Poltergeist III Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Gary Sherman
Written by Gary Sherman and Brian Taggert
1988, 98 minutes, Rated PG-13
Blu-ray released on January 31st, 2017
Tom Skerritt as Bruce
Nancy Allen as Patricia
Heather O’Rourke as Carol Anne
Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina
Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna
Kip Wentz as Scott
Richard Fire as Dr. Seaton
Nathan Davis as Rev. Kane
Before she was ten years old, Carol Anne Freeling was twice targeted by a paranormal entity determined to use her innocence for sinister purposes. The first incident saw the poltergeist punch a hole into our world, kidnap the child and terrorize her family for their rescue efforts. The second time the spirits located her, their leader Reverend Kane took on a physical form and tried to split the Freelings apart by playing on their fears and insecurities. Both efforts were defeated when challenged by Tangina, a tiny aging ghost-buster short in stature but filled with sass. Having successfully survived multiple supernatural attacks, the Freeling family decides it is best to send young Carol Anne to stay with relatives across the country so they can enjoy some peace and quiet in her absence.
Aunt Pat has recently married the manager of the Hancock Building in Chicago, the third tallest building in the world. Bruce Gardner is a loving father and generous man who welcomes Carol Anne with open arms, while Patricia is a bit reluctant to warm up to her niece. Bruce’s teenaged daughter Donna is also well-meaning, but more interested in hanging out with friends than babysitting a twelve-year-old. Carol Anne is attending a private school for gifted children with emotional problems and has caught the attention of headmaster Dr. Seaton. He believes her ghost story is nonsense and that she simply has mastered the power of suggestion. Carol Anne is reluctant to discuss her past, as she knows Rev. Kane will stop at nothing to claim his prize. Kane uses all means to track her down and plays with the mirror images in the building’s numerous reflective surfaces. He doesn’t care who he uses in order to win and once again, Tangina must step in to help save the young girl she has grown to love.
When Poltergeist II proved to be a box office success, a second sequel appeared inevitable and director Gary Sherman (Dead & Buried) agreed to take the reins if he could bring a fresh approach to the material. His spin was to make a haunted-house film set in a high-rise with an Alice Through the Looking Glass spin. The idea in itself is great, but doesn’t work when shoehorned into the Poltergeist mold. Without relying on Carol Anne and Rev. Kane, the story could have been really interesting. The decision to bring back Kane is poorly executed with excessive make-up appliances that appear neither organic nor do they resemble the features of the late Julien Beck, who originated the role in the previous film. Sherman co-wrote the script with Brian Taggert (Visiting Hours) and fills the screen with elaborate mirror image gags involving deadly doppelgängers. This is an effective tool when used sparingly, but that is not the case in Poltergeist III.
Tom Skerritt (Alien) is charming and instantly likeable as Bruce Gardner, a decent guy without any of the excess baggage that populated genre films in the 1980s. He has great onscreen chemistry with all of his co-stars and I only wish his character had been the focus of this picture. Nancy Allen (Dressed to Kill) does a fine job as Patricia, a newlywed woman not ready to raise a child. Lara Flynn Boyle (Twin Peaks) is effective as Donna and brings a devilish mirth to the scenes involving her evil alter-ego. She spends too much time screaming the name “Carol Anne” to be anything but annoying at times, yet viewers may wish to take this as an invitation to create a drinking game. The late Heather O’Rourke reprises the role of Carol Anne for what would be her final film appearance, but sadly this proves to be a waste of her time and talents. Zelda Rubinstein (Sixteen Candles) is surprisingly awful this go-round as she returns to her role of Tangina. The character doesn’t fit in this story and her willingness to step in and help makes the girl’s missing parents seem a little less likeable.
Poltergeist III is not a very good film, but it is a creative and resourceful one. Sherman relies too heavily on his mirror gags, but scores mad points for the finale involving our actors aboard the window-washing rig high atop the building’s exterior. I would be more interested in seeing how he would tell this story without the franchise connections. It is a shame that the series ended on a sour note, but this sequel does nothing to diminish the strength of the original picture.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and having received a fresh 2K scan of the original negative, the image is very appealing and stronger than the transfer that appeared on the previous MGM Blu-ray release a few years ago. Colors pop and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
Audio options include both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and the original 2.0 stereo track and while both are effective, the expanded mix is preferable.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Director Gary Sherman’s audio commentary is insightful and informative, as he is well aware of the shortcomings of the finished product. Moderator Michael Felsher does a fine job keeping the track moving as he prompts the filmmaker with great questions that cover a wide range of the production process.
Webmaster of the Poltergeist fan site, David Furtney delivers a somewhat dry commentary filled with trivia and additional information about the production. His track would benefit from a moderator, as there are more than a few gaps of silence as he watches the film.
Screenwriter Brian Taggert looks back at the film from concept to production in the featurette High Spirits (16 minutes). He’s an interesting guy with a lot to say and this is a pretty cool segment.
Seemingly ageless Nancy Allen sits down for Reflections (12 minutes), a short interview in which the actress shares her memories of working on the film and attending O’Rourke’s funeral.
Mirror Images (13 minutes) is the most entertaining piece as special effects artist John Caglione tells tales of strippers and working with make-up effects legend Dick Smith.
This disc includes the long-lost alternate ending, albeit without audio. Fans of this film will definitely want to check it out.
The original teaser trailer offers a brief look at the marketing campaign, while additional promotional material can be found in a collection of four TV spots.
A gallery of production stills, behind-the-scenes photographs, poster art, storyboards and lobby cards plays as a slide show.
The film’s shooting script offers viewers the opportunity to read along as the individual pages are presented in a similar slide show design.