Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - POLTERGEIST II and III on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Scream Factory - POLTERGEIST II and III on Blu-ray

I have a complicated relationship with the POLTERGEIST films, especially the first one. It's one of those childhood trauma situations wherein in I was scarred by it as a youngster, but ultimately it may have fed into my overall love of horror to this day. My first experience with POLTERGEIST happened during a birthday gathering that I was having with some friends at my house. I cannot recall the exact date, but it was the eve of the premiere of POLTERGEIST on broadcast television. It's not made into such a grand affair these days, but back in the 80s (said the old man), the major networks like ABC and NBC would make a HUGE deal about the first showing of a big movie like that on TV. The group of kids I had over were just hanging out, doing random birthday stuff, but we noticed that POLTERGEIST was on and many of them (including me) were drawn into watching it. It's hard for us to now imagine a time when we couldn't call up POLTERGEIST anytime we wanted to watch it, but that certainly wasn't the case back then. So I found myself doing the thing I would often do to deal with being scared, which was that I would leave the room when things got a little too intense for me. Needless to say, POLTERGEIST freaked me out (primarily due to the scene where the guy rips his own face off and a few others). On top of that, at a certain point I dragged a whole bunch of my friends away from the TV to go outside and play a little game we used to love called "Ghost in the Graveyard". During said game, we began to hear a mysterious whistling across a long vacant lot near my house. We thought for sure that it was a friend of ours playing a prank on us, but when we realized it wasn't we all high-tailed it into the house out of sheer panic - our adrenaline levels through the roof. Anyway, sorry for the long run up to POLTERGEIST II, but as a result of that night, I not only didn't watch the first POLTERGEIST again for many years, but I also put off seeing the sequel. I got to it at some point, but all I could ever remember from it was the uber-creepy tequila worm sequence and little else. I even conflated the two films for a period because the main cast returned for part two and mis-remembered the tequila worm scene as coming from the first movie. One thing I enjoy about this sequel is that basically all of the major cast members return and so we do feel the continuity of story in terms of what happens to the Freelings after their fantastic and terrifying experiences in the first film. I do enjoy seeing the always underrated JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O'Rourke and Zelda Rubinstein back in their original roles. Most memorably though, POLTERGEIST II introduces the character of Reverend Kane (played here by Julian Beck) - a very haunting an unforgettable creepy villain. Kane reminds me a bit of Angus Scrimm's 'The Tall Man' character from PHANTASM, but a little less gruff (if equally eerie and threatening). The scene where Kane is introduced and we see people passing through his ghostly form sticks with you when you see the film. And when he sings a little song to Carol Anne it is quite ghoulish and menacing. Julian Beck is a striking presence and would sadly pass away well  before this movie was even released to theaters (they used another actor to portray Kane in POLTERGEIST III). He's actually a highly fascinating character and one I recommend reading about. That said, he does a good job here as a perfectly macabre demon of a man that does his best to relentlessly stalk the Carol Anne and her family. He is formidable to be sure and finds many ways to infiltrate and divide the Freelings. Basically, POLTERGEIST II is more of a straight boogey-man movie than the first film and though it has less wonder to it to go along with the scares, it is nonetheless effective and the academy award nominated special effects are solid. The film has several sequences that stand out and that horror fans will get a kick out of.

Special Features:
-NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
-NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Producer Michael Grais
-NEW Audio Commentary With Poltergeist II Webmaster David Furtney
-NEW Robbie's Return – An Interview With Oliver Robins
-NEW The Spirit World – An Interview With Special Effects Designers Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson And Screaming Mad George
-NEW Ghosts Of Giger – A Look At The Contributions Of Artist H.R. Giger Featuring Rare Photos And Illustrations And An Interview With Giger's Friend And Agent Les Barany And Special Effects --Designer Steve Johnson, Richard Edlund And Screaming Mad George
Vintage Featurettes: They're Back: The Making Of Poltergeist II, Monster Shop And Ghostmakers: ---The Magic Of Poltergeist II
-Theatrical Trailer
-TV Spots

Buy POLTERGEIST II on Blu-ray here:
Amazon Button (via

POLTERGEIST III (1988; Gary Sherman)
This movie is interesting to me in that I avoided it like the plague for a long time because I had heard only bad things around the time it came out. Seeing that only two of the original cast members returned for the film also worried me (and it does make the film feel like more of a standalone than a continuation, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing). I remember distinctly seeing Siskel and Ebert speak about it quite disparagingly on their show and that combined with hearing about Heather O'Rourke's unfortunate death before the film had finished post-production had soured me on it all-together. Here's that Siskel and Ebert review from back in 1988 when the film came out:
And here is their review of the original POLTERGEIST (which they weren't over the moon about either) just for some extra context:

So I really allowed myself to be put off of POLTERGEIST III because of all the bad press and I would only see it about a decade later and found myself letting the bad reviews color my view of it even then. It wasn't until the past five years or so that I finally came back to it and began to realize my affection for it. It's still difficult to see Heather O'Rourke's face looking visibly swollen (due to the illness she was battling at the time), but the craziness of the film and the fact that it pulls off some really cool and frightening practical effects has endeared it to me a great deal. I sometimes call it my favorite in the series now, which may sound like crazy to some, but I honestly prefer to watch this movie over the other entries given the choice these days. While I've seen mirrors used in horror movies forever, I feel like POLTERGEIST III takes it up a notch in terms of it's use of mirrors (and other reflective surfaces) for terrorizing purposes. Besides the effects (which I do sincerely love), I think another thing that I enjoy about it is that it takes place mostly inside a single high rise apartment complex. I love the claustrophobia of that scenario and I find that some of my favorite horror films (Carpenter's THE THING for example) have this sense of the characters not being able to easily escape that really hooks me. I also am a big fan of the film's director, Gary Sherman, who also did other films I enjoy like DEAD AND BURIED, VICE SQUAD (an amazing and crazy film you should seek out ASAP), RAW MEAT, and WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE. The cast helps for me too in that it includes Nancy Allen, Tom Skerritt (who didn't do a ton of horror), Lara Flynn Boyle and Zelda Rubinstein (returning yet again in her most famous role).
It seems like a lot more horror fans have really come around to this one, but I would recommend a rewatch (or a first watch) if you've not given it a try recently. Your mileage may vary (there are certainly some clunky things about the movie), but I have a feeling that this Scream Factory disc may help bring about a new and deserved appreciation for the film. 

Special Features:
-NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
-NEW Audio Commentary With Director Gary Sherman
-NEW Audio Commentary With Poltergeist III Webmaster David Furtney
-NEW High Spirits – An Interview With Screenwriter Brian Taggert
-NEW Reflections – An Interview With Actress Nancy Allen
-NEW Mirror Images – An Interview With Special Effects Creator John Caglione, Jr.
-Alternate Ending
-Theatrical Trailer
-TV Spots

Buy POLTERGEIST III on Blu-ray here:
Amazon Button (via

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