[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 28 – Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

Director: Brian Gibson

Cast: Jobeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Julian Beck, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson, Geraldine Fitzgerald

Screenplay: Mark Victor, Michael Grais

91 mins. Rated PG-13.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects

 

Poltergeist is now considered a classic American horror film, so it seems only natural that there would be a sequel, but it still surprises me whenever I talk to someone about the Poltergeist sequels, many of them do not know of their existence, but there is a strong cult following for them. It’s been some time since I visited the series, and now seemed a perfect time for it.

It’s been a year since the Freelings experienced powerful poltergeist activity at their home in Cuesta Verde, and they’ve moved on to a new home and life has returned, as much as it can, to normal, but when Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein, Southland Tales, Sixteen Candles) discovers that the evil at the old Freeling home is still present, she sends a friend, Taylor (Will Sampson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Outlaw Josey Wales) to meet with the Freelings and help them. At the same time, a mysterious preacher named Kane (Julian Beck, The Cotton Club, 9 1/2 Weeks) shows up with an interest in Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke, Around the Bend, Surviving).

The performances are all very fine in the film. It feels like the Freelings have evolved in the year since the first film. They are both distraught that the spirit is still wreaking havoc on the film, but it also feels like their prepared for it this time. Jobeth Williams (The Big Chill, Alex & the List) runs the house again as Diane. She wears the pants in the family and husband Steve (Craig T. Nelson, The Incredibles, Book Club) is just along for the ride. The two have great chemistry together.

Screenwriters Mark Victor and Michael Grais (Cool World, Secrets of the Unknown) did a great job of evolving and progressing the mythology of the first film. It’s one of my favorite elements of the sequel. The mythology around The Beast in this film is really cool. The big problem with their scary movie, though, is that it isn’t scary. There’s very little actual poltergeist activity for most of the film, and a lot of it is been there, done that. There’s only one moment that’s very memorable, and it involves a sequence beginning with tequila that I won’t ruin for you. It’s a great sequence in an otherwise unscary movie.

The Poltergeist Curse lived long through this film. There’s something very chilling about the real-life horrors surrounding this franchise. Actress Dominique Dunn, who played Dana, the eldest Freeling, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend just after the first film was released.Apparently, the plan was to send her to college in the sequel, but of course these scenes could not be filmed.  I respect that they didn’t recast or work around it because it lets her character find some peace. Then there’s issue of Julian Beck dying of stomach cancer before this film’s release. He wasn’t able to complete post-production work as Kane. I know it doesn’t mean anything to the merit of the film, but it’s interesting and disturbing the amount of real-world death that is connected to this film.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side is a lesser film to its predecessor, but there’s some interesting world-building to this sequel, world-building that doesn’t take away from the creep factor of its central specter. The flaw though is that the film isn’t as creepy or scary as the first and it’s noticeably devoid of anything scary for at least the first hour of the movie. Things start to heat up near the end, but it took me out of the movie by that point and I was really just watching for the story, which is engaging. Still, though, fans of the first film may find some enjoyment out of this second film. I found a bit.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, click here.

[Top 250 Friday] #58: The Shining (1980)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd

Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson

146 mins. Rated R.

iMDB Top 250: #58 (as of 6/12/2015)

 

In today’s visit to the iMDB Top 250, we take a look at The Shining, from director Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket).

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Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, The Departed, How Do You Know) has just been hired to care after The Overlook Hotel during the offseason of the winter alongside his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall, Annie Hall, The 4th Floor) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny meets the hotel chef, Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Aristocats), who teaches him about an ability they both share called the Shining. As Danny encounters some of the ghostly apparitions of The Overlook, father Jack sinks deeper and deeper into madness as cabin fever takes him over.

I’m not a fan of Danny Lloyd, but the rest of the cast performs admirably and very well in the film, thanks to Kubrick’s unwavering ability to get the best out of his performers, whatever means necessary. His relationship with Shelley Duvall turned an okay performance into a good one, but it was through an entire movie shoot of ridicule and fighting.

Kubrick gives this film some truly incredible cinematography. He has some of the most impressive shots and lighting I’ve seen in a film, due to his imperfect perfectionism. Because of this, The Shining has been and will be forever analyzed.

I love this film, but I hate this adaptation. So did Stephen King, who wrote the incredible novel that the film is based on. I think the book was better and I would love to see a straight adaptation one day, but the film is pretty incredible nonetheless.

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There are so many great pieces about this film that fit so well together. It is truly the high point of an already terrific career. Stanley Kubrick has made a list of notable films, but his abilities to direct what is essentially a horror film prove his prowess among the greats.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more iMDB Top 250, click here.

 

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