Just another #MonsterMondayhere at Kinky Ho-rror! This week, we’re worshiping at the Crimson Altar of the High Priestess of Gothic Ho-rror, Barbara Steele!
Ms. Steele is, without a doubt, THE Queen of cl-Ass-Sick Ho-rror Cinema. Her piercing eyes, her haunting presence, her ghost-like grace…Barbara always looked like she was about to Steele your soul! No coffin could hold her and no force on Earth could stop her! She held her own against the likes of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, and Barnabas Collins! Both ho-rror heroine and ho-rrific monster, Steele is a true fright icon.
Today’s terror tale is Nightmare Castle and it features Goddess Steele at her most frightful. The Gothic Queen does double duty as both the doe-eyed Jenny and the ghostly Muriel… and kills it as both!
It’s an old-fashioned sort of story: castles, romance, and… ghosts! A cozy little tale that’s just perfect for this most ghoulish of seasons. With mad science, fiendish torture, surreal nightmares, and an Ennio Morricone score that sounds like it was composed by The Phantom of the Opera, this is film is pure Gothic bliss. And if Steele’s creeptacular performance doesn’t frighten you, you’re already dead! Do you dare spend the night at… Nightmare Castle?!
2017’s been a real groovy year for The King, hasn’t it?
Mr. Mercedes, The Dark Tower, Gerald’s Game, and IT… no matter where you go, King’s creepin’ up with ya! And with the gargantuan success of IT and the announcement of Suffer the Little Children, it seems like the King renaissance is going to keep on floatin’! In ho-nor of the man who was Richard Bachman, we’ve gathered up some of the most frightful ‘n’ delighful trailers for some of our favorite King scarefests! Telekinetic creeps, ghosts, things from the grave, killer cars, werewolves, and the Devil himself… these trailers prove that King knows how to show a ghoul a good time! 🙂 Let the trailers begin!!!!!!
What a fine Day-O it is for some carnivorous cartoon carnage! Today’s freaky funny shows that the dead truly are an animated bunch! On this strange journey through the hereafter, we summon our Ho-st… the Ghost with the Most! Say it once, say it twice, say it three times…
BEETLEJUICE! BEETLEJUICE! BEETLEJUICE!
Yessiree, Blob! We just love the unholy heck out of ol’ BJ (Ha!) here at Kinky Horror! After all, he is THE name in Laughter from the Hereafter! It’s on his poster! Posters don’t lie!
Beetlejuice (1988) was a monstrous success at the boXXX office, so (super)naturally Warner Bros. wanted to capitalize on our striped scare-star’s popularity. What better way to do so than to make a children’s cartoon based on this:
Surprisingly, the cartoon works really well! It ain’t as edgy as the movie, but it’s everything a monster-loving kid could hope for! For all the little Wednesdays and Pugsleys out there, this show’s better than a bowl of Frankenberry with arsenic!
Let’s turn on the juice and see what shakes loose with the first episode of… BEETLEJUICE!
(Submitted by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for the insight, freaky friend! 🙂 xoxo)
(Spoilers, obvi. :))
I just love a good amusement park spook ho-use. If you frequent this site, you likely share that sentiment (and also, THANK YOU, YOU ROCK! 😉 -DP). Spook houses are always immensely popular during the Halloween season, and a good few scare up some good business year-round. They have haunted us since at least 1915, utilizing the same reliable scare tactics for decades. You know the ones I mean… flashing colored lights, hanging sand bags masquerading as the dead, and actors in fright masks jumping from out of a dark corner to deliver a well-timed “BOO”. Most of these attractions employ these ancient tricks, but some do It with more imagination and skill than others. Haunting a house is art like any other. The same applies to cinematic hauntings. 2014’s Annabelle is pretty mediocre fright fare. By no means is the film terrible, but it’s out of the mind as soon as you’re out of the theater. All of the classical tools of terror are present, but they aren’t harnessed to their full potential. However, Annabelle: Creation is a fantastic spook house, with similar jolts handled with greater style and a keen eye for horror. There’s hardly anything new about it, but it is perfectly frightful. As one can deduce from its title, Annabelle: Creation is an origin story of sorts. After the untimely death of their little girl, a toy maker and his wife allow an unknown entity to transpose its essence into one of the toy maker’s dolls, believing it to be the spirit of their daughter. Unfortunately, the entity is not their daughter and is demonic in nature. Twelve years after entrapping the unholy abomination, the couple provide shelter in their home for a nun and six young girls. When one of the girls unwittingly releases the demon, unearthly horrors target the inhabitants of the house in a most ghastly fashion.
Backstories for monsters and madmen can be a tricky business. Horrific beasts run the risk of losing their ability to inspire fear when they are known to us. Thankfully, this film avoids that by keeping the demon vague and the threat credible. While there aren’t buckets of blood being dumped about, grisly imagery is still abound. My personal favorite bit of macabre madness involves scarecrow that truly understands the first 5 letters of his title. Of course, Mr. Scarecrow is just one of many eldritch monstrosities that lurk in the shadows of this picture. There’s a horror for all tastes here.
