The Films (Poltergeist II - 3.5/5 Poltergeist III - 2/5)
I have never had a serious connection with the Poltergeist films, until the Blu-ray release of the first film I had only seen them on TV, and honestly found them deadly boring (I know). However, even back then I realized the original had a punch the sequels were lacking in. Having viewed the original in the last few years I can say it works wonderfully as an effective roller coaster ride of a horror thriller even in that Spielberg family film safety zone that director Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) was forced to play in.
The sequels I remember feeling different, and being all over the place tonally. I always enjoyed films that threw all sorts of weirdness at the screen to see what stuck, and the first Poltergeist sequel definitely does that, both to good and bad effect, but I always felt it was ill advised. The third film was obviously overshadowed by the death of Heather O'Rourke, and the fact that the finished product was so vastly different from the original 2 films definitely hurt the final product.
Poltergeist as a film ended conclusively with the Freeling's house disappearing into a void, and Carol Anne being retrieved from beyond. However, it was a money maker, so a sequel was possible, and could easily be fit into the narrative. In Poltergeist II, the Freeling's have moved to Phoenix to live with Dianne's Mother, Grandma Jess, who also happens to be a psychic. Things are fine as Jess' powers keep the supernatural at bay, but one day after Jess departs this mortal coil Carol Anne speaks to her on a toy telephone and this opens the gateway for the evil Reverand Kane to attempt to get at Carol Anne.
After this the movie goes full on full horror show, and throws everything at the wall. Where the original Poltergeist blended spookshow blast with a sense of subtlety that proved to be effective this one goes far out in the spookshow direction and does every weird and wacky thing they can put on screen in the film's denouement. We also get a Native American man named Taylor who teaches the secret to defeating Kane and the Poltergeist menace. The performances from the main cast are great, Craig T. Nelson as usual is fantastic, he could play this role in his sleep, and really does the middle American suburban Dad thing quite well.
Poltergeist III is the true odd man out of the series. It is directed by Gary Sherman who is absolutely one of the most understated directors in the last 30 or so years of horror cinema having directed the genre classics Dead & Buried and Deathline, but also the lesser known Lisa, and 39: A Film by Carroll McKane. Putting Sherman in charge of Poltergeist III seems like a no-brainer, of course, it is a sequel to 2 major Hollywood success stories so I doubt he had much say as far as direction goes.
Poltergeist III follows Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) as she is sent to Chicago to live with her Aunt and Uncle in a high rise that is something right out of Cronenberg's Shivers. The change in location is interesting, but feels a tad bizarre because of all the themes of family and love from the first 2 films. Right from the start it is established that the family here does not buy into the supernatural even with the Zelda Rubinstein character continuing on from the previous entries and channeling her know how to them.
Obviously threatening things involving the Reverand Kane and poltergeist activity begin to happen to and around Carol Anne, and it's up to the family to rescue her again. There are some interesting spookshow effects here, but it all feels rather trite and cliché. Things happen, and they obviously want you to care, but at this point it feels Carol-Anne is just a punching bag for ghost, and without her actual caring and established family surrounding her it just feels like new warm bodies.
MGM released both films on Blu-ray around the time of the Poltergeist remake. I cannot claim to have viewed either of these 2 Blu's as I prefaced the reviews with neither of these were ever my cup of tea. The Scream Factory Blu-rays, however, are new 2k Scans from the IP. P2 is 2:35:1, P3 is 1:85:1. Both films have excellent detail, colors, and blacks. There is some minor softness in 2 during the exterior moments. The grain structure is quite solid throughout both features, and I found nothing to complain about here.
Audio chores for both are handled with DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks in English. Both tracks are quite solid with dialogue, score, and ambient FX coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues with either.
Extras (5/5 -Both)
If there is one avenue that Scream Factory constantly excels it is in the extra features department, and these 2 releases are absolutely no different. Both films have multiple new commentary tracks, interviews, and featurettes sure to blow the minds of any fans of the film.
I won't claim to be a fan of either Poltergeist sequel (or even the original). But Scream Factory has done a brilliant job bringing these to Blu-ray for the fans. I can sort of half recommend the second film, because it's sort of weird fun, but the third is just not that great. Both films look great, and are loaded up with extras. If you're a fan RECOMMENDED, either wise I guess not?