POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE (1986) may not glow with the bright raw power of its superior predecessor, but its corny heart is in the right place; it sports some great performances, has a fantastic Jerry Goldsmith score (which I’m listening to now), and is the home to more than a few potent as hell kindertraumas. Here are some that spring immediately to my mind; feel free to add your personal favorites in the comments.
Reverend Kane at the Door. Don’t blame the self-confessed, downwardly mobile Freeling family for their temporary digs, shacking up with Grammy Jess (Geraldine Fitzgerald) in Arizona; keep in mind their previous home up and disappeared into another dimension. One day while playing in the front yard Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) spies the same ghoulishly macabre, slinky man, who freaked her out earlier at the mall approaching with an apparent rain cloud over his head. Now, every scene which features Julian Beck’s incredible performance as sinister, deceased cult leader Reverend Kane is gruesomely effective but his attempt to enter the Freeling’s current temporary place of residence really takes the cake. After ignoring every possible not-so-subtle cue that he’s very much not welcome, insulting our favorite father’s manhood while attempting to Jedi-mind trick him, and even getting rebuffed with a whimper by the family dog (the heroic Pooch E. Buzz) he takes his gloves off and cuts to the chase screaming, “You’re all going to die in there!” It’s simple, to the point, and considering the family’s track record, hard to dispute.
The Demonic Tequila Worm. Rightfully frazzled thanks to the current onslaught of supernatural activity, Steve Freeling (Craig T. Nelson) understandably turns to a bottle of tequila to buffer the perpetual chaos. Unfortunately, he also inadvertently swallows a worm from the bottle which houses the spirit of Reverend Kane (aka The Beast), and soon he is cackling like a maniac, hurling hurtful accusations and forcing himself upon his mortified wife Diane (JoBeth Williams). In a last-ditch effort to break through to her husband, who is clearly possessed by an evil entity, Diane reaffirms her love for Steve which results in him puking up a humungous, mucus-covered creature with Kane’s snarling face which slithers away to wreak havoc elsewhere. The scene works as a pure gross-out extravaganza (the special effects are amazing) but hits much deeper on a psychological level as it’s truly disturbing to see such a beloved character behave in such a fashion. Simultaneously, it stokes fears of losing control over one’s actions as the audience has grown to empathize with this character (who may possibly be horror’s greatest father figure). It’s all very off-putting and must be particularly so for anyone who has ever known a loved one who suffered from mental illness or alcoholism.
Lawn of the Dead. Poor Diane Freeling always seems to be a corpse magnet! While processing and grieving the death of her beloved clairvoyant mother Gramma Jess (sorry for the spoiler), Diane has a very bad dream. She’s out in the front yard next to the lovely rose garden she and her mother once planted when a bunch of skeletal hands pop up from the ground and grab her. Worse still, a multitude of decrepit corpses yank her into the ground and then the soil returns to its previous state as if she never existed. There is a multitude of in-your-face dangers carousing about in P2 (even a floating chainsaw) but for some reason, this incidental jump-scare nightmare that pointedly expresses the unanimous fear of the grave is always a direct hit to my morbid heart.