The cast is all-around excellent, but the true stars are young actresses Lulu Wilson and Talitha Bateman. Wilson and Bateman play sisters and they work off of each other in extraordinary fashion. Their performances are a huge part of why this film works so well. Having appeared in this, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Deliver Us from Evil, I’m willing to call 11-year-old Lulu Wilson the world’s youngest Scream Queen. As for Bateman, her performance is truly haunting and to say anymore would ruin the fun. Annabelle: Creation is an old-fashioned yelp-yarn that proves that the old tricks still have power in the right claws. It is the rare sequel that surpasses the original so completely that one almost forgets that it is a sequel. For lovers of spooks and shock, this film is a beautiful nightmare. This is how you haunt a house.
You don’t hear much about House II: The Second Story, so out of curiosity, I decided to see what the “professional” critics thought of it and jumped over to Rotten Tomatoes, because as we all know that’s where you go if you want opinions that matter. I’m actually shocked that this film holds a 0% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes, based off nine reviews. A zero. Zilch. Nada. It’s not a bad film, at least not in the sense like a Transformers movie is, but I can see why people may dislike it; it very much steers away from the tone and satire the first film so brilliantly blended and is basically just a slapstick version of Indiana Jones with alternate dimensions. Hell, based on what I just said, that doesn’t sound too bad. I suspect that the watering down the horror elements and making it more zany and whacky is why critics didn’t seem to like it at all. Geez, it’s like they wanted a carbon copy of the first film, but with different actors… because that works so well with other franchises.
Okay, maybe they toned it down just a little too much, because despite that PG-13 rating it has (back when that meant something), House II is pretty much a kid’s movie. As I said, much of the horror is gone and mostly used for cheap and quick boo scares and the slapstick comedy is ramped up and the lead character is even given a whacky sidekick. Mix that in with a drinking elderly mummy from the Old West who speaks with a ‘oh-gee-shucks’ style and a cute puppy/caterpillar hybrid (yes, that is something that exists in this movie) and there ya go. The only thing I could think of that kept House II from getting a PG rating is the constant drinking going on in nearly every scene. There’s so much drinking in this movie that even my liver was killed by all the alcohol consumption.
Not taking place in the same house, but a different house (the movie is called House II, afterall). This time, it’s a rather large mansion that Jesse (Arye Gross… I don’t know, ‘ar ye’?) inherits, so he moves in along with his girlfriend Kate (Friday the 13th Part VII’s Lar Park Lincoln) along with his goofy friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark) and his wanna be popstar girlfriend Lana (Amy Yasbeck). I’m gonna talk about this subplot now, because at about halfway through the film the it’s dropped like a son dad is ashamed to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner. Kate is a record producer and Lana just so happens to be quite the singer, so Charlie and Lana are in hopes of getting her signed on to a record deal. Lucky for them, Kate’s boss (played by Bill Maher of all people) has the hots for her and listens to what she says and, well, that’s about it really. Once there is a misunderstanding with one of Jesse’s ex-girlfriends at a party about halfway through the movie, Bill Maher just puts his arms around the girls and escorts them and himself out of the movie. This is never really resolved, but then again it’s not really that interesting. Jesse and Kate barely share any screen time, so there’s no chemistry between the two. I also want to mention that it took me forever to recognize Jonathan Stark was the badass, undead Billy Cole in Fright Night!
The interesting stuff revolves around Jesse and Charlie’s misadventures once they learn about something called the crystal skull after seeing it in a photo with Jesse’s great-great grandfather also named Jesse (Royal Dano). Figuring the skull was probably buried with him, the two decide to go dig him up and find that he’s not only a mummy, but still very much alive. After Jesse reveals their connection and christian him with the nickname Gramps, they take him back to the house where they spend a good time in the basement shooting the shit, drinking some beers and hearing Old West stories. It’s a pretty charming scene and Jesse and Charlie seem so enthralled by Gramps’ stories. Upon seeing his own reflection, Gramps is heartbroken that the skull kept him alive, but did not restore his youth like he had hoped. I should also point out at this time that the skull’s powers are never fully disclosed, but just vaguely given. Very vaguely. I think the most descript explanation it’s given is along the lines of “it’s powerful.”
Oh, Gramps also informs Jesse that the house has multiple portals to alternate dimensions and he now has to protect the skull from danger and all this other nonsense. Jesse doesn’t say anything, he just kinda accepts it and everything in every dimension must’ve noticed the rookie taking over, because they all start trying to nab the damn skull. Luckily Charlie just happened to bring a fucking Uzi and enter multiple dimensions, like a prehistoric one where they befriend a baby pterodactyl that even comes to live with them, because funny! They even rescue some virgin babe she not only becomes a Mayan sacrifice, but also because Jesse now needs a love interest. However, there is a darker force looming over them, willing to get the skull at any cost… the zombie corpse of a man named Slim, Gramps’ old rival. Slim gunned down Jesse’s parents at the very beginning of the film at an attempt to get the skull, now Jesse, Gramps and Charlie get some payback and protect the skull at all cost or Slim will take over the world… I guess? His plans are unclear, but it probably won’t be good.
