Poltergeist II: Other Side, The (1986)

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Released 22-Nov-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 86:58
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (47:39) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Brian Gibson
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Jobeth Williams
Craig T. Nelson
Heather O'Rourke
Oliver Robins
Julian Beck
Zelda Rubinstein
Will Sampson
Geraldine Fitzgerald
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In the revised edition of Nightmare Movies Kim Newman calls Poltergeist II "elaborately pointless". Having watched this DVD twice to confirm that the film had no latent cult appeal, Mr Newman's tidy summation stands firm, despite the superb presentation MGM has afforded this lame, back-catalogue title. With most of the original cast members reprising their roles, the stage is set for a shameless rehash of the first movie's story, in which a number of arbitrary supernatural phenomena threaten the security of a middle class all-American family.

    The prologue features two native American Indians enacting a ritual on top of a remote mesa. The tall fellow inhaling the ghostly fog as if he had a bad cold is actually good old 'Chief' (Will Sampson) from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, who escaped the asylum with some creative renovation work. It's nice to see him return to his native roots, and we know he'll figure prominently again as a dues ex machina later in the piece. Following the credit sequence, we're reintroduced to the Freeling family, who have taken up residence with Grandma. Dad Steve (Craig T. Nelson) and mum Diane (Jobeth Williams), now destitute and fighting to claim insurance money for their home, which was sucked into a vortex by Hollywood special effects, are still able to keep their spirits (ahem) up. Life is certainly different for the family. TVs are banned from the household (poor Robbie has to settle for watching them in shop windows) and dad mumbles about aiming for "downward mobility" as he struggles to make ends meet in the vacuum cleaner business – an ironic career choice given what happened to the house. Portents of trouble to come include Carol-Anne (Heather O'Rourke) sketching an evil face, Diane dreaming about zombies dragging her under the garden, Robbie being cocooned by wire from his braces, and Carol-Anne's toys coming to life. The moment when she whines "they're baaack!" is particularly frightening, but for all the wrong reasons.

    From here on the mayhem escalates as the family learn that a cult who entombed themselves beneath the burial site on Freeling's old land (!) wants Carol-Anne because she alone crossed to the 'other side', thus explaining why fresh poltergeist activity has followed the family to their new lodgings. As if things weren't bad enough, Tangina (Zelda Rubenstein), the dwarf medium from the first movie, squeaks out any exposition not adequately explained or inferred by the on-screen action. She identifies the source of it all as being a cult leader called Kane (played by the cadaverous Julian Beck). The solidity of his spiritual presence waxes and wanes as the plot demands, until finally he manifests himself as a loathsome creature designed by H. R. Giger. If Sil from Species and the Alien ever shagged and produced an offspring, it would look like this beast, which was brought to life by Steve Johnson, the man responsible for the practical amphibian effects in Magnolia. Anyway...the Freelings decide to confront the Evil Menace and drive back to its psychic epicentre, namely their old property, below which the film climaxes in a spectacular light show. It would have been great to have the big Indian smother Tangina to death with a pillow, but our nuclear family survive to live another day, and that's what matters. Although, predictably, their plan to move to a high-rise apartment unleashes an even more terrifying nightmare: Poltergeist III.

    Sultry Jobeth Williams, slumming here after her stint as an ensemble player in the critically acclaimed The Big Chill, and B-list workhorse Craig T. Nelson do their best to breath life into this sequel – without their contribution it would've been too unbearable. The special effects hold up well; my favourite bit occurs when the family is attacked in their car by a floating chainsaw. I'm sure it inspired the opening murder scene in Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, where two yuppies are sliced up in their car by Leatherface. Director Brian Gibson, a TV hack whose feature film highlight is probably 1998's Still Crazy, tries to hide the many plot contrivances beneath the film's high production values, but he ultimately fails to deliver anything beyond the "elaborately pointless" result we have on this DVD, preserved for Posterity in ones and zeros.

