Saturday, January 21, 2017

THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE (1967) (DVD Review)

THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE (1967)

Label: Synapse Films

Release Date: January 31st, 2017
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Duration: 109 Minutes
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame 
Audio: Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with English Subtitles
Director: Jose Mojica Marins 
Cast: José Mojica Marins, Nadia Freitas, Tina Wohlers


This direct sequel to At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)takes place a short  time after the end of that film, complete with a recap. Somehow the diabolical Ze has not only improbably survived the events of that film but has evaded imprisonment for his crime due to a lack of evidence. Note to self; the best time and place to commit a heinous crime would be 1960's Brazil or 1970's Italy. Returning to his village Ze almost immediately continues his quest for the "continuity of the blood", a perfect wife for his perfect son,  only on a larger scale with the assistance of a newly introduced "igor" type character named Bruno.  They kidnap six sexy ladies from the village and proceed to test their worth as suitable mates by subjecting them to a horde of tarantulas while they sleep. Of the six only a woman named Marcia displays the desired courage during the initiation, and she's chosen to give birth to Ze's supreme son. However, when Marcia witnesses the remaining five women being thrown into a deadly snake pit she proves unwilling to submit to Ze's sexual advances, which happen in full sight of the other women's deaths, which is not the most romantic setting Ze, c'mon man, you gotta step your game! 

In a scene that recalls the death of Terezinha and the fateful gypsy from At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul the last surviving victim of the snake pit curses Ze with words that prove to haunt him. Strangely Ze chooses to let Marcia leave and seems to have no fear of her going to the authorities. Afterward, Ze and Bruno dispose of the women's bodies in a nearby swamp, and it's not long before another young beauty catches his attention. This time it's Laura, the attractive daughter of a Colonel, however, the relationship puts him at odds with the Colonel's musclebound thug named Truncador. Later when Ze discovers that one of his victim's had been pregnant with child he is shattered. While he's alright with rape, torture, murder and kidnapping the diabolical Ze has a real soft spot for the kids. 


That night still broken-up over the death the unborn child Ze envisions a supernatural black figure in his room, the creature bleats like a wounded goat. The gaunt figure drags Ze kicking and screaming from his bed to the cemetery where hands of the dead erupt from the graves and pull Ze underground to Hell. At this point the monochromatic movie switches on the vibrant colors, Marins vision of Hell is a technicolor nightmare bathed in green, blue and red lighting. It's a cavernous place where souls are embedded in stone and tormented by Satan's minions with pitchforks. The air is filled with hysterical screaming and what sounds like the shrieking of a monkey. When Ze awakens he is strangely even more sure of his convictions, despite his nightmarish vision. He is ecstatic to discover than Laura is pregnant with his child but the excitement is short lived for Truncador and a trio of henchmen attack and beat the snot out of Ze, who just barely escapes into the swamps where he takes revenge upon the men, including an axe to the skull. 


While Ze escapes more or less unscathed Laura and the baby die from birthing complications shortly after. Ze is devastated and takes her body to a mausoleum where he angrily taunts the Lord and the Devil to show themselves, to prove that they do exist. Almost on on cue a bolt of lightning strikes a tree which falls onto Ze. After pulling himself free he decries the incident an act of nature not of divine intervention. At this time in the village Marcia still grieving the deaths of the other five women, drinks an arsenic cocktail and confesses Ze's crimes to a physician while on her deathbed. A lynch mob is formed whom pursue Ze. A priest discovers the injured Ze in the swamp and offers salvation but Ze refuses and flees only to be shot in the back by the husband of one of his victims. Wounded he tumbles down an embankment into the pond where he again screams to the Lord to prove his existence when suddenly the skeletons of the victims previously dumped in the lake rise to the surface. Relenting Ze begs the Priest for salvation and sinks below the surface while accepting the Lord into his heart in an unforgettable finale. 


Watching this it becomes readily apparent that Marins had honed his craft since the first film, this feels like next level filmmaking for the self-taught auteur of the macabre, It is perhaps slightly longer than needed but it is a powerful film that firmly cemented Marins as an auteur or terror. 

