Poltergeist II and III Double Feature DVD
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Poltergeist II / Poltergeist III (Double Feature) (1988). JoBeth Williams (Actor), Craig T. Nelson (Actor), Brian Gibson (Director), Gary Sherman (Director) | Rated: PG-13 | Format: DVD. Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC. Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono). Subtitles: English, Spanish, French. Dubbed: Spanish. Region: Region 1. Number of discs: 1. As sequels go, Poltergeist II has the advantage of retaining most of the original film's cast (although the absence of the actress Dominique Dunne, a murder victim, is not explained). It's still not enough to turn this dreary outing into a passable horror movie. The terrorized Freeling family has moved from their haunted house, but the bothersome ghosties are not finished with them yet. The lame scares include a sequence built around Craig T. Nelson swallowing a demon worm from a tequila bottle and then regurgitating it. Far more frightening is the wizened face of theater legend Julian Beck, who appears as a foreboding old guy with bad news for the Freelings: "Yer all gonna die!" Poltergeist III recruits only blond cherub Heather O'Rourke (who died before the film's release) and dwarf psychic Zelda Rubinstein from the first movies. The action has shifted to a Chicago high-rise, where little Carol Anne's otherworldly gift is being studied (Tom Skerritt and Nancy Allen play the uncle and aunt she boards with). Director Gary Sherman tries to get some ideas going with mirror images, but the bargain-basement atmosphere and the limited special effects undercut the movie at every turn. I thought the original "Poltergeist" an amazing film full of great atmosphere, likeable characters, and nicely done frights. Remember the paranormal researcher pulling his face apart in the mirror? The crawling slab of steak loaded with maggots? The corpse filled pit in the backyard? The young son counting the seconds between booms of thunder and flashes of lightening? The original "Poltergeist" had thrills aplenty. And then it all fell apart. Hollywood, in its inimitably greedy style, promptly laid the groundwork for a sequel. Why not? The suits knew the dupes would line up at the box office like good little sheep, willing to shell out millions of dollars for what is essentially a rehash of the original effort. Well, "Poltergeist II" is better than your average sequel to a smash hit, but just barely. What will really feel like a stone in your shoe is the sequel to the sequel, the heap o' screeching metal and flaming wreckage that is "Poltergeist III." "Poltergeist II" reacquaints us with the hapless Freeling family several months after the nightmare depicted in the first film. Still homeless after watching their spacious, modern abode implode into thin air, Steve and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams) along with their children Robby and Carol Anne (Oliver Robins and Heather O'Rourke), now live with Diane's mother Jess far from the tainted ghost and corpse filled suburbs. Steve now sells vacuum cleaners for a living instead of real estate, and the couple spends most of their time fighting with the insurance company over compensation for the disappearing house. Grandma Jess likes the idea of the family staying with her even as she notices Carol Anne's amazing clairvoyant powers. When Grams dies in her sleep, the nightmare begins anew as the poltergeists from the first movie track down Carol Anne. The spirits seek to find a way to the "light" (don't we all?), and won't rest until they get their way. Meanwhile, psychic investigator Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) and an Indian shaman named Taylor (Will Sampson) investigate the site of the Freeling's destroyed home. It turns out that a religious zealot named Kane brought a bunch of followers out to California in the 19th century and promptly killed them in the name of utopian glory. It is the ghosts of Kane and his followers who seek the attentions of Carol Anne, with Kane himself turning up in the flesh to torment the Freelings. "Poltergeist III"...Carol Anne (once again played by the indomitable Heather O'Rourke) turns up in a Chicago high rise where she lives with her Uncle Bruce (Tom Skerritt), her Aunt Pat (Nancy Allen), and her obnoxious cousin Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle doing her best to look like Winona Ryder). Zelda Rubinstein reprises her role as the psychic Tangina for a third time. Sure enough, weird things start happening when a nerdy school counselor hypnotizes Carol Anne and opens a doorway through which the dauntless Kane returns. That's about all that happens in this schlockfest, although director Gary Sherman tricks up this installment with lots of dry ice and mirrors. Fans of the original movie will appreciate the reappearance of Craig Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Oliver Robins, and Heather O'Rourke in the second entry. I always thought some of the charm of the original came from the slightly bawdy antics and great chemistry of this cast. Nelson and Williams in particular have great presence onscreen, and truly do come off as a married couple just trying to raise their family in peace. Will Sampson's often humorous Taylor character is greatly appreciated, as is the downright sinister Julian Beck as the evil Reverend Kane. Beck's emaciated appearance and creepy accent do much to elevate this sequel from the realm of mediocrity. As for the spooky paranormal encounters, Nelson coughs up a mutated tequila worm, Robins battles his braces in the bathroom, and Williams shrieks her way through a couple more corpse scenes. Overall, "Poltergeist II" is good. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about "Poltergeist III." Nancy Allen and Tom Skerritt have the all the allure of speed bumps, Boyle grates as a giggling teenybopper airhead, O'Rourke is wooden as Carol Anne, and Rubinstein's hammy performance attains epic proportions. The effects are acceptable, but the dialogue is clumsy and the pacing slow. What really killed the movie for me were the late 1980's fashion styles seen throughout the film. Thanks (I think) to MGM for releasing these films in their praiseworthy double feature collection. As usual, the only extras for both films are a trailer and scene selection menu. The disc presents both films in widescreen formats with excellent picture transfers. Two actresses associated with the "Poltergeist" franchise, Dominique Dunne and Heather O'Rourke, have since died. Dunne's boyfriend murdered her after the first film and O'Rourke died during surgery. If you have seen the first film, you will probably want to watch these two as well. 0-7928-5747-X
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