The sequel train continues with Poltergeist II: The Other Side. Love me some Poltergeist. I’ve seen the original a bunch of times and it’s one of the few movies where I upgraded my VHS to a DVD, and then my DVD to a Bluray. Do you need to capitalize bluray? Word says both are wrong. Anyway, I’d always heard decent things about the sequel but never bothered watching it. This felt like the time so here we go!
If you’ve never seen the original Poltergeist, you need to stop reading this and go watch it right now. …. You back? I know right?! That’s great stuff! So now I don’t have to bother with a plot summary of the first movie since we’re all on the same page now. The sequel picks things up a little ways after the events of the first movie. The family has taken up residence with the wife’s grandmother and all seems well. But poltergeists are spiteful motherfuckers and they come back to continue to terrorize this poor family.
As with a lot of movies, Poltergeist most likely did not need a sequel. But it made a lot of money so here we are. The issue is that they didn’t really have much of a story to tell here. The same family just gets haunted again. Ok yes that is the case with most sequels, especially in the horror genre, but it can often be forgiven if the movie is at least entertaining. Poltergeist II has its moments, but for the most part it’s pretty eh.
The movie’s biggest failure is that it doesn’t capture the fun of the first movie. The first movie is scary, but it’s also like a damn rollercoaster ride. This is like the teacups. There’s an inkling of excitement but you’re not going to leave very satisfied. The first movie also had light moments that worked, such as how excited the Mom gets when she first discovers the entity can move things across the kitchen floor. All of the humour here feels forced and far too goofy. The movie actually ends on a joke that would feel lame in a comedy, so it falls completely flat here.
The horror aspects do fare a little better, with the villain being the surprising standout. Unlike the first movie they actually personify the bad guy as this evil priest who is creepy as fuck. I don’t think this guy is even wearing any make-up which means he’s just naturally terrifying looking. This guy is one of the highlights for sure. I even posted a picture of him above here. Look at him. Fuck that guy. Also there’s a part near the end involving a tequila worm that is less scary than it is just weird. I love when a movie shows me something I haven’t seen before, and I ain’t ever seen Coach vomit up a tequila monster, so my world is definitely a little bit better now.
One of my favourite things about movie ghosts is the logic behind a lot of their actions. There are all sorts of ways they can scare people, so it must be kind of fun for them to sort out what it’s going to be. Especially poltergeists since it seems like these guys can do basically anything they want to. The idea that these things are sitting around going “Oh man this kid has a clown doll that freaks him out. We GOTSTA possess that thing!” is pretty fantastic. Also you know how in these movies a ghost will often appear behind a character so that we see them and they don’t? In the logic of the movie, why the fuck would a ghost ever do that? Opening doors, moving shit around, I get all that. Why bother apparating if you’re not going to let anyone see you? I don’t know ghosts, seems pretty silly to me. Waste of effort.
That’s the most fun part of Poltergeist II, the ways the ghosts fuck with these people. There’s the aforementioned tequila worm, an inspired moment with the kid’s braces, and a handful of moments here and there. There just isn’t nearly enough of that. Things don’t really ramp up until about an hour in, and even after that the end sequence is...it’s not good. The other side that makes up this movie’s subtitle? We get to go there and well, it’s a journey I wish we didn’t have to take. I don’t like to harp on an older movie having outdated special effects, but it completely ruins the whole thing, not that it wouldn’t be completely stupid with the most advanced effects out there.
Poltergeist II is at best decent. I was reasonably entertained while watching it, there’s some great shit in there every now and then, and the bad guy is creepy as all hell. But the forced humour and general uneventfulness of the movie makes it only a passing recommendation. I also feel the ghosts could have stepped up their haunting game a little more with this one. B+ guys, I know you can do better.