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Poltergeist II: The Other Side (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 25, 2011 by  



While the sequels to “Poltergeist” would never be as good as the first film, the sequel does have its share of a few creep scenes.  If you are a big fan of the film series and this film, for its price and the upgrade in picture and audio quality, “Poltergeist II: The Other Side” may be worth checking out.

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Images courtesy of © 1986 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Poltergeist II: The Other Side

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1986

DURATION: 90 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 DTS, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

RATED: PG-13

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2011

Directed by Brian Gibson

Written by Michael Grais and Mark Victor

Producer: Michael Grais, Mark Victor

Executive Producer: Freddie Fields

Associate Producer: Lynn Arost

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Cinematography by Andrew Laszlo

Edited by Thom Noble, Bud S. Smith

Casting by Joseph D’Agosta, Monica Swann

Production Design: Ted Haworth

Set Decoration: George R. Nelson

Costume Design by April Ferry

Starring:

JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling

Craig T. Nelson as Steve Freeling

Heather O’Rourke as Carole Anne Freeling

Oliver Robbins as Robbie Freeling

Zelda Rubenstein as Tangina Barrons

Will Sampson as Taylor

Julian Beck as Kane

Geraldine Fitzgerald as Grandma Jess

In this thrilling follow-up to the smash hit Poltergeist, the Freeling family settles into a new home following the annihilation of their former residence by terrifying visitors from the netherworld.  But the spirits of the dead are still hell-bent on luring the family’s clairvoyant daughter Carol Anne to “The other side”.

In 1982, the Steven Spielberg produced film “Poltergeist” became a major hit in the box office.  Featuring a budget of $10 million, the film went on to make over $121 million in the box office.

Needless to say, because of the success of the first film, chances for a sequel was high and sure enough, in 1986, the sequel “Poltergeist II: The Other Side” was released in theaters and featured director Brian Gibson (“Still Crazy”, “The Juror”) and a screenplay by Michael Grais  and Mark Victor (both worked on “Cool World”, “Poltergeist”, “Marked for Death”).

While the film didn’t gross as much as the first (took in $40 million at the box office), nor was it as spectacular as the first film, “Poltergeist II: The Otherside” did mark the return of the Freeling family and the appearance by JoBeth Williams, m Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke and Oliver Robbins would be their final film to showcase the Freeling family together.

“Poltergeist II: The Other Side” takes place right after the Freeling home was destroyed and swallowed up by the poltergeist entity.  As the Freeling family moved and have taken residence at Diane’s (played by JoBeth Williams) mother’s home, Steve tries to make ends meet by selling vacuums, while Dianne struggles to get insurance to pay for their home as their home is classified as “missing”.

During their stay at Grandma Jess’s home, Jess see’s that Carole Anne (played by Heather O’Rourke, “Happy Days”) has a special ability.  To know things without looking, an ability that runs in the family and ability that Grandma Jess also has.

Meanwhile, an Indian named Taylor (played by Will Sampson, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”), who is known to use his skills to help families defend themselves against the paranormal, is contacted by Tangina Barrons (played by Zelda Rubenstein, “Pickett Fences”, “Anguish”) to visit the site of where the Freeling’s once lived and what Taylor discovers are the skeletal remains of a group of individuals.   While it is obvious to Taylor and Tangina that the bones have a connection to the Freeling’s poltergeist, the question is why are they after Carol Anne?

As Carol Anne  is shopping with her mother and brother Robbie (played by Oliver Robbins), she gets lost and while trying to find her family, she sees a creepy old man walking towards her and people walking through it.  As she runs, the old man known as Kane (played by Julian Beck) catches up to her.  Fortunately, her mother and brother find her and are able to take her and bring her home.

While staying at Grandma Jess’ home, we see Carole Anne walking towards her grandma’s bedroom one night and kisses her.  She receives a call on her toy phone and it’s her grandma telling her to be a good girl.  By the time the kids wake up, everyone finds out that Jess has passed away.

But that night, as the family are asleep, clouds start rushing towards Jess’ house and immediately, toys start activating inside the children’s bedroom and the house begins to shake.  When both Steve and Diane go to check on the children, Carol Anne tells her family “They’re Back!”.