Audio/Video: This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1967) is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and is sourced from a new remaster from standard def scans of the original negative provided to Synapse by the licensor. Comparing it to my Australian DVD from Umbrella Entertainment I can see that the Aussie disc is horizontally stretched, and framed at 1.66:1, losing info on all four sides of the screen, as can be seen in the below screen grabs. The source elements looks much better than what we had with At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964), the black levels are much deeper and the contrast is quite good, plus it is framed properly. The only audio option is Dolby Digital Portuguese 2.0 Mono, no English subs, with optional English subtitles.



Extras begin with The Making of This Night I'll Possess Your Soul, a brief but informative interview with Marins intercut with footage from the film. He discusses the trilogy of films which at that point had yet to be fully realized, this was prior to the filming of Embodiment of Evil (2008). He also discussed converting an old synagogue into his studio for the film, working with amateurs, spiders and snakes and his concept of Hell as seen in the film.

Next up, a 4-minute visit to the Coffin Joe Museum looking, Marins leads the tour, pointing out at a cool coffin made for the original film in '63, various releases, props, his cloak and clothing, pics of Mojica with celebrities through the years, and various awards, received over the years.


Synapse have also included Ivan Cardoso's short-documentary The Universe of Mojica Marins (1978), plus an 8-minute interview with director. 

The disc is finished up with the original theatrical trailer and a gallery of images. again we have some very cool Ghoulish Gary Pullin artwork, making for one Hell of a nice looking release. All the extras are in Portuguese with English subtitles.       

Special Features: 

- 35mm negative scan supervised by director José Mojica Marins
- The Making of This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (8 min)
- A visit to the Coffin Joe Museum (4 min)
- The Universe of Mojica Marins – Vintage Featurette (25 min)
- Interview with José Mojica Marins (8 min)
- Introduction to the film by Coffin Joe (2 min) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Photo Gallery
- Optional English subtitles and chapter selections
- Cover artwork by Gary Pullin


SCREEN GRAB COMPARISON
SYNAPSE (Region 1 NTSC)- TOP
UMBRELLA (Region 0 PAL)- BOTTOM 














This is my favorite of the Coffin Joe films, so creepy and macabre, surprisingly violent and well put together by Mojica. The new disc from Synapse looks as good as we are likely to ever get unless someone uncovers some new vault elements worthy of an HD upgrade. For now though buy this with confidence, it's not likely to get a better release anytime soon and the Coffin Joe films are awesome. Synapse are also offering up The Coffin Joe Trilogy 3-disc set with these film along with the DVD of their Embodiment of Evil (2008) release, which has cool artwork from Joel Robinson.  4/5  

AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964) (DVD review)

AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964)

Label: Synapse Films

Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 82 Minutes
Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: Dolby Digital Portuguese 2.0 Mono with English Subtitles 
Director: Jose Mojica Marins 
Cast: Jose Mojica Marins, Magda Mei, Nivaldo de Lima, Valeria Vasquez

This is the film that introduced the world to the very first Brazilian horror icon - Ze do Caixao aka Coffin Joe, a fiendish undertaker in a small Brazilian village. He is single mindedly obsessed with the continuation of his bloodline through procreation and stands alone as an outspoken atheist in his village. Marins cuts an imposing bearded figure in a black cape, top hat, eerily long fingernails and a diabolical laugh and he is feared by the villagers.  The film begins with a spook-a-delic montage of macabre imagery and a creepy gypsy who warns theatre goers to leave before it's too late, it's freaky stuff till manages to raise a few hairs on my neck. Ze is married to Lenita, a kind woman who is infertile and unable to bare children which means she is less than nothing to Ze, who murders her with the assistance of a poisonous tarantula, making it look like an accident. He then turns his attentions towards his best friend's wife Terezinha (Magda Mei). Antonio, Terezinha's fiance, invites Ze to visit a gypsy fortune teller who predicts that Antonio is doomed and will never marry Terezinha. Furthermore she tells Ze that he'll suffer the all torments of Hell. Outraged by their so-called fortunes they call the gypsy a fraud but that same night Antonio is murdered by none other than Ze who wants Terezinha for himself.  

With no evidence against him Coffin Joe is free to pursue to Terezinha whom he beats into submission before raping her, whatta guy, right? The woman curses Ze for "ruining" her and swears the she will kill herself and return to take Ze's soul to Hell herself. The next day she is found hanging in her home. It's about this time that the local coroner Dr. Rudolpho begins to suspect Joe is the perpetrator in the recent spate of violent deaths but the doc is dispatched by Joe who gouges out the physician's eyes with his oddly long fingernails, it's pretty gruesome stuff and must have been outrageous at the time it made, this was several years before George A. Romero shocked audiences with Night of the Living Dead (1968). 


