Demystification and information dumps are two of the worst sins that a horror franchise can commit if they continue past their point of delectable ambiguity. In Poltergeist, the Occam’s razor was a residential property is haunted because it was erected atop an Indian burial ground. The unvarnished simplicity was the engine behind that blockbuster.
In the amiable, but aggressively cloying Poltergeist II, that sedimentary, basic foundation has been clogged with shamanic mysticism, genetic superpowers of clairvoyance and an overwritten backstory on the ghouls (i.e. The Jim Jones cult self-sacrifices). Strangely enough, the predecessor’s writing duo of Michael Grais and Mark Victor muddle the formula that they established.
The Power of Smoke ritual in the desert is nonsensical drivel and the braces attack is monumentally stupid. The underground spelunking scene is needlessly accentuated by a shrieking sound effect when a snake crawls out of a cadaver’s mouth. Aside from Dominique Dunne, the Freelings family has returned for this second entry which engenders a sense of filial warmth to the otherwise fulsome proceedings. Craig T. Nelson still exhibits ample chemistry with JoBeth Williams when he serenades her with “If I Fell” and rants about his street-beat job. The insurance red tape around the force majeur of the Freelings’ “missing” house is a chuckle-worthy detail.
With his honeysuckle Southern hospitality, Rev. Kane (Julian Beck) is an indelible antagonist and his sunken, emaciated appearance is more phantasmagoric when his cancer illness is factored in. Goosebumps arise when he screams “You’re all gonna die” through the screen door. By regurgitating traumatic scenes from the original, Brian Gibson only reinforces how inferior this film is.
It’s rinse and repeat with the ghosts contacting Carol Ann (Heather O’Rourke equipped with the fan service line “They’re back”) on a toy phone instead of a television set before their home invasion. The possession of Steve is borderline farcical until he taps into Dianne’s (Williams) subconscious wish that Carol Anne was never born which is a staggering admission for a mainstream film. Some of the supposedly deleterious effects are pretty cheesy like the floating chainsaw and a reptilian Kraken-esque leviathan which Steve defeats with his newfangled Native-American spirituality.
Rating: 2.25 out of 5