Release Date(s)1986 (January 31, 2017)
Studio(s)MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A-
Poltergeist II: The Other Side was released five years after the original film to a less enthusiastic response than expected. Directed by Brian Gibson, who had previously helmed Breaking Glass and later What’s Love Got to Do with It, the movie picks up directly after the events of the first. The Freelings are now living with Diane’s mother, when strange things occur again during an excavation of the plot where their former home once stood. A creepy old preacher named Kane takes an interest in Carol Anne, while Diane begins to feel a tinge of clairvoyance. Soon enough, the so-called malevolent spirits are back for Carol Anne and the Freelings become desperate to end their living nightmare once and for all.
Poltergiest II has never been a film that I’ve fully appreciated before. In all fairness, it’s likely that a satisfying follow up to original was always going to be a tall order. That first film was so well-received by audiences, and entered popular culture in such an unexpected way, that a sequel was never going to live up to those expectations. Still, Poltergeist II certainly has some things going for it that make it worth the effort. Most fans cite Kane as a particularly memorable character, and he indeed is creepy. Unfortunately, the actor playing him had cancer at the time of filming and died before the production was complete, making his performance all the more haunting. Dominique Dunne’s character from the first film was also written out after her murder in 1982. Otherwise, the entire cast returns, including Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina. New to the cast is Will Sampson as Taylor, a Native American shaman who is sent by Tangina to help the Freelings in their time of need.
One of the main draws with this movie are its special effects. They’re some of the best from the era, all based upon conceptual designs by H.R. Giger. Other notable names in the art and special effects department included Steve Johnson and Screaming Mad George, who worked for Richard Edlund’s company Boss Film Studios at the time. They produced memorable special effects for several other films throughout the 1980s. Here, the vomit monster in its various stages, as well as the giant beast at the end of the movie, are all fantastic and well-executed. Unfortunately, the story itself just isn’t as captivating. There are too many long stretches of time in between those familiar ghostly moments that the series is famous for.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation of Poltergeist II is sourced from a new 2K scan of the film’s interpositive element. The results are quite pleasing, as it’s a very natural and organic-looking transfer with solid grain levels and terrific depth. Detail is abundant, in both close-ups and wide shots. Color reproduction is beautiful, with terrific skin tones, but it must be mentioned that the color grading of the scene when the family is in the void has been changed (it might be more accurate to the original theatrical exhibition, I don’t know). Contrast and brightness levels are satisfactory. The blacks can be deep, with excellent shadow detailing, although a tad bit of crush is evident. Overall, it’s a stable and damage-free presentation. Compared to the previous MGM Blu-ray release, it also has more information along the edges of the frame. Audio options include English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD mixes. The 5.1 track is fairly immersive, with clean dialogue levels, a strong score, and robust sound effects in the surrounding speakers. It’s also very clean, with no hiss, dropouts, or other issues. The film definitely sounds its age, but the audio comes through effectively with excellent dynamics and deep bass activity. The 2.0 track also offers up a solid stereo experience in the same vein. Subtitles are also included in English SDH. On the whole, this is a surprisingly wonderful presentation.
There’s also a wealth of extras worth digging through here, both old and new. The new includes an audio commentary with writer/producer Michael Grais; another audio commentary with Poltergeist II webmaster David Furtney; Robbie’s Return, an interview with Oliver Robins; The Spirit World, an interview with special effects designers Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson, and Screaming Mad George; and Ghosts of Giger, a featurette about the contributions of artist H.R. Giger, including an interview with friend and agent Les Barany. Carried over from past releases is a set of brief featurettes (They're Back: The Making of Poltergeist II, Monster Shop, and Ghost Makers: The Magic of Poltergeist II); the original theatrical trailer; a set of 4 TV spots; a still gallery; and the film’s script in slideshow form.
Poltergiest II: The Other Side might not have done well at the box office, and wasn’t well-received critically, but there are moments in the movie that really stand out. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation is guaranteed to bring the film into a new light, especially for those fans who may have overlooked or dismissed it before. A fantastic video presentation and a bounty of extras make this a Blu-ray release worthy of your time and money.
- Tim Salmons