'Poltergeist II: The Other Side' [Blu-ray]
(Craig T. Nelson, Will Sampson, Oliver Robins, et al / Blu ray / PG-13 / (1986) 2011 / MGM)
Overview: "They're back?" The now-penniless Freeling family-Diane (JoBeth Williams), Steve (Craig T. Nelson), Carol Anne (Heather O'Rouke) and Robbie (Oliver Robbins) - flee after their Cuesta Verde tract house is obliterated by poltergeists and take refuge with Gramma Jess (Geraldine Fitzgerald). But even here, peace is not to be found.
Blu ray Verdict: In truth, and by any stretch of the imagination, POLTERGEIST (released in the summer of 1982) was one of the few horror films released in the Eighties that had any business being referred to as a masterpiece of its genre. Putting a typical middle-class California family into a situation of supernatural horrors, POLTERGEIST scared up a ton of business.
So it's not too surprising that it should have spawned a sequel, given that it had such an ambiguous ending. But POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE, despite retaining a good deal of the original movie's best elements, is one of what I like to call Frustrating Horror Sequels--films that you hope are going to succeed on their own merits, but instead end up not only falling short on that count but standing in the shadows of their predecessors in the bargain.
Once again, Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Oliver Robins, and Heather O'Rourke (Dominique Dunne, who played the oldest daughter, was strangled to death not long after the release of the first movie) are the main attractions. They believe they've left their ghostly past in Cuesta Verde behind them, but that turns out not to be the case by a long shot.
Their former residence had apparently been built over a massive Indian graveyard, so the ghosts that will haunt them now, and once more go after their daughter (O'Rourke), are of the Native American kind, including the ominous Reverend Kane (Julian Beck, a fairly chilling performance). But they too have their savior in Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein), and a second savior in the guise of a wise Indian mystic (Will Sampson, from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST). They all go back to Cuesta Verde to confront Kane and his ghostly minions.
As mentioned before, what makes POLTERGEIST II work as well as it does are the performances by the four leads. They make for the most sympathetic family unit possible. Rubinstein's return is most welcome, and Sampson's presence is extremely admirable. So too are the superb special effects by Richard Edlund (though the make-up effects are a bit more gruesome this time around, mandating a PG-13 rating) and Jerry Goldsmith's score. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.