Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Poltergeist II: The Other Side is a 1986 American supernatural horror film and the second entry in the Poltergeist film series. A sequel to Poltergeist, it features the return of the original family, who are once again confronted by a spirit trying to harm their daughter, Carol Anne. It received mixed reviews from critics and did not gross as much at the box office as its predecessor, although it was still financially successful. It ended up making over $40 million against a $19 million (estimated) production budget and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. The film was also nominated for a Razzie Award for Zelda Rubinstein as Worst Supporting Actress. It was followed in 1988 by Poltergeist III. A quote for its film trailer, in which Carol Anne says "They're baaa-aaack," has been referenced endlessly in popular culture ever since.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian Gibson
Produced by
Written by
  • Michael Grais
  • Mark Victor
Based onCharacters
by Steven Spielberg
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyAndrew Laszlo
Edited by
Distributed byMGM Entertainment Co.
Release date
  • May 23, 1986 (1986-05-23)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$19 million
Box office$40.9 million


One year after the Freeling house poltergeist intrusion, Cuesta Verde is being evacuated and turned into an archaeological paranormal dig centered around the spot where the Freelings' home stood before it imploded. The excavation leads to the discovery of a cave by a ground crew. Its existence is revealed to psychic Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein), who tells a friend of hers, Taylor (Will Sampson), a Native American shaman. After investigating the cave for himself, Taylor realizes that Rev. Henry Kane (Julian Beck), a deceased, insane preacher, has located Carol Anne and goes to defend her.

The Freeling family—Steve (Craig T. Nelson), Diane (JoBeth Williams), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke)—has relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, and now live in a house with Diane's mother, "Grandma Jess" (Geraldine Fitzgerald). (Older sister Dana is away at college). Having lost his real estate license, Steve is reduced to selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door while filing repeated insurance claims to cover the missing home. Grandma Jess is highly clairvoyant, and says that Diane and Carol Anne are clairvoyant as well. Grandma Jess later dies from natural causes, but not before telling Diane one last time that she'll always "be there" if she needs her. The fact that the spirits do not bother the family until Grandma Jess dies suggests that she was keeping them out, perhaps indirectly, with her powers.

Taylor shows up as Kane begins his first assault on the home. Unable to get in through the television as the family has removed all television sets from the home, Kane's minions are forced to find another way in, this time through Carol Anne's toy telephone. The attack fails, and the family gets out of the house quickly. Taylor introduces himself and convinces them that running would be a waste of time since Kane would only find them again, and they return to the house, which Taylor has made safe for the time being.

Kane himself shows up at the home one day in human form and demands to be let in, but Steve refuses. Taylor congratulates him for resisting Kane, and then takes Steve to the desert and gives him the "Power of Smoke", a Native spirit that can repel Kane. Tangina shows up at the house and helps Diane to understand Kane's history and how he became the Beast that is now stalking the family by forcing Diane to use her powers on a photograph. She also points out that Diane is unique in that she is one of the only people on earth who have been to the spirit world while living, during the rescue of Carol Anne. Diane has visions of Kane in the mid 19th century, when he was the head of an apocalyptic cult. Kane led his followers through the desert and into the cave, because he believed that the end of the world was coming, but then kept them trapped and captive there to slowly die with him after the day of his prediction came and went. Because he was so deranged and evil, Kane became a monster after death, one that had kept the souls of his followers captive in service beyond death. Taylor warns the family that Kane is extremely clever and will try to tear them apart.

One night, Steve lets his guard down and gets drunk, swallowing a Mezcal worm that is possessed by Kane, who then temporarily possesses him. The possessed Steve attacks and tries to rape Diane, who cries out that she loves him. Steve then vomits up the worm possessed by Kane, which grows into a huge, tentacled monstrosity. In this form, Kane attacks Steve from the ceiling, but Steve uses the smoke spirit to send him away. The Beast then decides on another assault, and this time, the family decides to confront the Beast on his own turf, the Other Side.

