Poltergeist II: The Other Side is a 1986 film. A sequel to Poltergeist, it features the return of the original's family and once again sees a spirit trying to harm their daughter, Carol Anne. It received mixed reviews from critics (41% on Rotten Tomatoes) and did not gross as much at the box office as its predecessor, but was still financially successful. It ended up making over $40 million against a $19 million (estimated) production budget. In addition, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Visual Effects. It was followed in 1988 by Poltergeist III.
This sequel offers an alternate explanation, with much greater detail, for the reason, why Carol Anne was targeted in the first film. As it turns out, the Freelings' house in the first movie was also built over a massive underground cavern that was the final resting place of a religious cult, that died there in the early 19th century. The cult was led by Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck), a power-hungry zealot anxious to control the souls of his followers and the graveyard inhabitants in both life and death.
Kane told his followers, that the end of the world was coming, and they dutifully followed him into the cavern. However, the day he predicted it would all end came and went, but he never let his "flock" out of the cavern, and, eventually, they all starved to death. Because he was so evil, Kane became the Beast after his death, and absorbed the spirits of his followers to increase his strength.
One year after the events of the first film, Cuesta Verde, the Freelings' neighborhood from the first movie, is being evacuated and turned into an archeological paranormal dig, centered around the spot where the Freelings' home stood before it imploded into the netherworld. This excavation leads to the discovery of Kane's cave by a ground crew, and its existence is revealed to Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein), the psychic from the first film who failed to "clean" the house. She also tells a friend of hers, Taylor (Will Sampson), an American Indian shaman, whose connection to Kane is hinted at but never fully explained; when Kane comes to the Freelings' home and tries to gain entrance (the famous "Let...me...in!" sequence), Steven acknowledges that Taylor is there by name, and Kane quietly laughs and says "So that's what he calls himself now". After investigating the cave for himself, Taylor realises, Kane has located Carol Anne and goes to defend her.
The Freeling family, Steven (Craig T. Nelson), Diane (JoBeth Williams), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), has relocated to Phoenix, Arizona and now live in a house with Diane's mother, Jessica "Grandma Jess" Wilson (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Having lost his real estate license, Steve is reduced to selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door while filing repeated insurance claims to cover the missing home. Grandma Jess believes, she is highly clairvoyant and claims that Diane and Carol Anne are too. Luckily, Grandma Jess is powerful, and her life force protects the family from Kane and other spirits, who would do them harm.
Eventually, Grandma Jess dies from natural causes, but not before telling Diane one last time, that she'll always "be there" if she needs her. With Grandma Jess out of the way, Kane now has a clear path to get to Carol Anne. Taylor shows up just as Kane begins his first assault on the home. Unable to get in through the television as the family has removed all television sets from the home, Kane's minions are forced to find another way in, this time through Carol Anne's toy phone. The attack fails, and the family gets out of the house fast. Taylor introduces himself and convinces them that running would be a waste of time since Kane would only find them again, and they return to the house, which Taylor has made safe for the time being.
Kane himself shows up at the home one day in human form, and demands to be let in, but Steven stands up to him and refuses. Taylor congratulates him for resisting Kane, and then takes Steve out to the desert and gives him the Power of Smoke, an Indian spirit that can repel Kane. Tangina shows up at the house and helps Diane to understand the history of Kane and how he became the Beast that is now stalking the family. Taylor warns the family that Kane is extremely clever, and will try to tear them apart.
One night, Steven lets his guard down and gets drunk, swallowing a Mezcal worm that is possessed by Kane, who temporarily possesses him. He attacks and tries to rape Diane, who cries out that she loves him. Kane cannot stand this display of love, and Steven vomits up the worm possessed by Kane, which grows into a huge, tentacled monstrosity. In this form Kane attacks Steven from the ceiling, but Steven uses the smoke spirit to send him away. The Beast then decides on another assault, and this time, the family decides to confront the Beast on his own turf, the Other Side.
The Freelings return to Cuesta Verde and upon entering the cavern below their former home, Kane immediately pulls Diane and Carol Anne over into the Other Side, and Steven and Robbie jump in after them through a fire Taylor has started.
On the Other Side, Diane, Steven, Robbie, and Carol Anne unite together, but the Beast/Kane, now in the form of a horrific monster, grabs Carol Anne. Taylor gets a charmed Indian lance into Steven's hands, and Steven successfully stabs the Beast/Kane with it, defeating the monster and causing him to fall into the afterlife, finally crossing over into hell and crossing over all of the spirits he has trapped over the years. In the process, Carol Anne nearly crosses over into the afterlife as well, but Grandma Jess' spirit appears and returns her to the family, keeping her earlier promise to always be there for them. The Freelings then return safely to this side, and thank Taylor and Tangina.
- Craig T. Nelson as Steve Freeling
- JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling
- Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne Freeling
- Oliver Robins as Robbie Freeling
- Zelda Rubenstein as Tangina Barrons
- Will Sampson as Taylor "The Medicine Man"
- Julian Beck as Reverend Henry Kane
- Geraldine Fitzgerald as Gramma-Jess
- John P. Whitecloud as Old Indian
- Noble Craig as Vomit Creature
- Susan Peretz as Ezbeth
- Helen Boll as Ezbeth's Mother
- Kelly Jean Peters as Young Jess
- Jaclyn Bernstein as Young Diane
- Robert Lesser as Kane's People
Dana, the eldest daughter, was supposed to be written as being away at college, however that scene never made it into the final theatrical version. In real life the actress who played Dana, Dominique Dunne, was murdered by her boyfriend shortly after the first film came out.
This film was at one point intended to be filmed in 3-D. (The 3-D revival of the early eighties came to a close in early 1984.) Several scenes, such as the appearance of the Beast and the flying chainsaw were filmed to take advantage of the process. Several scenes that appeared in press stills or promotional posters were cut from the finished film including Tangina confronting Kane when he tries to enter the house again after Diane finds out about his past and also Steve and Diane looking at a flying toaster during a breakfast scene.
Because Julian Beck, who played Kane, died during filming, the filmmakers enlisted the help of H R Giger, who created the "Beast" version of Kane to replace Beck's remaining scenes. Giger created several designs but only two appeared, receiving limited screen time in the final cut of the film. Giger's designs are displayed on his official website.
This film is notorious for retconning the reason and explanations for the haunting in the first film, which had been given a much more straightforward explanation of having the house being built atop a desecrated cemetery full of angry spirits. This film and its successor were rated PG-13 by the MPAA. The original was rated PG, as there was no PG-13 rating at the time (the rating was created in 1984, largely in response to movies like the first "Poltergeist"; "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", "Gremlins" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" were other films that led to the PG-13 being instituted).
The song Kane sings "God is in his Holy Temple" is found in Mormon Hymn books.
Although it was financially successful, Poltergeist II: The Other Side proved to be a box office disappointment when compared to its predecessor. Nevertheless, the film still grossed a respectable $40,996,665 at the United States box office, more than doubling its $19 million (estimated) budget and making it the 20th highest grossing film of 1986.