The October Diaries – Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Illustration by Max Brown
Blurbs by Sean & Christof

October 29th, 2014:
Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Year: 1986
Director: Brian Gibson
From IMDB: The Freeling family have a new house, but their troubles with supernatural forces don’t seem to be over.
Tagline: “They’re back.”

Christof’s Take:

The first shot was amazing. Can’t say I recommend anything after that.

Poltergeist 2 The Other Side Titlecard

Sean’s Take:

I think we all would have enjoyed this one a little bit more if we weren’t suffering from a little haunted-family-fatigue syndrome. Add this one to the list (including): Something Evil, The Conjuring and Insidious. We figured we owed it to ourselves to watch it considering we all enjoyed the first and were surprised none of us had caught the sequel over the years. 

My most fond memories from the viewing involved getting a good dose of high quality 80’s production value. Usually horror films from the 80’s range in quality but often end up feeling a little cheap. This one was a follow-up to a smash-hit and you can tell the studio didn’t mind throwing some cash at it. There were some absolutely stunning matte-paintings and the effects work was both very bizarre and very polished (H.R. Giger did concept work on this). An early scene of a Native American performing a ritual atop a stone monument in the desert, conjuring a storm of elemental spirits from above, really stood out.

It was also impressive they were able to get almost the entire cast from the original to return for the sequel. Unfortunately the charm and likeability of the family dynamics were fucked with. Craig T. Nelson in particular was more crude and angry in this one than he was in the first (his marriage dynamic with JoBeth Williams in the first film anchored the whole thing).

Without this familial warmth component I couldn’t invest enough in the plot to get any emotional dividends out of the big set pieces. Increasing Nelson’s grumpability did take his character to some interesting places though (and, to the film’s credit, his anger served the plot).

Insidious borrowed a number of elements from this movie too, something you might not notice if you didn’t watch them in the same month. Both films feature the father’s journey into “the other side” and they end up striking very similar tonal notes. My esteem for it could easily rise outside the context of October, when it can stand on its own merit and not be remembered as being the fourth haunted family movie of the month.



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