By far, the best part of the movie comes in form of John Ratzenberger (this film’s Cheers’ cast member cameo) as an electrician who also happens to be an adventurer. Yeah, this is a full time gig for him, both the wiring in your house and the multiple dimensions, swashbuckling, rope swinging and treasure hunting. He’s so nonchalant about it and plays it very low key, like he’s seen it so many times that he’s no longer impressed by it. At the end of it, he hands the boys his business card, which feels very much like a potential spinoff I would still love to see. His performance is very hysterical and in his brief time on screen, you’ll want more of him and beg for his further adventures and honestly, that’s what House III should have been instead of the series trying to get back to its horror roots.
As like in House, House II also has a majority of impressive practical effects and a handful of not so good ones, the most impressive being the mummy or zombie makeup on Gramps and Slim. Gramps isn’t gross or decaying, but rather dried out looking fitting into his cowboy motif and hey, it won’t scare the kids. That’s left up to Slim’s design, which is decaying and much more darker and wetter looking, plus Megatron himself, Frank Welker, does the voice! The animal puppets, like the dog/caterpillar and the pterodactyl, are wide eyes and cute looking as opposed to looking like the monstrosities they actually would resemble to further indicate the movie’s intention to reach a younger audience. I know every kid would want a stuffed toy of the dog/caterpillar, but alas the marketing department screwed the pooch on that one, for lack of a better pun.
The film is paired with the first film in a double box set in the US (the UK got all four House films in their box set), House: Two Stories released by Arrow Video. Like the first film, House II is also a 2K remaster that looks absolutely fantastic, but also like the first film, doesn’t have much in the way of special features. There is a pretty indepth feature called It’s Getting Weirder!: The Making of House II: The Second Storyfeaturing interviews with Ethan Wiley, Sean S. Cunningham, stars Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Lar Park Lincoln, and Devin DeVasquez, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder. Writer-director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham provide a new commentary and a theatrical trailer and a still gallery round it out. There’s also some stunning new artwork by Justin Osbourn.
House II: The Second Story is a comedy right from the get-go. I mean, look at the pun right in the title. The title not only implies humor, but adventure as well and that’s exactly what we get and is it a perfect combination of the two? I’m gonna have to say no, but I don’t think it’s terrible either. In fact, I think the majority of it is fun, but there are moments that are rather childish (backing up my argument that this was aimed towards children) or poorly paced moments that make it feel dragged out. The feeling that this was aimed at a more younger, more marketable audience and the seemingly loosely connected adventures gives the film a feeling like it’s a handful of episodes of a failed TV show in the late ‘80s strung together and re-released as a movie so the company can try and recoup some of the financial losses. Hell, even John Ratzenberger’s character felt like he was shoehorned in as an attempt at a spinoff. The funny thing is, if they actually went for the PG rating and released this as a kid’s movie, I have a feeling it would have been far more successful.
House II, while not as good as its predecessor, still has some merit and can be a feel good, fun adventure even if it does feel a little childish.The characters are likable and have great chemistry together and honestly, I wouldn’t have minded seeing more. I can’t say the same for the other two films that follow and un(?)fortunately, House III (aka The Horror Show) and House IV aren’t included in the US Arrow set, The Two Stories. However, if you’re a completist, you may wanna get the UK version of this set that includes all four films.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, my Ho-use-lovin’ ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)
Where have all the good haunted house movies gone to, huh? I’m talking about the ones that are both fun and scary, the ones that are worth a laugh and a fright. Goes back to the old saying, “they just don’t make them like they used to.” I’m not complaining that all haunted house movies are bad, in fact some of them have been pretty darn good in the past few years, but they are horror rather than horror comedy. Well, unless you count those family friendly ones that occupy the Redbox that are neither scary nor funny. Admittedly, it’s a hard combination to juggle without getting too campy, but 1986’s House, while a little campy, nicely balances that fine line of horror and comedy.
Sean S. Cunningham, the producer of 1972’s The Last House on the Left and director of 1980’s Friday the 13th knows a thing or two about horror, so when he was attached to produce House, it may come off as puzzling to some since those films had such dark and serious tones. However, what people don’t know is that Roger Corman was an executive producer, so that could explain the camp factor. Staying with the Friday the 13th connection, Steve Miner, who had directed Friday the 13th Part 2 was at the helm directing a script by Fred Dekker (who would go on to make movies, like Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps) and Ethan Wiley, so this could explain why the movie nearly flawlessly handles the genres. You throw in Sean S. Cunningham’s buddy and composer Harry Manfredini and it’s safe to say that the film was in good hands. Of course, this was before Steve Miner directed terrible films, like Halloween: H20 or that abysmally insulting Day of the Dead remake, so this is before his decline when he was actually making good movies.
