Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Brian Gibson's sequel to the Steven Spielberg-Tobe Hooper horror show of 1982 at least displays a sharp critical sense: decoding the original as a Spielbergian hymn to the power of motherhood, Gibson has designed the sequel as a study in the crisis of fatherhood. The dramatic emphasis shifts entirely to Craig T. Nelson's quivering dad, cruelly shut out from the mystical bonds of clairvoyance that unite his wife (JoBeth Williams) and daughter (Heather O'Rourke), yet still responsible for the safety of his family. The screenplay offers him two models: he can become a rigidly authoritarian patriarch like Julian Beck (playing the head of a 19th-century religious cult come back for revenge) or he can become a nurturing, New Age parent of the kind represented by Will Sampson (an Indian medicine man who comes to the haunted family's aid). It isn't hard to guess which path Nelson chooses, but there is some genuine temptation and personal anguish involved, which gives Gibson's film a much darker, more dangerous tone than anything in Spielberg's blandly affirmative work. Altogether, an unusually honorable achievement in a form (the remake) where originality is a dirty word. With Zelda Rubinstein and Geraldine Fitzgerald.

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