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Film / Poltergeist II: The Other Side

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Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) is the first sequel to the horror film Poltergeist (1982). It was itself followed by Poltergeist III (1988).

Following the destruction of their house that happened at the end of the first film, the Freeling family (sans eldest daughter Dana) have moved in with Diane's mother in Arizona. Soon they are being haunted by the supernatural again. The people who were buried under the Freelings' former home and whose spirits haunted the in the first film, turn out to have been led to their deaths by an evil minister, Reverend Kane. Now Kane's evil spirit has found the Freelings again and is still trying to take Carol Anne away.

The film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.


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Poltergeist II: The Other Side provides examples of:

  • Action Insurance Gag: The father is trying to explain to the insurance company how his house (which vanished in the first film) has completely disappeared without a trace.
  • Actor Allusion: Craig T. Nelson comments on Will Sampson perhaps being an escapee from an asylum. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Sampson played an asylum inmate who escapes.
  • Adult Fear: Carol Anne gets separated from her mom at the store, at which point Reverend Kane approaches her...
  • All There in the Script: Dana's absence is explained in the script as her being off at college.
  • And I Must Scream: Kane and his cult sealed themselves into a cave because he was predicting the end of the world. The date for the supposed apocalypse came and went, but Kane didn't let them leave. Judging by the placement of all the skeletons in the cave, they were trapped down there until they starved to death.
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  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Well, they were fine until the wires tried to eat him.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Dana is not in the second film because the actress playing her was dead and no explicit explanation is given within the movie for where she is. However, since the character was 16 in the first movie and this movie takes place a few (in real life: four) years after that, the character can be assumed to be in college; and because the Freeling family were California residents in the first movie, it would be most logical for Dana to attend college back in California, not in Arizona where they currently are vacationing (at Diane's mom's home).
  • Cosmic Deadline: The pace of the movie may come across as feeling rushed in general, but the endgame is over very quickly.. The Freelings' visit to the Otherside is meant to be a major event, but as mentioned above, Kane is defeated instantly by Taylor's Lance and Carol Anne accidentally falling into light is rendered moot by an immediate Deus ex Machina. Suddenly, the Freelings are dropped back into world of the living and movie wraps up feeling like something is missing. Indeed, the film and the final act was meant to be longer but was trimmed significantly.
  • Daylight Horror: When the evil Kane first appears it's outside in daylight on a very sunny day. The second time he shows up, at the Freelings' house, the weather is sunny as well, though it starts to rain when he arrives.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Kane's modus operandi in general. When he and his followers are around, things go very wrong. Like the previous film, a living being dies before things go wrong, this time it's Grandmother rather than a canary. However, she returns at the end to save Carol Anne from an untimely entry into the light, fulfilling her promise to be there for the family.
  • Empathic Environment: Instant rain, just add Kane!
  • Everybody Lives: Like the first film, there are no murders depicted, and no violent fatalities.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The power of the Freelings was their love, and Kane hated them for it. He is expelled from Steven immediately when Diane says "I love you." It's probably not an emotion he felt in life.
  • Expy: Kane is basically an evil version of Joseph Smith (complete with cave) crossed with William Miller and Jim Jones.
  • Fake Shemp: As noted below, Julian Beck was dying of cancer. Production still required some dialogue for Kane after his passing, so Corey Burton was hired to record some lines in post.
  • Flaw Exploitation: Kane semi-successfully attempts this on Steven, making him suspicious of Taylor.
    Kane: He is dangerous. I can see that he has a strong hold on this family. Who do your wife and children turn to with they're problems? They turn to him, now don't they? They don't trust you anymore, but what you fear, is that you're not man enough to hold this family together.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Steve tells his insurace company that the family's other home "disappeared" rather than something more believable like "total destruction by natural disaster". Naturally, the insurance company rejects this claim and the Freelings are stuck at Diane's Mother's home for the majority of the film.
    • Reverend Kane's appearance at the front door of the family's home only serves to make Steve very suspicious rather than convince him to let him in. Granted, Kane is used to getting what he wants and is testing Steve's power, but he only serves to make the family turn to Taylor more willingly rather than reject him due to Kane's uncomfortable personality. Plus, it isn't a difficult choice to trust Taylor over a creepy cult leader.
  • Magical Native American: Taylor, in quite a literal sense. Kane accuses him of performing dark magic on the Frelengs (when in reality it's Kane who is attempting to.)
  • More Than Mind Control: Kane seems to hypnotize Steven into almost letting him in, til Carol Anne calls out "Daddy?", which snaps him out of it.
  • Must Be Invited: Reverend Kane repeatedly tries to convince the family to let him in because of this.
  • Nightmare Face: Julian Beck was in late stage terminal cancer when he played Reverend Kane. His appearance probably would've been terrifying even without Beck throwing himself into the role.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Downplayed, the film does feature the titular "Other Side", but it's only in play for a few minutes at the end of the film. The film mostly features the Freelings trying to move on with their life after Poltergeist until Kane and his followers find where the family retreated to and start a new haunting in an attempt to kidnap Carol Anne again.
  • Novelization: James Kahn wrote the book of the movie.
  • Orifice Invasion: Steven swallows a tequila worm, and body horror ensues.
  • Orifice Evacuation: The tequilla worm eventually leaves Steven's body through his mouth.
  • Retcon: The second movie reveals that the angry ghosts weren't from the desecrated cemetery under the Freelings' house, but rather from a cavern, containing the remains of an ancient religious cult, located UNDER the desecrated cemetery under the Freelings' house.
    • Additionally, Reverend Kane is portrayed as causing the trouble from Poltergeist, while Tangina's dialog from the first movie suggests something far less mundane.
    • However, it does explain the ghosts seen in the first film, who are European and not Native American.
  • Sinister Minister: Kane was a Reverend during his life, and a very evil one as he led many people to their deaths. Now, in the afterlife, he is the Beast.
  • Spirit Advisor: Grandmother plays this role as soon as she passes on, warning the Freelings that they can not flee from Kane & must stand their ground.

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