The Greatest American Hero star William Katt plays Roger Cobb, a writer who has a few issues (hey, you wouldn’t be a writer if you didn’t, right?). For starters, his kid suddenly vanished one day in the swimming pool and he couldn’t hold it together, so his hot actress wife, Sandy Sinclair (Kay Lenz) leaves him. Then his nutty aunt Elizabeth hangs herself in a big ol’ spooky mansion, the very one where his kid went missing. Roger inherits the house and decides to move in, because what better place to write his book based on his Vietnam experiences than a house he already has numerous traumatic connections with? After all, good writers pull from real life tragedies, but I think he may be overdoing it here. When he’s not pretending he’s throwing big parties while on the phone with his ex-wife, he’s possibly hallucinating his dead aunt marching around the house. So if he’s not seeing dead people, he’s dressing up in his old combat gear to try and having Vietnam flashbacks. I assure you, Roger isn’t crazy, but the film is setting up a rather interesting piece of character development that would be considered ahead of its time.
Norm from Cheers (George Wendt) is his neighbor Harold who stops by to play the comic relief, otherwise we’d have a very down trodden Vietnam metaphor movie on our hands. He may provide us, the audience, with laughs, but he tends to get on Roger’s nerves when he isn’t providing beer or snacks. More often than not, Harold is a distraction from Roger’s writing at convenient times, like when he’s having some serious Vietnam flashbacks about some big ox of a soldier name Ben (Richard Moll). After Ben was wounded in combat, Roger couldn’t bring himself to finish Ben off, so he was subsequently dragged away by the enemy and tortured for weeks. It something that seems to haunt him, but now that haunting may seem to be manifesting physically as one night a monster pops out of the closet and claws at Roger’s torso! Knowing nobody will believe him, he knows that he will need evidence, but only makes himself look nuttier than a Payday in the process, wiring and rigging a number of cameras to go off right when he pulls a string and does the Pete Townsend powerslides on his knees out the front door and then reality kicks him hard in the nards as he’s just sitting there with Harold staring at him. Awkward.
Nobody believes poor Roger that some pugnacious hauntings are happening. Not Harold, not Sandy. Nobody. Could it all be in Roger’s head? That’s what you along with the other characters are starting to think at this point and it’s probably the most brilliant aspect of this movie. Long before it had a name it could be identified with, House was ahead of its time and was bringing attention to PTSD. I have to commend William Katt’s performance, because he really brings emotion of someone losing their grip on reality to the forefront here. As he pleads with Harold or whoever that the monsters are real, beads of sweat roll down his face, his voice cracks and you can see and hear the desperation that he just wants someone to believe him. Even when he is by himself being chased around the house by the specters, you start to wonder if it really is all in his head or if it’s happening. When he imagines his ex-wife stopping by and turning into a weird, blobbish, twisted version of her, he shoots it only to see it may really be his wife, you figure he’s definitely lost it and he killed someone. He breaks down in tears, but all is not as it seems as the monster rears its ugly head once again and this time, he cuts it up and buries it. The scene goes from being boo-scary, to horrifying (in the sense that he may have murdered a person) to funny, so the film wants to not only play with tone, but to also play with your expectations.
Not giving up, Roger is determined to make someone believe him and who better than Harold? After finally witnessing some sort of ghoul, Harold fails at helping Roger who is dragged into the closet and teleported to what looks like the Vietnam war where he comes across his missing son, but that’s not the only one. It seems like a familiar face, as rotten and decayed as it may not be, but familiar nonetheless, was responsible for kidnapping his son and now it wants revenge. Roger is now pitted against an old frenemy as he battles for his son and possibly his own sanity and really if you look at it like the events are all happening in Roger’s head, the film still works as a drama comedy instead of a horror comedy. I think that’s one of the best things about House, is that no matter how you perceive it, the film still works as that genre. Regardless of what was actually happening, it’s still about Roger’s struggle with the effects of war and coping with the loss of his son. It also just happens to be about spoopy ghosts.
Some of these ghosts are downright ghastly, like the closet monster with its many arms or the monster version of his ex-wife that has a high pitched, distorted voice that makes me feel uncomfortable, while others… eh, not so much. The two children monsters that come out of the chimney look dreadful in the wrong way. Their mouths and eyes don’t move, they look cheap and rubbery. In the midst of this fun film with great creature effects, you get these two that looks like the budget ran out, so they had to run to the Halloween store and get some cheap costumes. They aren’t prominently displayed on screen or featured very long, so it’s not very troublesome, but for the brief period of time they are on screen they can be an eyesore. Perhaps the best looking makeup effect is that of Ben all zomb-i-fied. Basically, take the look of Jason from Friday the 13th Part VII and slap some Vietnam garb on on Bull from Night Court and there ya go. He has exposed bones and organs, he looks dusty yet slimey, it’s absolutely fantastic looking.
