 + 3) + (1 + 2) + (3 + 3) = 13. There is no shorter path at the moment.
Notes – Craig T. Nelson was approached to play Steve Freeling again, but he declined. “Two was enough” he says.
Following the death of Heather O’Rourke in February of 1988 after she finished her work on the film (April-June 1987), it was the decision of director Gary Sherman to temporarily shelve the project during its post-production phase. However, due to the amount of money that had already been spent, MGM insisted that the film be finished and released as scheduled for June of 1988 or they would find someone else to do it. Apparently, after the film was given a PG rating by the MPAA in November 1987, the studio had already decided to have Sherman re-shoot the ending with more graphic scenes, in order to “up” the rating to PG-13. Planning for this re-shoot began in December 1987 and continued into January 1988, but was temporarily put on hold when O’Rourke died Feb. 1. The re-shoot (which used a stand-in for Heather) eventually took place in March, and the film was then “re-edited” and given a PG-13 by the MPAA in April 1988. Director Sherman would later claim that no such “re-shoot” took place, instead insisting that Heather died before they could film the “original ending” and that the current ending using the body double was what they hastily threw together when forced to “finish” the film by MGM. However, he is contradicted by at least six other people who also worked on the film who confirmed that the original ending was in fact filmed before Heather died and that the re-shoot of the ending took place after her passing. These people include producer Barry Bernardi, actor Kipley Wentz, assistant editor Jeanne Bonansinga, composer Joe Renzetti, special effects makeup artist Doug Drexler and the man who provided the voice for the Rev. Kane, Corey Burton. His claims would ultimately be proven false by the Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release by Scream Factory, where the original film elements and the missing footage were discovered in a vault for a 4K restoration, including the original ending which Sherman denied ever existed. This Blu-ray release, as of 2020, has since gone out of print.
After filming of the scene where the cars chase Patricia and Bruce, the car’s explosion set the entire set on fire, almost taking a crew member and a few cameras he was rescuing. When Heather O’Rourke showed up for filming the next day and heard about the incident from director Gary Sherman, she was relieved that no one was hurt. She then asked Sherman, “Did you get the shot?”
Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne) and Zelda Rubinstein (Tangina) are the only two actors to appear in all three Poltergeist films.
Heather O’Rourke’s bloated appearance in the film was the result of a misdiagnosis of her medical condition, which led to her being prescribed the wrong medication. This particular medication caused her body to swell and her face to get puffy.
Lara Flynn Boyle’s film debut.
There were originally plans for Craig T. Nelson to return for a Poltergeist 4, but the death of Heather O’Rourke, the ensuing media scandal about the Poltergeist curse that overshadowed pretty much everything else about the movie, the recurring deaths of actors involved in the film series, and the disappointing box office returns from Poltergeist III (1988) dissuaded the producers from continuing the franchise, and it ultimately ended at 3 films. The film series was ultimately rebooted with Poltergeist (2015), a remake of the original, but neither Nelson nor any of the series’ principle cast members made an appearance.
A theme running throughout this movie is that mirrors contain the spirits, meaning there are many shots where everything is reflected perfectly except for one startling aberration. This was achieved via a few different methods, such as split screen and travelling mattes, however the most commonly used method was room doubling. The ‘mirror’ isn’t there, there is instead constructed a perfect mirror image room connected to the foreground one that begins where the mirror should be, and the actors have body doubles with their backs to camera who imitate their motions. A metronome was running throughout those body double scenes in order to help the performers act in synchronicity. A simple theatrical technique, done well, that repeatedly gives an unnerving paranormal effect.
According to the film’s supervising dialogue editor, Corey Burton smoked half a pack of cigarettes before recording his lines as Henry Kane, in order to achieve the required raspy quality, and then kept smoking throughout the recording session.
In this film alone, Carol Anne’s name is spoken a total of 121 times. Much is said about the ridiculous number of times that the name “Carol Anne” is spoken in the movie.
Awards – Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress (Zelda Rubinstein, 1989)