October 21, 2011

They’re baaack
Movie Rating: 6/10 BD Rating: 6/10

Sequels are strange. Commercial and often exploitative by nature, there are few that advance an original story in a worthwhile manner. The horror genre is perhaps the most prolific in this respect, with popular films getting the sequel treatment within a year of their release. Although one-upmanship is the standard for all of these films, the ’80s and early ’90s was a time when sequels were baroque and extravagant creations. Gremlins 2: The New Batch ditched the small-town charm of its precursor in favor of a modern New York City adventure. Franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th are slightly more cut-and-paste, though there are a few WTF entries in the series (Jason X, anyone?).

Poltergeist II: The Other Side fits the sequel mold, opening with an Indian shaman scene set in the desert, which is presumably supposed to explain later events in the film—it really doesn’t. This time around, Carol Anne and the Freeling gang have decamped to grandma’s house and find themselves accosted by a 19th century ghost-preacher named Kane. Carol Anne is once again the target of undead spirits that want to kidnap and keep her in their realm, with their leader taking a human form in order to torment the family in person. Kane (played by Julian Beck) is legitimately scary, and this Blu-ray further enhances his skeletal features and piercing gaze. Elaborate set pieces are more frequent, but far less subtle and inventive than they were in the first film. Where Poltergeist had raw meat creeping along the kitchen floor, Poltergeist II has the whole family getting attacked by their garage in a tedious scene that runs several minutes too long.

The transfer looks sharp and clean, and delivers just the right level of high-def oomph to perfectly see Craig T. Nelson vomit an enormous tequila worm. However, the disc is notably lacking in extras. The only offering is a trailer, which is surprisingly effective. A doc about the alleged curse on the series would have been enlightening and fun, but given the films’ track record, it isn’t surprising that no one wants to reunite for a retrospective. —Jackie McClelland