Some of these effects may look less impressive on the new 2K restoration from Arrow Video. While the film itself looks marvelous, what with edges being sharp and colors being bright and vivid, it suffers a bit from looking too good. Often there were times you could see the faults in the makeup or prosthetics, like being able to see actor Richard Moll’s mouth painted black behind the false teeth of zombie Ben. It’s a minor nitpick and didn’t ruin my experience of the film. If anything, I was happy to finally view the film nice and clean for the first time, seeing as the only viewing experience I’ve ever had is my old VHS copy. The audio commentary by director Steve Miner, producer Sean S. Cunningham, actor William Katt and screenwriter Ethan Wiley is a good listen, providing some insight and memories on the making of the movie. Speaking of making the movie, there’s a great feature included called Ding Dong, You’re Dead! The Making of House that includes interviews with Steve Miner, Sean S. Cunningham, Ethan Wiley, story creator Fred Dekker, stars William Katt, Kay Lenz, and George Wendt, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Barney Burman, Brian Wade, James Belohovek, Shannon Shea, Kirk Thatcher, and Bill Sturgeon, special paintings artists Richard Hescox and William Stout, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder. Trailers and a still gallery round out the features.
I don’t think House is overlooked, but I think some have forgotten about or others may think it’s just a jump scare horror film, which it is, but it’s more than that. House has a message, something to say about the then unnamed PTSD and how some Veterans are affected by it and struggle. It’s also a charming comedy with plenty of likable characters and funny moments. In the wrong hands, this film could have been a disaster. A lesser cast and crew would have failed at juggling all the themes and ideas, but luckily you had a handful of talented people treating it with care and having a lot of fun that translates on the screen. The film is an absolute riot. It’s witty, charming as well as being scary and funny. I can’t think of many other films that are able to do all of that as well House. The film is packaged here in the states along with its sequel, House II: The Second Story, in a neat little box called House: The Two Stories. Although the UK got all four House films in their boxset (I’m guessing the US couldn’t due to rights issues), I’m happy at least the first film got a proper Blu-ray treatment. Well, maybe the second film too.
On this day in 1959, frightmeisters William Castle and Vincent Price opened the doors to the House on Haunted Hill, a true classic of fright cinema and a fiendish favorite of ours here at Kinky Horror. Fusing camp and creep together in a way that only Master William Castle could, this terror classic remains a masterpiece of the macabre that’s often imitated, but never duplicated. The unprecedented success of this picture inspired Alfred Hitchcock to produce a black-and-white gothic horror of his own: a little-known picture called Psycho. Castle’s film was the first (and last) film to be shown in Emergo, a brilliant bit of ballyhoo that involved an elaborate pulley system to carry a plastic skeleton over the audience. Such was the bizarre genius of Mr. Castle. For a taste of what Mr. Castle had in mind, here are a few bone-chilling recreations of Emergo! Beware! These videos are not for the faint of heart:
Our little haunted house party is about to begin.There’ll be food and drink and ghosts… and perhaps even a few murders. You’re all invited. If any of you will spend the next twelve hours in this house, I will give you each ten thousand dollars, or your next of kin in case you don’t survive. The party’s starting now, and you have until midnight to find the House on Haunted Hill.
For those attending, watch the full movie below… if you have the stomach for it…
Happy Birthday, House on Haunted Hill! You’re just as gruesome today as you were in 1959!
(Submitted by our goo-d, goo-ny friend, Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)
Okay, so Poltergeist II: The Other Side was a total critical disappointment, but hey it made a little over twice its budget back, so clearly that means it’s a success and horror fans want more. Well, that’s how studios see it and they will turn a single film into a franchise and run it into the ground faster than a Peregrine Falcon which can plummet up to speeds over 240 mph (yeah, I looked that one up… you impressed?). But, you know, it’s important to squeeze every bit of money out of them and that’s what Poltergeist II felt like to me. I mean, you had a director that didn’t care about making a horror film who was making a horror film – explain that logic to me – and a studio interfering and making cuts, resulting in a messy end product. Well, what do they say? Third time’s a charm? Yeah, we’ll see.
Poltergeist III, no subtitle this time, was released two years after the second film in 1988 and this time the only returning cast members would be Heather O’Rourke and Zelda Rubinstein. Being the case, the setting is moved from suburban California (and later Arizona) to a Chicago high rise building, which I have to admit that I really like that idea. After all, an isolated setting, the idea of no escape, the thought that there is someone else on the other side of the wall and they don’t know or don’t care if you’re in danger. Frightening. Another great idea was casting Nancy Allen and Tom Skerritt in the leads as Pat and Bruce Gardner, Carol Anne’s (Heather O’Rourke) aunt and uncle. The film also introduces to another new talent, Laura Flynn Boyle who plays Carol Anne’s kinda-sorta-not-really cousin, Donna. Funny, should would later go on to play Donna in Twin Peaks. Coincidence? Yes, absolutely, but still a bit fun of trivia.
