Few sequels are able to meet the standards set by an original. Usually “Part 2” sucks. Sometimes though, a sequel is just as thrilling as its predecessor, and in even fewer situations, the sequel is – Dare I say it? – better. The first Poltergeist film blew my young mind. I wanted to get lost in that white noise as many times as possible, and I remember impatiently telling the VCR to “Hurry uuuuup!” as it rewound the tape for often the second or third time in one night. I finally decided to take a chance on Poltergeist II: The Other Side. I had low hopes, pessimistic expectations, and pressed play with my guard up, carefully protecting the love I had for the original. I was worried The Other Side would ruin the first one for me, as so many sequels do. Well, 91 minutes later, I felt more than just pleasantly surprised. In fact, my feelings about the franchise were not only safe, but stronger than before.
The Other Side takes place four years after the original, with the Freeling family still struggling through the aftermath, but feeling relatively content in their new home and new life, and (mistakenly) believing the worst is over. The ‘worst’ makes several attempts to reach Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) again through television sets and a toy phone, and eventually shows up at their doorstep in the human form of Reverend Kane (Julian Beck), who is creepy as hell to put it mildly. Anyone who has heard him sing his song (“God is iiiiiin… his holy temple…”) no doubt gets goosebumps thinking about it. I know I do.
Along with other familiar faces from the first film, including Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) and Taylor (Will Sampson), the Freelings once again must face pure evil head on, and somehow find a way to escape and defeat it. There is a very uncomfortable scene where Kane possesses the father, Steve Freeling (Craig T. Nelson), via a tequila worm of all things, and attacks his wife, Diane (JoBeth Williams). Of course love conquers, and Steve is able to expel the Kane worm inside of him by vomiting it up. However, what emerges is much more repulsive than your average Mezcal pal, but thankfully Taylor has given Steve and Diane the tools and methods needed to stay safe, for now.
One difference between the encounters from original to sequel is the first time around Carol Anne was unwillingly taken out of the home towards evil, and this time, the Freeling family must make the difficult choice to run towards it in order to conquer it. They must go after Kane on ‘The Other Side’ in order to escape the nightmare for good.
The final battle in Poltergeist II is just as intense as it was in the first instalment. It doesn’t fall short in any way. By the time it’s over, you’ll realize you were once again holding your breath, exactly like you did when the Freelings barely managed to escape their Cuesta Verde home four years before. It’s fun, it’s spooky, it has all those sappy moments you’d expect, and most importantly it’s everything most sequels aren’t: just as good (and maybe even better) than the original.