Not long after Joe meets a young woman named Marta and while escorting her home runs into the gypsy who foretold of Antonio's demise. She warns him that at midnight the souls of those he murdered will come for him. Ze is shaken by the gypsy, and sure enough encounters an apparition and a trippy funeral procession of souls who are carrying his body to Hell. While trying to escape the ghastly spirits Ze winds up at the mausoleum where both Terezinha and Antonio are buried. Out of his mind and on the edge of insanity Ze opens the coffin lids revealing the eyes of his victims staring at him,  their faces riddled with maggots and decomposition. Moments later the villagers discover Ze's corpse in the mausoleum after hearing his chilling scream. The film ends as the local church bells announce the stroke of midnight while Ze's corpse lies on the ground staring upwards, his eyes hideously bulging in a macabre death stare. 


Audio/Video: At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio with Dolby Digital Portuguese 2.0 mono audio with optional English subtitles. The print not what I would call pristine with a of of scratches and wear but it is quite watchable. Comparing it to my Australian DVD from Umbrella Entertainment Ican see that the Aussie disc is horizontally stretched, and framed at 1.66:1, losing info on all four sides of the screen, as can be seen in the below screen grabs.  The Synapse disc looks superior on all fronts, but don't expect something crisp and blemish free, there's only so much they can do with the source. According to Synapse's Facebook page these are newly remastered from standard def scans of the original negative, and that the licensors did not provide any HD scans, further implying that perhaps the original materials are not in any shape to be scanned in HD, so it looks like we might never get a Blu-ray of the original two films at least. The audio like the image is a bit problematic with plenty of hiss and noise, which is inherent to the source material, but not awful.   


Looking at the extras on the disc we have The Making of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul: Interview with Director, a 10-minute interview with Jose Mojica Marins intercut with scenes from the film covering the origins of the films, filming the scenes in his own studio, the extreme low budget nature of the film and it's divisive reception. Brief but very interesting. Conducted in Portuguese with English subtitles, also found on the Aussie disc. 


New stuff which I have not seen before begin with José Mojica Marins discussing his short film, Reino Sangrento (1952). The director speaks over a silent short he shot in 1948, his fourth film, about sultan's in the amazon. He discusses how he cast the film, the costuming, performing his own stunts,and his lack of editing. 


The disc also includes a new scene filmed in 2002 and shot on what looks like consumer grade video, in color, with a handy little video box featuring footage from the original film so you can place the scene in context of the original movie. other extras include a 2-min intro from Mojica, the original theatrical trailer and a rare promotional trailer. The release also features cool new artwork from Ghoulish Gary Pullin! Also look out for a weird little Easter Egg on the disc, black and white surgery footage of some sort, very strange. 


Special Features:  

-35mm negative scan supervised by director José Mojica Marins
- The Making of AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (10 mins.)
- José Mojica Marins discusses his short film, REINO SANGRENTO (1952) (9 min)
- Interview with José Mojica Marins (7 min)
- New scene filmed in 2002 (7 min) 
- Introduction to the film by Coffin Joe (2 min) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- Rare Promotional Trailer (3 min) 
- Optional English subtitles and Chapter Selections


SCREEN GRABS
SYNAPSE - TOP
UMBRELLA - BOTTOM 




At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964) is a very creepy and dark story filled with strange violence that might seem a bit tame by today's standards but it works for me. Mojica as Ze is over-the-top and quite theatrical, almost Shakespearean in his intensity and it totally works for the movie, he's a scary guy. The new disc from Synapse looks great, we get some new extras, and the new artwork looks very cool. 3/5

POLTERGEIST III (1988) (Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

POLTERGEIST III (1988)
Collector's Edition Blu-ray 

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13

Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Gary Sherman
Cast: Kip Wentz, Lara Flynn Boyle, Nancy Allen, Tom Skerritt, Heather O'Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein


The third and final film in the original Poltergeist trilogy features only two returning stars from the franchise, young Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne and the diminutive spirit-medium Tangina as played by Zelda Rubinstein. This is not a good sign, apparently Craig T. Nelson and Jobeth Williams didn't want anything to do with this sequel, which was probably a wise career decision. Also absent are original writers Mark Victor and Michael Grais who penned the original and the first sequel, and gone is composer Jerry Goldsmith who provided the rich, lyrical scores for the first two movies, which I think were very integral to their overall success. 