Another great idea the film has is getting a director behind it who actually gave a damn and not only that, had a really cool visual element he wanted and even had a hand in it! Gary Sherman wisely used the mirrors in a very cool way, as they play a major part in the film. Not only do they give the setting a streamlined, kind of look, it also adds a very mysterious and extremely scary element to the film. While watching, you’ll notice objects either move or don’t move in the mirror when they do or don’t on the other side of the mirror. At first, you’re going to think that it’s some kind of computer effect or do what I did and rewind it looking for crew members in the reflection, but no. In one of the most genius, simple ideas for an effect, the crew built the sets in reverse and set up glass, so it would appear at times there was a mirror. It’s an effect that I’m sure wasn’t easy to pull of, but the end result was a genuine jump scare that wasn’t cheap and was creepy.
Hey, speaking of creepy, Kane returns in this sequel to capture Carol Anne so that she may lead them to light… whatever the hell that means. Carol Anne has been sent to stay with her Uncle Bruce and Aunt Pat in Chicago, where they live in a tall high rise which Bruce happens to manage, so you know he’s got the sweetest pad. Bruce must have a thing for his reflection, seeing as this bitch is just covered in mirrors everywhere. All jesting aside, it does make for some rather crafty cinematography and falsely implies that something may pop out from somewhere… or does it? Pat doesn’t really seem to care for Carol Anne all that much, which actually plays a big part in the movie. At first, I thought Nancy Allen was drunk and being a bitch, but knowing what kind of hell Carol Anne seems to bring with her, I can’t really blame her for being distant. Her cousin, Donna, on the other hand has really taken a liken to her and the two get along like sisters who don’t want to stab each other in the back. Surely, there has to be someone in Carol Anne’s life who wants to exploit her.
Enter her teacher/psychiatrist Dr. Seaton who thinks that she is fully of poppycock and capable of influencing “mass hypnosis,” making others believe what she is telling them. Yep, that doesn’t sounds any more ridiculous than a ghost trying to kidnap you and take you to another dimension. Even after a coffee cup flies off his desk and smashes a mirror, he’s still not convinced. All of his meddling allows Kane to find Carol Anne, who immediately begins terrorizing the high rise building by turning down the heat so that it’s freezing cold! You evil bastard! Now these poor people will have to dress in layers! Needing a convenient way to leave Carol Anne alone, Bruce and Pat go to an art gallery being held on one of the lower levels and Donna heads off to some cute boy’s party. The film has actually done a really good job of setting up these characters to this point, but now is when all the spooky stuff starts to happen.
This is where the mirrors are used a lot more prominently. Kane tries to capture Carol Anne through the mirrors, but Tangina communicates with Carol Anne telepathically, which is cool, because now the film is like X-Men. Unfortunately, Carol Anne still manages to get captured through a puddle in the parking garage (it’s actually way cooler than it sounds) along with Donna and her hunky dude. This is the point when all the adults return. Bruce and Pat arrive along with Tangina and Dr. Seaton who are arguing opposite sides. Dr. Seaton thinks this is a hoax while Tangina is trying to rescue the missing kids. It doesn’t take the Bruce and Pat long to believe Tangina when scary shit starts happening in the mirror and Kane takes Tangina to the other side. Still, this could be a hoax, so Dr. Seaton isn’t quite convinced.
Bruce struggles to rescue Carol Anne and Donna… and probably Scott, the hunky dude, but if he can’t, then no biggie. It’s actually really touching to see him run through this high rise, risking his life as cars come crashing at him in the parking garage. The scene looks really amazing and is done in a really tense way. Bruce’s love for Carol Anne is kinda fatherly, so it contrasts very differently from Pat, who honestly doesn’t really care for Carol Anne. In fact, she flat out says it. She suggests that they just give up and let Kane take Carol Anne and just rescue Donna! I’m not quite sure it’s the paranormal freezing the basement, because I think someone’s kind of cold hearted. The film’s climax is all about Pat and her actual love for her family, including Carol Anne, even if she is a demon raising pain in the ass.
Carol Anne, Carol Anne, Carol Anne. Sick of that name yet? Well, you will be, because the characters say her goddamn name over 120 times in the film and that’s no exaggeration. I seriously lost count around that number, because I couldn’t believe the writer didn’t notice how many times it appeared. At some point in the film, I became triggered by the word and every time I heard it, I wanted to throw little blonde haired girls through mirrors. Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed Poltergeist III. I honestly think it’s an amazing sequel in the same way that The Exorcist III was. Interesting how in both franchises, you have an amazing, truly frightening first film, a misguided second film made by someone who didn’t want to make a film of that genre and then an amazing third film that returns back to its original elements while doing something new and yet doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. This film unfortunately underperformed at the box office and didn’t do well with critics either, so that ended the franchise until the television series which wasn’t that good and the remake that was bland and forgettable.