As the family leave the home, they decide if they should move around in order to stop whatever it is from going after the family.  When they go back to their car, they are confronted by Taylor who tells them that he wants to help them with their problem.  Skeptical at first, Steve doesn’t trust him, but because Carol Anne does, Dianne wants to give Taylor a try.

Meanwhile as Taylor goes to prep the house from evil forces, Dianne starts to have visions of people suffering.  And one day, the old man Kane returns and wants to enter the house.  Steve won’t allow it and Kane warns them that they will all die.  Taylor tells him that the man is the beast that is causing the problems and that they are after Carol Anne.

To confirm everything as true, Tangina comes to visit the family and brings photos of Kane and a group of people and tells the story that Kane tried to prophesize the doom of humanity and had himself and his followers staying inside a cave that was covered up.  The end of humanity did not happen but Kane refused for the people to escape and all died under the cave.

Now, Kane and the people who died want Carol Anne in order to break the love that she brings to her family.   Because she is highly clairovoyant and is a pure, loving daughter, the souls of the dead want to break her and bring misery to the Freeling family.

Can the Freeling’s survive the poltergeist attack by the evil Kane?

VIDEO:

“Poltergeist II: The Other Side” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1).  Having owned the DVD and VHS of this film previously, I can easily say that this is the best version of the film to date.  While the beginning portion when Taylor is undergoing a ceremony does show a lighter shade of black during a special effects moment, for the most part, the film does maintain its grain and the colors are vibrant.

Typically, I don’t look at ’80s films to have the best picture quality on Blu-ray as some look soft or looks its age due to lower stock of film being used, but for the most part, “Poltergeist II: The Other Side” does look better on Blu-ray than any previous version on video and if you enjoyed the film, the Blu-ray may be worth the upgrade.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Poltergeist II: The Other Side” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 DTS and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Surprisingly, the film sounded very good via lossless.  Dialogue is crystal clear but it was interesting to hear the surround sound being used when Carol Anne and her mother are in another dimension and seeing the panning of the sound from left to right and right to left.  A lot of the action sequences are also utilized on the surround channels, so that was great to hear.

Granted, the film is not the most immersive soundtrack but considering that I have watched this film many times before, it probably was the first time that I took notice of the soundtrack and how sound was used, especially via lossless.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Poltergeist II: The Other Side” comes with the original theatrical trailer.

I actually watched this film twice in the box office, not because I loved the sequel but I was a big fan of the first film, which I probably have watched dozens of times.

For me, while the ending felt rushed and quite kitsch, I did enjoy the return of the Freeling family and felt that Kane (played by Julian Beck) was one of the creepiest villains that was not in an R-rated horror film.  I was a teenager at the time but each scene with Kane really freaked me out.

Watching this film 25-years-later, I felt I am a bit more critical to the writing of the film.  Granted, we know that MGM wanted to have a sequel and ride on the coattails of the first film, but what made “Poltergeist” so successful was that you had Steven Spielberg producing, writing and having involvement in the first film.  If anything, watching the sequel now… while some of the film did work, a lot of it didn’t.  Heather O’Rourke is cute as a button and her character as Carole Anne is a memorable character, but somehow the writing for the characters of Diane and Steve Freeling felt a bit off.  The “whole family” of the mother’s side are clairvoyant felt forced and then Robbie was hardly utilized.

The screenplay felt rushed and the film especially its kitsch ending suffered from it.

But still, “Poltergeist II: The Other Side” is not terrible (watch the third film to understand how the writing went downhill) but it was not as effective as the first and that was unfortunate.  Yet, I do feel that “Poltergeist” and “Poltergeist II: The Other Side” are like book ends, if you enjoyed the first, watch the second film to know why the poltergeist targeted Carol Anne.

Overall, “Poltergeist II: The Otherside” is the best version of the film-to-date when it comes to video releases.  The lossless audio and the better picture quality is much better and while it’s literally a barebone Blu-ray release, it all comes down to how much one enjoys the film.  And if you intend to collect all the films on Blu-ray and because it is a cheaper Blu-ray, it’s not going to break the bank.

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