Packaging Errors

  1. The case promises a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound track. This is incorrect.
  2. The text "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your TV" appears beside the widescreen graphic. Being widescreen and 16x9 enhanced only, this is obviously not true.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    As it turns out, the video quality is inversely proportional to the movie quality. In other words, MGM have given Poltergeist II a brilliant transfer, 16x9 enhanced and framed at the correct 2.35:1 theatrical ratio.

    Shots of the desert during the opening credit sequence are exceedingly sharp and detailed. Right from the start it was apparent that, however dire the story was, the actual presentation was going to be breathtaking – I shall never tire of seeing older movies restored digitally to this degree. Surface textures and background elements created a three dimensional, photorealistic image. Shadow detail was exceptional, and blacks were solid. There were hints of edge enhancement on high contrast transitions, but they were so fine that my TV's scan velocity modulation may have been equally at fault.

    The shot of the rose garden in the grandmother's backyard, with its red, yellow, and green colour scheme, is a perfect example of the precise colour saturation, naturalness, and stability of this transfer. Colours remained consistent throughout the film, with no evidence of colour bleed or low level noise. Skin tones were spot on.

    A handful of speckles were the only noticeable blemishes. Film grain was so fine as to be invisible (a larger display would make it more apparent) and there were no compression artefacts. All in all this transfer retains the look of the typically 1980s anamorphic cinematography by Andrew Laszlo, and if anything, makes it look better than release prints.

    The layer change at 47:39 occurs in the middle of an exchange between Taylor and the Freelings, from one line to the next. It was jarring, but at least it was not mid-sentence.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    A Dolby Digital 5.1 track would have complemented the amazing visuals perfectly, but instead we get a serviceable English Pro-Logic mix, along with similar tracks for four other languages.

    The drop in fidelity (5.1 compared to 2.0) and the age of the source material is apparent mostly in reference to the dialogue. While it is always discernible, distortion is a problem at times, for example at 46:38 when Diane calls out Rob's name. This is a minor quibble, however. Apart from variable ADR work, the dialogue always sounded in synch with the video.

    Surround usage is limited to the occasional sound effect. Wall thumping sounded great, as did the occasional tortured wail from the Other Side. For the most part though, the audio dynamics are restricted to the front sound stage, with a few directional effects thrown in to spice it up. Some depth was lent to Jerry Goldsmith's haunting music score, but again the dynamics were limited. Low end frequencies played a minor part in this sound track, perhaps due to the level of sound technology 16 years past.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    16x9 Enhanced, not animated, no background music.

Theatrical Trailer (1:24)

    This is presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The picture quality and sound fidelity is a long way from the feature presentation, but it is good to have nonetheless. I felt that the trailer made the movie look much scarier that it actually is.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From what I could discover, Poltergeist II has not been released in Region 1 yet. Lucky us.

Summary

    Poltergeist II contains a few memorable moments, such as the family dog wrestling with an electrical wire, and Steven the father vomiting forth a demon spawned from a tequila worm, but these are small choc chips floating in a flavourless, by-the-numbers Hollywood ghost story that avoids developing genuine fear and risky thematic threads in favour of retaining the status quo of middle America. As in the first film, there is an oblique implication that any lapse in security of the family nest – be it financial or in the form of assaults on the innocent – paves the way for outside forces to wreak havoc, but the pedestrian script inspires no confidence that any such artistic pretensions were intended. This is lightweight entertainment. Approach it with that in mind and the movie should at least keep the kids quiet for 90 minutes.

    The DVD itself is absolutely definitive, with a lusciously detailed video transfer (new telecine equipment?) and a functional Dolby Digital 2.0 sound track. It is gratifying to see MGM putting this much effort into a minor horror release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rod Williams (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Wednesday, December 13, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDMetz DE 71, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Ergo (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.
AmplificationArcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier
SpeakersFront: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)

Other Reviews
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Ted F (If you're bored you can read my bio)

Comments (Add)
When will Poltergeist III come to DVD in Region 4? - Christopher REPLY POSTED