Poltergeist III not only has amazing and outlandishly creepy special effects, but stellar performances as well, especially by Tom Skerritt and Heather O’Rourke. Tom Skerritt plays Uncle Bruce like he’s actually trying to care for a child who has literally been through Hell. He wants to make sure that she’s okay and nothing will ever hurt her again. He wants to protect her at no matter the cost. Heather O’Rourke easily slips back into the role of Carol Anne, but plays her much wiser as she’s becoming accustomed to her abilities and what’s happening to her. Sadly, just after completing filming, Heather O’Rourke passed away from misdiagnosed Crohn’s disease. At this time, a new ending was planned to be shot, much to director Gary Sherman’s disagreement with the studio, but they kept until they got their way. A body double was used and that’s the ending that appears in the film.
Thankfully, Scream Factory has released Poltergeist III on Blu-ray, also in a brand new 2K scan, alongside the second film and hopefully this film can get the respect it deserves. Director Gary Sherman provides a commentary, as does webmaster David Furtney. There’s also an interview with Nancy Allen, screenwriter Brian Taggert and the best one, an interview with special effects guy John Caglione Jr. The alternate ending is also present here (which will be the first time it’s included officially on something) and your usual trailer, TV spots and still galleries. Poltergeist III may not be the best sequel or even the best horror film, but it’s great nonetheless. The characters are fleshed out and fun, an attempt was made to continue with Carol Anne’s story, the setting was as fresh idea that was needed for a sequel before it got burned out and the special effects were just remarkable. All of these ingredients make for one hell of a horror film that’s not too gory for the little ones, but scary enough for everyone.
(It was soooooooooooo hard *hehe* not to write “Electric Boo-galoo” in that tit-le. Appreciate my restraint, Kinky Ho-s…The way I appreciate Mr. Andrew Peters for submitting this radassity. 😉 xoxo)
When Poltergeist hit movie theaters back in 1982, it immediately was a hit, frightening audiences while also giving them a compelling story with characters that were memorable, such as Tangina played by Zelda Rubinstein and Carol Anne played by the young and talented Heather O’Rourke. You’d be damned if you forgot Carol Anne’s name, seeing as how everyone in the film says it, like, a hundred times. I believe Poltergeist is still a very terrifying film to this day. It’s arguable who directed the majority of the film, be it Steven Spielberg or Tobe Hooper, but regardless of who it was, the end product was such a success that you knew they wouldn’t be able to leave it alone (with or without the original creative team). A sequel was going to be made.
And then in 1986, we were brought Poltergeist II: The Other Side. On paper, the film sounds like it should work; you have most of the original cast returning, it’s continuing the story and you have the introduction of a villain this time and he’s actually interesting and spooky looking. Unfortunately, as the things go most of the time, a lot of what should have worked does not which happens to be the case here. The first thing you are going to notice about the film is that it’s not very scary. Not even in the least bit. Hell, it doesn’t even really feel like a horror film and I’m not saying that because it lacks blood and gore (the first one didn’t), but because it doesn’t seem to be the central theme. It’s more of an Indian mysticism movie about a family’s love overcoming evil and occasionally you get a helping of watered down, off brand horror. A lot of people point their finger at director Brian Gibson for this and I have to admit, it doesn’t feel like he wanted to make a horror movie here. This has the feeling of The Exorcist II: The Heretic all over it, where you had a director who hated the first film and didn’t want to make a horror flick, so they direct the sequel anyway. Not saying that’s what happened here, but it sure feels like it.
It’s been one year since the events of the first Poltergeist movie (in movie time, not real time, because that’s been, like, 4 years) and the Freeling’s neighborhood is now being dug up as some sort of archeological/paranormal dig. If you think that’s exciting, wait’ll you see their company picnic. Zing. Anyway, it turns out that there is an underground cave directly under the Freeling’s home. Tangina’s psychic powers catch wind of this and she tells her friend Taylor, an Indian shaman to check it out and upon doing so, he learns that an evil, deceased preacher by the name of Kane (but sadly, not the Kane from Robocop 2) is coming after Carol Anne. So, there’s your plot, now off you go! You might be wondering why Kane has his sights set on her, but that’ll come. You also may be wondering how Taylor knows this and I’m gonna let you know right now to just forget about how, because that subplot was deleted from the final film. You don’t need to know how, it’s just Indian magic, so fucking deal with it!
And now we get to see what the Freeling family has been up to. Yup, all of them, including Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke), Steven (Craig T. Nelson), Diane (JoBeth Williams) and even Robbie (Oliver Robins). Are we forgetting someone? Well, yes, and I’m not meaning to be insensitive for the sake of a joke, but tragically Dominique Dunn, who played the older sister Dana, was murdered by her boyfriend shortly after the first film’s release. They mention in a throw away line that she’s away at college, but her absence is further recognized later in the film when the family is told that it’s going to take the whole family to defeat Kane. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Anyway, the family has relocated to Phoenix, Arizona to Diane’s mother’s home where they just sit around and bicker like they did in the first film. Actually there’s a really nice touch to the film that unfortunately isn’t explored to much, but they at least make mention that the insurance company isn’t covering the loss of their home since technically it was never destroyed, it’s only missing. That’s pretty clever, but that clever streak doesn’t last long.