In this sequel we have Carol Anne (O'Rourke) being sent away to with her mom's sister Pat (Nancy Allen, Blow Out)in Chicago, who is newly married to Bruce Gardner (Tom Skerritt, Alien)in a 100-story luxury skyscraper. We don't get reason for why she's sent away, other than to assume since Williams and Nelson chose not to participate this was a convenient way to write them out of the story. Aunt Pat is bit of a self-obsessed 80s careerist, an art dealer who doesn't have a great connection with kids, not even her husband's teenage daughter Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle, Twin Peaks), so she doesn't have the most maternal of instincts when young Carol Anne arrives to live with them, making Carol Anne feel like a fourth wheel. 

Carol Anne is enrolled at a school for gifted/troubled youngsters, where the head shrink, Dr. Seaton (Richard Fire, writer of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), begins to believe that her history of supernatural entanglements can be explained away by Carol Anne having the ability to project some form of mass-hypnosis or post-hypnotic suggestion, which to me sounds more far-fetched than the reality of the situation. Anyway, his probing of her psyche seems to have once again attracted the unwanted attention of the demonic doomsday cult-leader Rev Kane, this time played by actor Nathan Davis, as Julien Beck who originated the role in Poltergeist 2 had passed away from stomach-cancer. For hs part Davis does good work, decked out in prosthetic make-up which makes him look similar to Beck's character, but not an exact likeness, he looks a bit more zombie-like in appearance, sort of like the Crypt Keeper from Tales from the Crypt, and the result are certainly creepy in a way, but not on par with the iconic performance from Beck.

While all this is happening the magical dwarf Tangina senses from far away that O'Rourke is again in danger, apparently she's got a bit of The Shining in her, and she races to the high-rise with a mystical necklace given to her by the shaman Taylor from the last film, though she doesn't fare too much better than Mr. Hallorann from Kubrick's The Shining. The movie sets up the high rise luxury building as a technical marvel with some operating bugs to work out, a place with way too many mirrors, which of course plays into the larger picture. Kane and his evil spirit-minions are able to reach out through the mirrors, again trying to whisk away Carol Anne into the spirit world to lead them into the Light. Kane's reach also extends to reflective surfaces like pools of water, he is also able to possess the mirror images of people, which he does to both Donna (a sort of dull pre-Twin peaks Lara Flynn Boyle) and her bland 80s boyfriend Scott (Kipley Wentz).


The movie has some freaky special effects but they're nowhere near the level of creepy as the Giger designed make-up effects we saw on the second film, though I will say that the Great Beast at the end of the P2 was mighty awful, too. However, there are some some cool set-pieces, like when Tangina is attacked and turned into a mummified corpse, then another character crawls up through her remains, returning from the mirror-world, sort of. The mirror stuff is pretty technical and well-done, notably these are in-camera effects, they're cool, but maybe overused at a certain point. I liked the way that the Donna doppelganger's shirt had the lettering on their shirt reversed, which was a nice little detail.

While I enjoy a few touches throughout the movie on the whole it seems a tired from the beginning, the high rise setting takes away from the haunted house vibe which I enjoyed previously, the fact that the Freeling family is absent sort of kills it for me, too. The family dynamic was one of my favorite parts of the previous film, here everyone seems so disconnected. Then there's a weird scenario in the parking garage of the high-rise where everything is frozen over and the cars become murderous, the whole thing was just silly, a definite jump the shark moment. I give it props for fleeting moments of creativity and technical wizardry, but the atmosphere and suspense is null for me. Looking at the cast I like Skerritt well enough but Allen's Pat is just unlikable, and that the overwrought ending hangs on her proving her love for Carol Anne is bad. 
  
Also not helping is that this is the least attractive looking of the sequels in my opinion, shot in standard framing as opposed to scope like the previous films by cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy who has done some damn   decent TV work on The Americans and Big Love more recently, but this production seems flat. Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful music is also absent, instead we have a decent score from Joe Renzetti (Child's Play, The Exterminator), who had worked with director Sherman on Dead And Buried (1981), but it lacks the resonance of the Goldsmith scores, a lot of what's wrong with this picture is what's missing from it that I loved about what came before. 

