Isn’t it time that the character of Reverend Henry Kane was made an Official Traumatizer? He has been spoken of several times before on these here pages (for example: THIS early traumafession from kinder-pal Ralphus), and he is likely to appear many times again. Not bad considering he owes his existence to one much maligned sequel (POLTERGEIST 2: THE OTHER SIDE) and one even more maligned sequel (POLTERGEIST 3.) Regardless of the end result of either movie, Kane persists and even those who talk smack about POLTERGEIST 2 have to admit that his presence, (especially the scene where he tries to gain entrance to the Freeling’s home) is supremely memorable. His staying power is even more impressive when you consider that different actors portrayed the character in each film (JULIAN BECK in PART 2, NATHAN DAVIS in PART 3 with voice assist by an uncredited COREY BURTON.)
Undoubtedly, the more indelible take on Kane is the introductory one provided by poet/painter/theater legend JULIAN BECK in POLTERGEIST 2: THE OTHER SIDE. BECK was suffering from colon cancer during the filming, which might partially explain an authentic aura of illness and decrepitude that hangs over the character. Unfortunately BECK died before the film was completed and Kane’s final assault on the Freeling clan was in the form of a special effects driven creature known as “THE BEAST” designed brilliant by H.R. GIGER, but poorly executed within the film. (Check out some of GIGER’s amazing work for POLTERGEIST 2 HERE.)
POLTERGEIST 2 may have left some fans disappointed by replacing the original’s roller-coaster vibe with a pungent cloud of morbid navel gazing, but it’s not without its effective moments. One should not allow its corny “Grandma angel” conclusion to erase the well-orchestrated set pieces involving Kane. The reverend’s shopping center overture towards the young Carol Anne (HEATHER O’ROARKE) is, quite simply, every parent’s (and every child’s for that matter) nightmare.
I’ve always been a bit confused by the term “interesting failure,” if something is interesting then, in my book, it cannot be considered a failure. Take POLTERGEIST 3 for example; sure, it’s a hot mess but I can’t get enough of it. I know it’s about as subtle as a Tourette’s sufferer with a bullhorn and more annoying than a local theater production of ANNIE and yet I adore its over the top clumsiness and am fascinated with its physical effects and mirror-play. (Plus director GARY SHERMAN, DEAD AND BURIED, VICE SQUAD, just sort of rules.) Kane’s presence here is more of a spectral trickster with the power to alter reality than the evil JIM JONES messiah of PART 2, but he is still a great stand in for the grim reaper and he can still work that hat.
NOTE: The above picture, which inspired this post, was sent by our pal Dave over at the exhaustively informative site POLTERGEIST III. It is from the originally filmed ending of PART 3 (notice a frozen Carol Anne in the background.) Check out Dave’s awesome reconstruction of that lost scene HERE.
Reverend Henry Kane’s identity as a horror icon was hard won but thanks to repeated television airings of the POLTERGEIST sequels, home video, DVD and the power of the Internet he has gained some pretty secure footing as a titan of terror. He has appeared on an album cover for the band ANTHRAX, made a cameo in the SOUTH PARK episode “Imaginationland” and even shows up to fight in the game MORTAL COMBAT. With his lanky frame, sinister persona and predatory disposition, he is the rightful heir to one point in a horror troika that also includes PHANTASM’s TALL MAN and the ever popular FREDDY KRUEGER. His sickly, debilitated appearance gives rise to primal fears of aging and death, while his slithery soft tone and toothy grimace evoke memories of the candy-baiting creepy stranger we were all warned about in our youth. Upping the fear quotient further is the fact that Kane was once a beloved leader of a religious flock who twisted his disciples’ faith to cause their own ruin. He represents the unrepentant fanatical zealot, a figure that can partake in evil and never suffer the arrows of self-doubt or feel remorse. He’s not evil…YOU are! What’s scarier than that?
If you are still not convinced that reverend Kane deserves the honor of “Official Traumatizer” imagine this; your doorbell rings RIGHT NOW, you open your door to find him standing there, smiling from ear to ear. He says, “Let me in.” When you say, “No” he screams “You’re all gonna die!” I don’t know about you but, I just succeeded in creeping myself out. Now THAT’S a Traumatizer!