Top positive review
15 people found this helpful
Different but not bad
on September 7, 2000
The original Poltergeist is a legendary horror film. Directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), written and produced by Steven Spielberg (E.T., Jaws), a 1982 box office hit that brought horror to a "family" audience with skilled writing, sensitive acting and dazzling special effects...it was touching, flashy, terrifying and sometimes gruesome (i.e., the researcher who ripped his face off in a bloody mess, Carol Ann and her mom covered in after-birth when they return from the other side...etc.), pushing the limits of it's PG rating. The 1986 sequel, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, seemed less ambitious...nearly a half-hour shorter in length than the original, it felt a little rushed, as if it didn't want to take it's time to savor each scene, and relied on a few "flashback sequences" (which I always find distracting, not helpful). Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper did not return for the sequel, but the original's co-writers and co-producers did, as well as the entire ensemble cast (with the exception of Dominique Dunne, who died after the first film's release; as a result, the character of oldest daughter Dana is not present here and there is no explanation offered...another frustration). With all of that aside, Poltergeist II was a good film...the filmmakers obviously tried to recapture that "family" feeling once again (sometimes a little forced)...yet it seemed a little darker as well...issues of spirituality were more indepth, there was a near-rape of the JoBeth Williams character, and a hideous monster named the Vomit Creature which (be forewarned) will cause a serious gag reflex in the viewer upon it's entrance into the story. The acting again was very good across the board...the Native American aspect gave an added (and needed) influence to the story, and it was fascinating to actually "see" the Other Side (often talked about in the first film but never before seen).
In 1988, Poltergeist III was released. On the whole, it was ill-received by critics and moviegoers alike...and I think I know why. Everyone was expecting the flashy post-produced apparitions of the first two films...seamless animation and elaborate lighting effects...but that's not what this film was about. Poltergeist III took a deliberately different approach...everything you see on screen was filmed that way...there are virtually no post-production effects...this one was all optical illusions, mind-tricks, things aren't always what they seem...that sort of thing. And I just don't think people understood it...just because you don't "see" a ghost flying around doesn't mean there isn't one there, this time the poltergeist (the evil Reverend Kane) hid in mirrors and distorted images...played with people's minds and emotions, tricked them into seeing things that weren't really there...I found it clever then, and I find it clever now. This film is totally misunderstood...yes, the dialogue is stale, but only at times...and yes, the movie ended abruptly (only because actress Heather O'Rourke died during production and they had to find a way to wrap the film up as logically as possible). But O'Rourke and Zelda Rubinstein both return for the final film in the trilogy...and they are both wonderful...Heather is more mature and we were starting to see Carol Anne grow into an interesting young woman, and Zelda obviously enjoys the role of Tangina (the best character in the whole series if you ask me)...the part is larger here than the first two films (another plus), and she has some marvelous lines (making up for some of the bad ones) that she delivers with relish making her scenes the best in the film. The Evil Kane is portrayed by a different actor in this one, so they keep him in the background considerably (hoping that we don't notice?) which turns out for the best, the character is less human that way and comes across as an ominous tease floating through reflections in mirrors and water... The writing seems to cover all the bases, making references to characters who aren't present, and incorporating a clever scene where Carol Anne is being hypnotized by her therapist, recalling some of the terrifying events of the first film without actually using a "flashback" sequence...a nice touch. Also welcome is the new setting...a haunted highrise in the middle of Chicago is the farthest thing from suburbia (the locations of Poltergeist I and II), obviously another intentional devise to distance this installment from the other two films and, in a sense, tell it's own story. Poltergeist III plays more like a supernatural thriller of cat and mouse...with a psychological edge, incorporating illusion and mind games. Where the first two films were effectively flashy and loud, this one is effectively restrained and quiet...different but NOT bad. And sadly misunderstood...
Other people have called this a guilty pleasure...there's no guilt here, I truly enjoyed and continue to enjoy this film. I recommend it for only those fans of the first two movies in the series who have an open mind to a different type of ghost story.