Audio/Video: Like Poltergeist II this is not the first time that Poltergeist III has appeared on Blu-ray, we saw a decent 1080p presentation from MGM a few years ago, but it was bare bones. Scream Factory kick it up a few notches with a new 2K scan of the interpositive, and grain is more finely resolved, details and textures look superior, black levels are deeper and the image has a nice crispness and clarity.  Audio options on the disc come bay way of both DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround tracks. The stereo track has some good channel separation, everything comes through crisply, there's some good use of the surrounds with the score and some of the more spook-house type scenes get some rear channel action. Optional English subtitles are included. 


Oh My God! Why did we agree to make
this movie? 
Onto the extras we have two commentaries, one with director Gary Sherman moderated by Michael Felsher of Red shirt Pictures, which is mostly technical with some anecdotes about the production, taking time to speak about the death of O'Rourke. Plus a second with  Poltergeist III Webmaster David Furtney who provides loads of facts and info about the production, including alternate scenes. Red Shirt again provides a trio of new featurettes, a twelve-minute interview with Screenwriter Brian Taggert who speaks of his previous work with director Gary Sherman on Dead And Buried, being brought onto this picture, liking the director's pitch of it being Alice Through the Looking Glass sort of take on the material, even though that's not exactly what ended up on screen. Taggert also speaks about what a tough and interesting old bird Zelda Rubinstein was and the tragic death O'Rourke. 

Actress Nancy Allen shows up for a 12-minute interview, speaking about her experiences working on a movie she didn't quite understand, acting with Skerritt, and how technical and complex the film was, also stating that in her opinion it was a better sequel than the second film, to which I must respectfully say "nope". I love Allen's work in De Palma's movies and Robocop, but this was not one of her better moments in a movie, but I love you Nancy!  

Special Effects Creator John Caglione, Jr (C.H.U.D.) shows in for a 13-minute interview speaking about what an ho it was having special effects legend Dick Smith as the designer of the special effects, being able to facilitate his designs onscreen. Speaks about how game the cast were when it came to doing the effects, covering Lara Flynn Boyle in slime, making a body casting of Rubinstein for the mummified Tangina corpse, creating the Kane make-up for actor Nathan Davis (Thief), and the numerous in camera mirror effects seen throughout the movie 

A nice addition is a 3-minute alternate ending, no audio was available for these scenes and subtitles have been created using script pages, which was cool, not any worse than the theatrical ending in my opinion. Additionally we get the theatrical trailer, some TV spots, and a still gallery. Packaging extras include a slipcover (o-ring) with new artwork from illustrator Justin Osbourn, plus a sleeve of reversible artwork. 

Special Features
- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Gary Sherman
- NEW Audio Commentary With Poltergeist III Webmaster David Furtney
- NEW High Spirits – An Interview With Screenwriter Brian Taggert (16 min) HD 
- NEW Reflections – An Interview With Actress Nancy Allen (12 min) HD 
- NEW Mirror Images – An Interview With Special Effects Creator John Caglione, Jr. (13 min) HD 
- Alternate Ending (3 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) HD 
- TV Spots (2 min)
- Still Galleries (Behind-The-Scenes Photos, Stills, and Posters) (79 images) HD  
- Script Pages (132 pages)


The third Poltergeist film is a dud, no doubt about it, there are some inspired moments, but overall this is a downer of a sequel, and not just because of the sad passing of young star Heather O'Rourke after it wrapped. As a scary movie this is bad, which is shame for several reason, but for me it's more so because director Gary Sherman directed two classic slices of terror cinema previously, the subway horror Raw Meat (1972) and the macabre Dead And Buried (1981), both of which I cannot recommend strongly enough, they're awesome. I think Poltergeist II might be a case of a good director being thrown in director's jail after a box office dud, much the same way Robocop 3 (1993) pretty much ended the directing career of Fred Dekker (Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps). 

On the bright side, Scream Factory have put together a fantastic Collector's Editions with loads of extras and a superior A/V presentation for fans or the morbidly curious, this is one of those classic cases of a sub-par movie receiving an above par release, and I love that. 2/5

As a side note, one of the more annoying aspects of the movie aside, from Nancy Allen's awful late-80s hair, is how many times "Carol Anne" is said, whispered and screamed throughout the movie. Just for fun here's a YouTube supercut of how many time her name is said, enjoy! 



