The original “Poltergeist” was like a fine tuned car that ran well and delivered all kinds of surprises. “Poltergeist II” is like an addition to said car, but it’s not a necessary addition and comes off kind of gaudy when you take a second look. It’s like someone added fins, stripes to what was an already great model in and of itself. The follow up to Tobe Hooper’s original is a childhood favorite of mine. It’s one I watched over and over on local television. While it may not make much sense as an extension of the first film, with a redundant premise, “The Other Side” is an okay sequel. That is, if you want to accept it as a sequel to the original film. It’s more an exploration of the spiritual world involved with the initial haunting from the first film, when all is said and done.
Once again, Brian Gibson’s “The Other Side” is based heavily in the horror and fantasy realm, and gives audiences a much clearer face to the villain this time around. After the Freelings were victimized by the restless souls of those that their house was built on, they go to live with mother in law Jess. Now facing financial trouble and possibly going broke from the aftermath, Carol Anne learns from grandmother Jess that she is a very powerful clairvoyant. Tangina from the original film has been discovering the graves of the Freelings’ now imploded home and learns of a massive underground cave that houses the remains of many people. This includes once dead Reverend Henry Kane. The evil and demonic preacher now has become aware of Carol Anne and is intent on tracking her down to consume her and use her powers.
Tangina sends her friend Taylor, a Native American shaman to help the Freelings realize their powers, including Carol Anne. “The Other Side” is that superfluous sequel that extends the mythology of a movie that was pretty much a one and done concept to begin with. It was a nice bit of karma surrounded by a bit of parental negligence come to fruition with ghosts, demons, and portals. Here, “The Other Side” tacks on a lot of schlocky devices and spiritualism. Not to mention the once normal family of the Freelings is transformed in to more important figures than we initially thought they were. This eliminates the seemingly random supernatural events that ensues and the fight for their children we see in the original, and gives it a deeper context that removes the innate terror of the original movie.
So, either they moved in to this graveyard mistakenly and realized a deeper purpose, or everything came together as it was supposed to? Were they always meant to discover their powers? I’m not sure I buy either. Despite some great turns by Will Sampson as heroic Taylor, and Julian Beck who is menacing as the preacher Kane, “The Other Side” is silly, and redundant, but allows for an entertaining diversion.
The release from Scream! Factory comes packed with an audio commentary with Writer/Producer Michael Grais who sits down for a Q&A type of commentary with an interviewer. The discussion explores the writer’s background, the work on the first film, and the development of the sequel along with the casting, the director, reshoots, and the original ending. There’s an audio commentary with Poltergeist II Webmaster David Furtney, who runs the “Poltergeist” fan website. He provides an exhaustive supply of information, including alterations made from the script to the screen, the extra story tidbits, trivia about the production, and how the original cut was altered for the final version we see. “Robbie’s Return” is a fourteen minute interview with Oliver Robins, who discusses his experiences on the film as a kid, what it was like working with the cast and director, and the special effects.
“The Spirit World” is a twenty two minute interview with special effects designer Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson, and Screaming Mad George. They discuss working with HR Giger’s designs, accomplishing certain shots, and how they also succeeded in practical effects. “Ghosts of Giger” is a twenty one minute focus on HR Giger’s contributions to the film, along with an interview with friend and agent Les Barany. “They’re Back: The Making of Poltergeist II” is a vintage BTS with cast and crew, featuring on set footage. “Monster Shop” is a three minute vintage featurette with a bigger look at the creatures and effects. “Ghost Makers” is a six minute vintage segment focused on effects, cast and crew interviews, and behind the scenes footage. Finally, there’s the original theatrical trailer, four vintage TV spots, a large still gallery, and the Poltergeist II script, which is presented as a gallery to read from.