Phew, made it to October! It’s the one month of the year I can get away with watching a horror or Halloween-themed movie every day. I mean, I could do so year-round (I certainly knocked out a bunch over the Red Hot Covid Summer thanks to furloughs, Shudder and Joe Bob Briggs, but I digress) but I’m not some kinda horror obsessed weirdo!
Anyhoo, a few of us horror obsessed weirdos here at Last Movie Outpost are doing a sort of Halloween treat for you this month, with scary movie reviews and retrospectives, behind the scenes and other goodies that’ll rot your mind instead of your teeth! It’s called HALLOW FEST, and it’s all month long (for better or worse).
For my part, I’ve put together my annual list (subject to change, but I’ve mostly followed it every year since 2014) of 31 features to watch this month. There’s a lot of double features this year so my buds and I can watch them together without having to travel every night (getting old bites the big one, lemme tell ya).
So already there’s an inherent flaw… I don’t have anything to review today! Luckily, I do have a Fire Stick and several unnecessary streaming subscriptions.
Prime Video actually has an ass of horror flicks to choose from, but seeing as I’ve never watched Poltergeist II: The Other Side despite repeatedly enjoying the original, let’s give it a roll!
So the opening shot is equal parts The Shining and Karate Kid, with the Freleng family driving west through what appears to be Monument Valley. Atop an absurdly high steppe, we encounter a pair of native Americans doing some spooky Hollywood mystical crap involving the Ark ghosts from Raiders. The fellow with the drum looks like Indian Dick Miller.
Meanwhile, in the ghost town which is now Cuesta Verde from the first Poltergeist, the diminutive psychic Tangina “This House is Clean” Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) investigates a system of what appears to be catacombs beneath the site where the Freleng house once stood.
Meanwhile meanwhile, the Frelengs have moved in with JoBeth William’s elderly mother after the horrors of Cuesta Verde, and Gramma discovers youngest daughter Carol Ann (wasn’t there an older daughter? Guess she ran off with one of the workmen from the first movie) has psychic powers, which I suppose isn’t too much of a stretch. Gramma reveals she has them too, and then kicks the bucket two scenes later, preceeding an effective scene where her spirit reaches out to Carol Ann on her toy phone.
Craig T. Nelson is back as the patriarch of the Frelengs… and I don’t remember his name. Let’s say Friz. Friz is sporting an impressive balding mullet, which disappears about the same time Gramma does. We’re getting away from the plot, I’m afraid.
Anyway, since this is a Poltergeist movie, spooky scary crap starts happening, and this creepy f*cker starts creepily creeping on Carol Ann:
The Reverend Carol Kane- He’s apparently a man of God, and he must have a glorified body because extras can walk right through him! It was pretty cool how he was semi-transparent throughout his introductory scene.
Very shortly after another poltergeist attack, the medicine man from the beginning shows up at the Freleng’s doorstep and introduces himself as Swift Taylor, exhorting them to stay at the house and fight against the Evil that is laying siege. T-Swift stays with the family to prepare them for spiritual battle. Friz drinks tequila and is generally useless.
“Killer” Kane pays a visit to the Frelengs and repeatedly asks to be invited inside, but Friz finally refuses, thwarting the evil evangelist’s plans until a couple of scenes later, where he shows up in their house anyway, when, in a very Freddy Krueger-esque sequence, he causes the son’s (admittedly much-needed… gah) braces to sprout a thousand additional metal wires to attack the family.
Mom and Pop Freleng then both embark on a pair of Vision Quests, Friz’s with the help of Tay Tay and his sweat lodge and some hallucinogens, and JoBeth’s courtesy of Tangina and some Jack Daniels (the Frelengs have got to be alkies… is this all a metaphor for alcoholism/addiction?).
JoBeth has an expository vision wherein the devilish Rev. Kane leads his 1800s-era flock to their doom, under threat of his Jay Doubleyou-style prophecies of impending armageddon. Buried alive in the caves beneath what would one day become the Cuatro Verde housing development.
Taylor Swift takes off, but not before hocking a phantasmagorical loog into Friz’s mouth, who then proceeds to imbibe prodigious amounts of tequila (again with the alcoholism), ostensibly to wash out the taste of ectoplasm. He even swallows the worm, which gets a glamour close-up, looking for all the world like one of the Guild Navigators from David Lynch’s Dune.
The movie pulls an Amityville/Shining mashup and Daddy Friz gets possessed by the spectral sermonizer and proceeds to get rapey with JoBeth. But like Voldemort and the Black Death of the Kali-Ma, evil possession is thwarted by the power of love, as his wife’s repeated declarations thereof exorcize Kane’s spirit, resulting in…
Things get Cronenberg real quick, as the preacher-caterpillar-beast vomits forth and proceeds to slime his way throughout the house, bringing in a whole congregation of haints to terrorize the family. There’s zombies by way of vacuum-cleaner hoses, flying tentacled Harryhausens, even some good ol’ Telekinetic Chainsaw Fu!
The Frelengs then decide they have to go back to Cinco de Cuatro and confront Kane and his minions as a family… again, except for older sis, whom everyone’s apparently forgotten about. Tangina’s waiting for them there, they head down to the catacombs and we repeat the climax from the first movie, except now the whole fam gets sucked through to the
Mutara Nebula the Other Side.
Luckily, T-Swizzle is standing by to do his shaman thing, bringing back Gramma’s spirit to save them at the last moment from Kane, and everybody winds up back to reality. Tay requests and is given the family’s car as payment, leaving them stranded in the abandoned housing development.
So. Poltergeist II: The Other Side. As I mentioned, this is my first time seeing it, after years of having it built up by friends who saw it as kids. I gotta say, nostalgia is a helluva drug. The direction of Tobe Hooper and the magic of Spielberg are sorely missed, I’m afraid, but the big hit this movie takes is in its tone.
The first Poltergeist told a relatively simple story of a family terrorized by the unquiet dwellers of the cemetery their house was built upon. This one goes nuts with the mythology, creating an unnecessarily complicated backstory and giving the little girl psychic powers. That, coupled with the magical Native American mumbo-jumbo, gives this whole picture an Exorcist II vibe. Not that Poltergeist II is quite that bad— there are a number of effective scares, and the special effects (when not directly ripping off Raiders of the Lost Ark) are definitely impressive for the time.
It’s worth a watch if you’ve got 90 minutes and some tequila.