Friday, January 20, 2017

​Via Vision Entertainment in Australia is pleased to announce it is releasing The Fly Ultimate Collection​ on Blu-ray March 8th

The Fly Ultimate Collection 5-Disc Set
on Blu-ray March 8th 

Via Vision Entertainment is thrilled to announce the release of the The Fly Ultimate Collection on Blu-ray. This limited edition includes the original The Fly (1958), Return of the Fly (1959), Curse of The Fly (1965), the 30th anniversary special edition of David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) and The Fly II – Special Edition (1989). Release date will be March 8th.

This 1080p set will contain five discs and an array of must have supplementary materials for horror and sci-fi collectors and fans of the franchise. Some of these include the documentaries Fear of the Flesh, The Brundle Museum of Natural History, The Fly Papers, deleted scenes, extended scenes, audio commentary by director Chris Walas, alternate ending, film tests and much more. This is a worldwide premiere on Blu-ray for The Fly II and Curse of The Fly and the first time every film in the franchise has been packaged together on high definition.

AV Maniacs covering the original film directed by Kurt Neuman writes, “This classic film is tonally different from the Cronenberg redo from ’86 but both manage to deliver terrific entertainment that have earned them their due spots in history.” “David Cronenberg’s The Fly is that absolute rarity of the ‘80s: a film that is at once a pure, personal expression and a superbly successful commercial enterprise,” wrote Dave Kehr in the Chicago Tribune. Richard Corliss in Time Magazine observed “A gross-your-eyes-out horror movie that is also the year’s most poignant romance.”

Announced Special Features: 
- Fear of the Flesh Doc
- The Brundle Museum of Natural History Doc
- The Fly Papers Doc
- Deleted Scenes
- Extended Scenes
- Audio commentary by director Chris Walas
- Alternate Ending
- AND MORE!

POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE (1986) (Blu-ray Review)

POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE (1986)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Brian Gibson
Cast: Heather O'Rourke, JoBeth Williams, Julian Beck, Oliver Robins, Craig T. Nelson, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson


While it'd actually been six years since the original Poltergeist hit theaters before the sequel arrived in '86 in movie time it'd been a year since the Freeling family survived that paranormal attack from the first film, the one that ended with their house imploding into nothingness. In that time they've relocated to another city and are, not surprisingly, still without a TV - much to the chagrin of their young son Robbie (Oliver Robins, Airplane II: The Sequel), who seems like he might just ie without hs Saturday Morning Cartoons! Steven (Craig T. Nelson, The Incredibles) and Diane (JoBeth Williams, Stir Crazy)along with Robbie and daughter Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke, Poltergeist) have relocated to Phoenix, Arizona where they live with Diane's mother, Jess (Geraldine Fitzgerald, Arthur), whom it is shown is spirit-sensitive or clairvoyant, the granny has supernatural leanings and and she believes her granddaughter Carol Anne is, too, though momma Diane doesn't want to hear any of it - she's had about enough of the spirit world given the events of the first film, and I don't blame her. 

Meanwhile back in the Feeling's old neighborhood in Cuesta Verde, California the entire neighborhood has been evacuated and bulldozed, there's some sort of archaeological dig happening and the pint-sized medium Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein, TV's Picket Fences)from the first film finds an underground cavern located right beneath where the Freelings' former home stood. Inside the cavern they find the remains of a religious doomsday cult-leader Rev. Henry Kane (Julian Beck, The Cotton Club) and his followers. we come to find out that Kane was the human origin of the Beast who went after Carol Anne in the first film, the one seeking the light, and it's more of the same here with a new twist. 

At about the same time Granny Jess passes away, which seems to unlock Carol Anne's spirit powers, receiving a call on her toy phone in the middle of the night from her granny - from beyond the grave!  It seems that Carol Anne's spirit-powers have also attracted the attention of the evil-spirit of Rev. Kane, who also reaches out to the young girl also through the toy phone, culminating in some supernatural shenanigans happening around the home, and as expected the family flee the home but are intercepted at their own doorstep by the Native American shaman Taylor (Will Sampson, The White Buffalo), who has been sent by Tangina to protect the family, convincing them they must stay and battle the evil, that you cannot run from it. 