Needing to explain why Kane is after Carol Anne, or at least attempt to, is that Carol Anne is clairvoyant, as is Diane as told to her by her mother when she witnesses Carol Anne handing her the right colored yarn balls that she asked for. I bet you didn’t know that’s actually how it’s done. All joking aside, there is a really fantastic scene that’s well done where Carol Anne gets up in the middle of the night and kisses her “sleeping” grandmother on the forehead and then answers her toy phone and talks to someone on the other side, indicating that it’s her grandmother. It was kinda chilling, not gonna lie.
Kane finally attempts to attack the family, by walking up to their front door like a creep and, yeah, he’s creepy. His eyes and cheeks are sunken and the guy looks like his skull is trying to push its way out of his face. I know that sounds super harsh, but I mean that as a compliment. It may sound harsh to those who don’t know, but actor Julian Beck, who plays Kane, was dying of cancer at the time and passed away right after filming was complete. I will say for his final role, the guy didn’t hold anything back and went at this with everything he had and his performance was terrifying. Taylor arrives just in the nick of time and tells them that running away won’t do them any good. Afterall, it has followed them here, so it will follow them again. At first Steven is kind of a dick about it, but then allows Taylor to stay with them since he’s trying to save them and all. Kane returns in human form (as previously mentioned), but with Taylor’s help, Steven doesn’t allow him inside their home. To celebrate this victory, Taylor takes Steven out to the desert and gives him “the power of smoke”, which is supposed to help against the evil spirits, but we all know… #520weedpotnuggssmokeblazeit
Tangina also arrives to tell Diane all about Kane, who was a priest way back in the day before cameras were invented and yet Tangina somehow has a photo of Kane. Hm, interesting. Kane has a bunch of followers that he trapped in a cave with himself, as he told them the world was going to end. Well, that day came and went, but Kane was getting such a kick out of it, he decided to keep them all trapped down there until they died. It’s pretty hilarious! This somehow made Kane a monster (quite literally as you’ll find out) and he will do anything to tear the family apart, but they can’t let him. This is where another kinda pivotal plot point was deleted, as you were to find out that Taylor was once a part of Kane’s cult, but left when he saw the pleasure Kane was getting from being an a-hole, but since that was cut, you don’t have to worry about it. As the ending draws near, the family begins their fight with Kane, which is nearly half an hour long. Seriously, shit keeps happening and it’s not really all that exciting. Well, there is a tequila monster that is kinda cool, but doesn’t look all that great either and there’s a segment that was supposed to be shot in 3D, so there are some random, not anywhere else in the movie shots of things like a chainsaw and whatnot flying at the camera. Oh yeah, this movie was supposed to be in 3D at one point too.
As you may have gathered from this review, the film is kind of a mess. Too much stuff (over half an hour, I believe) ended up on the cutting room floor, some of which would have explained some of those questions you might be having while watching the movie. Not only that, the film just isn’t very entertaining. I mean, you’re following up what was one of the scariest films to be released to that date and you just putter around with magic? Like I said, it feels either misguided or that the director just didn’t want to make a horror film and was only sprinkling horror elements here and there when the studio was forcing him to do so. However, the film was already starting to feel too long at a normal run time, so I can’t imagine seeing a longer cut of the film. Another thing that really bothered me was the lack of special effects and the ones we did see looked really terrible. The original film was very effects heavy and had some remarkable special effects for the time and to this day, the skin peeling scene still gives me shivers. Here, you get, like, a vomit, tequila monster of some kind that looks like a lump of shit and apparently it didn’t function all that well. Wanna know what’s really surprising about the effects in this movie? Academy award nominated! Guess there were no other options this year?
Regardless of what I thought, Scream Factory at least was kind enough to restore this disappointment in 2K with more than enough special features to make you come back for seconds or thirds… if you’re sick enough too. There are two brand new commentaries, including one with writer/producer Michael Grais and the other with Poltergeist II Webmaster (this is a thing?) David Furtney. There’s also an interview with Oliver Robins and separate one with Special Effects Designers Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson and Screaming Mad George. That one you gotta see, just see them try and defend it. You also get your usual trailers, TV spots and so on, but there’s also a vintage featurette about the making of the movie.
I know, I’m being really harsh and I’m sorry, but this one really let me down. You could have had a really effects heavy, scary movie and you pissed it all away! The original cast even came back and you somehow did absolutely nothing with them. This doesn’t really progress the story and to find out there was a cave under the Indian burial ground? Oh right, it’s an Indian burial ground now. So, it’s the Inception movie of burial grounds and the horror elements it has almost work, mostly thanks to Julian Beck, but unfortunately they are so few and ineffective, they barely register. I don’t hate the film, but I’m in no rush to ever watch it again. Poltergeist III, on the other hand…