Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

Yeah, I get it, the original Poltergeist is incredible and the real enemy is the greed of the Reagan 80s, but that movie has real skeletons in a swimming pool and this one has H.R. Giger-designed monsters and a villain in Rev. Henry Kane that still frightens me because he could be real — well, you know, before he became a ghost — as he led his entire apocalyptic cult into a cave and sealed them inside to die at his side rather than face his end times prophecy being incorrect.

Supposedly, the first time Heather O’Rourke saw Kane, she burst into tears.

Whether he’s singing “God is in His Holy Temple! Earthly thoughts be silent now!” or screaming at an entire horrified family “You’re gonna die in there! All of you! YOU ARE GONNA DIE!” Kane is everything perfect and awesome and unholy about horror movie villains all wrapped up in the sinister form of a preacher. He was played by Julian Beck, the co-founder and director of The Living Theatre, which seems to be pretty highbrow origins for a scary movie bad guy. Then again, he was influenced by Antonin Artaud and the Theatre of Cruelty, much like Lucio Fulci. Sadly, Beck died of stomach cancer before this movie even came out; his real life persona was not a holy man, as he was charged dozen times on three continents for crimes including disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, possession of narcotics and failing to participate in a civil defense drill.

The Freelings family are all back — Diane (Jo Beth Williams), Steve (Craig T. Nelson), Robbie (Oliver Robbins) and Carol Anne (O’Rourke) — except for their daughter Dana, as sadly Dominique Dunne was murdered shortly after the first movie played theaters. It’s said that she is away at college.

Kane comes into the story when it turns out that Carol Anne is one of the few living beings who has been to the world of the dead and came back. Kane wants to use her to come into our world, where he can show up for limited periods, doing absolutely terrifying things* such as calling people on toy phones and making Steve throw up a gigantic worm, which is played by Noble Craig, a Vietnam vet who lost lose both of his legs, his right arm and most of the sight in his right eye. He turned that horrible moment in his life into the ability to become a living and breathing special effect in Sssssss, the remake of The BlobBride of the Re-AnimatorA Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Big Trouble In Little China.

Luckily, they have some help this time from Will Sampson from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as a magical Native American, a returning Zelda Rubenstein as Tangina Barrons and Geraldine Fitzgerald as the recently passed Grandma Jess.

As for that supposed curse, well, Sampson also died from open heart surgery not long after this movie. Supposedly, he came in late at night and did an exorcism on the set after some film was ruined.

We can agree or disagree on that film legend, but nobody at all debates who made this one: Brian Gibson.

This movie by all rights should be horrible, but I can watch it again and again. It just hits the right notes and has one of the ultimate in horror film villains. If you haven’t seen it, don’t let the number after the name hold you back.

*He also sings “Leaning on Jesus,” the same song Robert Mitchum sings in The Night of the Hunter.

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