Kane has now taken human form, approaching Carol Anne at the Mall before showing up at their new home, creepily demanding to be let in, singing a strange religious song that gave me the goosebumps, before screaming "You're all gonna die in there!" and sauntering on down the street looking like the world's most menacing Mennonite, the guy is frightening, and by several measures the creepiest aspect of the movie. Sadly Beck dies just after filming P2, his gaunt appearance in the film owing to the fact that he was in the final stages of stomach-cancer, which is a damn shame. 


As sequels go this is not too shabby, gone is the guiding hand of producer Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper (Eaten Alive), but new director Brian Gibson (What's Love Got To Do With It) does good work with a script from writers Mark Victor and Michael Grais who also penned the first film, it has a lot of the elements that made the first so good, and changes things up just enough that it doesn't seem like a sequel retread. They had the good sense to bring back the core Freeling family members - minus poor Dominique Dunne who was murdered in real-life after the first film by her boyfriend. They've also brought back Rubenstein as the pint-sized medium Tangina, and she who brings a lot of quirk and otherworldly presence to the role. The family dynamic is largely what made the first film such a success for me, Nelson and Williams are still great together onscreen, though Williams takes a bit of a backseat to Nelson this time out, O'Rourke and Robbins are quite good, too. After Beck as Kane it is Nelson steals the show, his skeptic-interactions with the shaman Taylor are fun, he gives a great speech about how he's "into downward mobility" following the events of the first film, and there's a scene where he's possessed by Kane which is uber-creepy, taking on a few of Julien Beck's facial ticks and pronunciations before attempting to rape his wife, weird stuff for a PG-13 film.  

The addition of the shaman character played by Will Sampson is a nice touch, I liked the Native American folklore and mystical aspect of it, I think it goes overboard a bit towards the end of the movie when things get too goofy, and the character might be considered a bit of stereotypical magic Indian, but I like it, I like the visuals, I like the folklore of it, it's a nice addition. 

The filmmakers get the family stuff mostly right, I like the Native American shaman stuff, and to top it off it also features some very cool makeup special effects from Richard Edlund (Fright Night) and his team which included Steve Johnson (Species 2) and Screaming Mad George (Society), based on designs by artists H.R. Giger (Alien). The cool effects include a grotesque tequila worm that gets swallowed, them vomited up as a larger worm, which crawls under a bed and mutates into a limbless slime-covered skeletal-monster that is frightening as fuck, it scared the bejesus outta me as a kid, and it's still super weird, the entire sequence holds up so well. Not all the effects as well executed though, a scene of Robbie being attacked by his own braces starts of sort of cool but then goes a bit too far, like something from a ate-era A Nightmare on elm Street sequel. Also, the revelation of Kane's true spirit form as the great beast is very poorly realized, what on paper looked like a freaky  Lovecraftian/Giger mash-up looks just silly and anti-climactic onscreen. 

The finale of the film is where it loses me a bit, it doesn't wrap up too well, things begin to get too goofy when we have a chainsaw attacking the family station wagon - perhaps a nod to Tobe Hooper? Then the family returns to the cavern in Questa Verde to do battle against the Great Beast to rescue Carol Anne once again, on the spirit plane. We also have a too saccharine scene of Grandma Jess returning to save the day, it's all a bit too much, but I still enjoy the movie a lot, it gets more right than it got wrong, and it holds up pretty well for the most part. Also helping is that the movie was lensed by cinematographer Andrew Laszlo (The Warriors) and has a gorgeous orchestral score from Jerry Goldsmith (Gremlins) which goes a long way towards recapturing some of that Spielberg-ian charm and atmosphere of the first film, even revisiting his own score for The Omen at points. 


Audio/Video: Poltergeist II: The other Side (1986) arrives on Blu-ray for a second time, the first release from MGM was actually quite solid in respect to the A/V presentation - but it was bare bones. The new Scream  Factory Collector's Edition benefits from a brand new 2K scan of the interpositive and a wealth of extras. The new transfer is a step-up, with a tiny bit more depth and detail, grain looks good, and the color reproduction is solid, maybe even a tad more saturated. Audio options on the disc come bay way of both DTS-HD MA 2.0 ad 5.1 surround tracks, the stereo track is just fine with good channel separation, everything comes through crisp and robust, including the stellar score from Jerry Goldsmith. The surround option is a good one, making good atmospheric use of the surrounds with the Goldsmith score sounding fuller in surrounds, and some nice spooky use of the rear channels, optional English subtitles are included.

