Sunday, October 2, 2011

Poltergeist II and III

By Craig T. Nelson's #1 Fan, Alan Trehern

Well, it's been a long time coming, but with the beginning of the new month , I want to start things with that long-awaited (who's been waiting?) review of the Poltergeist series.  Not only that, but is proud to present the Spooktacular Shocktober Big Horror Movie Scare-A-Thon! A month filled with Trehern (and some friends) and his love for horror movies!  Movies he's never seen!  Movies he'll probably lose sleep over!  The guy can barely handle a kindergartner's ghost story!  All packed into one vivaciously frightening month!

But enough about Trehern and his themed months.  To build on the mythos already started by the NJNM Podcast with Poltergeist, here are Trehern's thoughts on the sequels to one of the best ghost movies he's ever seen.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
Directed by Brian Gibson
Starring JoBeth Williams, Zelda Rubinstein, Heather O'Rourke and the Incomparable Craig T. Nelson

Picking up exactly where the previous film left off, the Freeling family have fled to the sanctuary of Diane's mother's house up in the country.  The entire family (sans the teenage daughter) is back, and seemingly safe from whatever spirits had haunted their now inter-dimensional house. (NOTE: Sounds like an awesome HGTV show: InterDimensional House Hunters).

Well, little do they know that good ole Tangina and American Indian wise-man Taylor are poking around the Freeling swimming pool in an attempt to explain why there is so much ghoulish energy 'round these parts.  Apparently, a possessed priest from the 1800s had started a cult that group suicided on the site of the Freeling home; which is a great icebreaker topic at the housewarming party...
Host: Hello, everyone!  Before we get to the Scene It: Seinfeld Edition game, let me remind you all that a satanical minister murdered his followers not thirty feet below where we are.  It is said this place is haunted, wooooO!  Now please, enjoy the pigs 'n a blanket.
The acting was a little hit or miss in this version, with Nelson playing the still-cynical and still-doubting father of the always charming O'Rourke, who reprises her role as Carol Anne.  I mean seriously, dude, after everything that happened in the first movie, you still doubt everything everyone is going to tell you about ghosts?  Puh-lease.  Although, the most disturbing part of the film involves a possessed Nelson accusing Diane of thinking of abortion when she was pregnant with Carol Anne.  I was really close to fast-forwarding it was so hard to watch, but then Nelson threw up a large demonic tequila worm, and we were back on track!
Dreams, prepare to be molested!

Overall, this was a pretty good addendum to the first film.  I enjoyed learning a little more about the meaning of what happened in the first Poltergeist, but other than that, it was fairly similar to its predecessor.  If you REALLY enjoyed the first installment, like I did, you can either check this out, or just stick with having just watched the first film.  Whatever works.
Poltergeist III (1988)
Directed by Gary Sherman
Starring Heather O'Rourke, Tom Skerritt and Nancy Allen

This third try at the franchise had its ups and downs.  Especially the scene with the elevators! Folks, I'll be here all month...  I was also getting pretty depressed, because it was during the filming of this film that O'Rourke passed away.  Her cheeks and face were partially swollen because of the medicine she was taking in real life, and you can notice it in the film.  But O'Rourke never complained while filming, and she really was great in this version.  May she rest in peace.

In this storyline, Carol Anne is dumped off in Chicago with her aunt and uncle (thanks alot, Craig T. Nelson!).  The new family gets along well enough, and it's actually heart-warming to see how her uncle really does love Carol Anne, even though they aren't blood related.  It's the aunt that doesn't like her, cause she thinks that side of her family is nuts!  Laura Flynn Boyle stars as Carol Anne's step-cousin (?), is that a thing?  Anyway, Boyle looked almost exactly like Jean Louisa Kelly (rawr!) in Uncle Buck, with John Candy.  So if you dug that particular character, you might enjoy Polt3.

Now, the movie itself is pretty terrible.  You never really know what is going on for most of the runtime.  And you think there's going to be another epic showdown with that demonic minister that keeps following Carol Anne around, but the writers dick around with so much other stuff in the film, that by the end of it, you're just like, "Hey, why are we here again?"  And nothing happens.
Trying to start a city-wide wave...

I like the idea they had at the beginning: big skyscraper in the city, lots of people, and now it's haunted.  It had a Ghostbusters feel to it, and I dug it.  Until it just fell the f*ck apart.  It's like the writers hadn't even watched Poltergeist II, and with the absence of O'Rourke for most of the film, the audience's unattached relation to these new characters made the events of this flick fairly boring.  Just because it looks cool when people fall in and out of the mirror world, doesn't mean you should do it in every scene and not explain why, how and who's who!  The makers of Polt3 were paving the way of Cameron and Avatar: so many special effects but just an empty story. Definitely skip this one.

I was really looking forward to checking out the rest of the Poltergeist franchise, but watching them made me realize how innovative and entertaining the first one was.  Although they were kind of fun to watch once, I don't think I'll be checking them out again anytime soon.  A viewing of the original, however, might become a yearly tradition; you know, the time of year when Craig T. Nelson comes over for a couple of homemade hero sandwiches and a Coach marathon.  

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