Scream Factory give this sequel some very cool extras, beginning with two audio commentaries, the first with  Writer/Producer Michael Grais which is moderated by Michael Felsher from Red Shirt Pictures, who produced the new extras. Felsher does a good job keeping the commentary focused on on point, prodding the writer/producer, who also wrote the first film and brings a lot of info and background to the table. The second commentary is from Poltergeist II Webmaster David Furtney, a bit subdued, but they guy knows a lot about the movie and the production, he points out differences in the original script versus what ended up on screen. New interviews begin with a 14 minute interview with then child star Oliver Robins who begins by saying he was very happy to get the call for the sequel, having had quite enough of being bullied in school at the time. He speaks about working with the cast, remembering Nelson kept things fun on the set seeing Jobeth Williams as a maternal figure, working with the director who apparently was not keen on Gibson ad libbing on-set the way he did on the first. He also speaks fondly of the late Heather O'Rourke whom he remembers as a sweet girl with aspirations of becoming a filmmaker, being around Will Sampson who he saw as mysterious. Robbins also goes into filming the brace-face special effects, and how difficult flying sequence in the spirit world were to film. 


Fans of special effects are in for a treat, we have a 22-min featurette with new interviews from Steve Johnson, Richard Edlund and Screaming Mad George who go in-depth divulging the secrets behind the cloud tank used to create the shaman effects, brace-face, the tequila worm monster and it's various transformations, and the Carol Anne zombie sequence - all great stuff, this is lead for the most part by Johnson who shows up on many of the Scream releases, he's becoming a favorite of mine on these xtras. 

Something I didn't realize for a long time was that H.R. Giger (Alien) did the production artwork and creature designs for the movie, this 22-min featurette puts that into focus, with interviews from Edlund, Johnson and Screaming Mad George who speak about creating the creature effects based on the artist's design. Giger's friend and Agent Les Barany also appears, speaking about Giger's work on film, how that affected his standing in the art community, Giger's not liking to travel because he didn't want to leave his cat at home alone, and his visit to the set of the movie, and how he was often not pleased with how his work was realized on screen, including this one, which culminated in an unannounced set-visit from the artist. what I loved about this was how much this artwork is featured throughout the featurette, glorious stuff. 
  
Scream have also included about fifteen minutes worth of vintage EPKs with on-set interviews from producer Michael Grais and Freddie Fields, actress Jobeth Williams and others. Additionally we have the original theatrical trailers, some TV spots, an image gallery and the 124 page script for the movie. Packaging wise we get a the standard Collector's Edition slipcover with new artwork from artist Justin Osbourn, plus a sleeve of reversible artwork.

Special Features:
- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
- NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Producer Michael Grais
- NEW Audio Commentary With Poltergeist II Webmaster David Furtney
- NEW Robbie's Return – An Interview With Oliver Robins (14 min) HD 
- NEW The Spirit World – An Interview With Special Effects Designers Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson And Screaming Mad George (22 min) HD 
- NEW Ghosts Of Giger – A Look At The Contributions Of Artist H.R. Giger Featuring Rare Photos And Illustrations And An Interview With Giger's Friend And Agent Les Barany And Special Effects Designer Steve Johnson, Richard Edlund And Screaming Mad George (22 min) HD 
- Vintage Featurette: They're Back: The Making Of Poltergeist II ^ min)HD
- Vintage Featurette: Monster Shop And Ghostmakers: The Magic Of Poltergeist II (3 min) HD
- Vintage Featurette: Ghostmakers: The Magic Of Poltergeist II
- Theatrical Trailer(6 min) HD
- TV Spots (2 min) 
- Still Galleries (Behind-The-Scenes Photos, Stills, Posters)(75 images) 
- Script Pages (124 pages) 

I probably love this sequel as much as I do because I caught it on cable in the 80s A LOT, the same reason I love Amityville 3-D (1983)beyond reason, actually. It does a lot right, it brings back the core family from the first film and Zelda Rubinstein as the mystical-midget Tangina, plus it adds some shaman mysticism by way of Will Sampson. What holds this together for me is the creepy performance of Julian Beck as the demonic cult-leader Kane, this guy scared me to death as a kid, and he's still gets under my skin! Sure, it pales in comparison to the original, but so does ninety-percent of all other scary films in my opinion, but as sequels go this one is not without it's supernatural charms, and the new Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory is top-notch, good stuff. 3.5/5