The Freelings return to Cuesta Verde and enter the cavern below their former home, where Kane pulls Diane and Carol Anne over into the Other Side. Steve and Robbie jump in after them through a fire started by Taylor. On the Other Side, Steve, Diane, Robbie, and Carol Anne unite, but Kane (now a horrifying, gigantic monster) grabs Carol Anne. Taylor gets a charmed Native spear into Steve’s hands, and Steve stabs Kane with it, defeating the monster and causing him to fall into the afterlife. Carol Anne nearly crosses over into the afterlife as well, but Grandma Jess' spirit appears and returns her to the family. The Freelings then return safely and thank Taylor and Tangina.

Steve gives the car to Taylor, after he had expressed an affection for it previously, and Taylor drives away with Tangina. After the Freelings realize that they now have no ride home, they chase after the car.



Dana, the eldest daughter from the first film and portrayed by Dominique Dunne, was originally intended to be away at college in the plot of the second film. However, that scene was not filmed for the final theatrical version, as Dunne was murdered by her ex-boyfriend shortly after the first film was released.

Principal photography began on May 23, 1985.[2] The film was at one point intended to be filmed in 3-D. Several scenes, such as the appearance of the Beast and the flying chainsaw were filmed to take advantage of the process.

Several scenes that appeared in press stills or promotional posters were cut from the finished film, including one in which Tangina confronts Kane when he tries to enter the house, and another in which Steve and Diane see a flying toaster during a breakfast scene.

Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger was commissioned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to create several designs for the film.[2] Because Giger did not want to leave Zurich for long periods of time, his colleague Cornelius De Fries was hired to represent Giger at the studio during production.[3] Giger was ultimately disappointed with the end result, later attributing the failure to his lack of presence. "When the movies eventually came out I thought, 'Oh shit.' But I couldn't change it," said Giger. "There was no more time. So I thought that's the wrong way to work. If you work on a film you have to be there all the time and be always looking at what they're doing otherwise they'll do what they want."[4] Only two of Giger's designs appear in the final cut of the film, including "The Great Beast" version of Kane.

After actor Julian Beck's death, voice actor Corey Burton was brought in during post-production to loop some of his lines.[5]


The musical score for Poltergeist II: The Other Side was composed and conducted by composer Jerry Goldsmith, who had written the Academy Award-nominated soundtrack to the first film. Though "Carol Anne's Theme" returns from the first film's soundtrack, the score for The Other Side consists of mostly new material blending traditional orchestral elements with new electronic sounds. The soundtrack album has been released five times: through Varèse Sarabande in 1986, Intrada Records in 1993, a deluxe edition by Varèse Sarabande in 2003, a 2-CD set from Kritzerland in 2013, and a 3-CD set from Intrada Records in 2018.[6]


Although it was financially successful, The Other Side proved to be a box office disappointment when compared to its predecessor. Nevertheless, the film still grossed a respectable $40,996,665[7] at the United States box office. This film and its successor were rated PG-13 by the MPAA. The original was rated PG, as there was no PG-13 rating at the time (the rating was created in 1984, largely in response to films such as Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom).

Home media

MGM released Poltergeist II on DVD for the very first time on August 26, 2003 in a double feature collection along with Poltergeist III. To date there has been no standalone DVD release of the film in Region 1. On September 13, 2011, MGM released the film on Blu-ray.

MGM has also released the film on DVD in Region 2 and Region 4. It was released in the UK on October 23, 2000 and in Australia on September 1, 2006. A double feature pack containing Poltergeist II and III together was released in Region 4 on November 8, 2010.

On January 31, 2017, Scream Factory released a Blu-ray Collector's Edition of the film including new commentaries and featurettes.[8]


The novelization, titled Poltergeist II: The Other Side, was written by James Kahn and published by Ballantine Books in 1986.[9] The cover features an image similar to the film's poster.


Nina Darnton of The New York Times wrote that "the movie, like most sequels, has no reason for existing beyond the desire to duplicate a financial success. There are no hanging threads left over from the first tightly woven script that can be pulled out and reworked. Instead, the film seems like a string of special effects held together by a far-fetched story line with an unsatisfying sticky-sweet ending."[10] Variety stated, "Script has enough humorous breaks and high-wire moments to make up for some of the expository sections in the dialog. While the payoff is a bit weak and less tension-filled than would be expected considering what the Freeling family has just endured, tech credits from beginning to end look like they cost a mint and filmmakers probably figured they had to stop somewhere."[11] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 1 star out of 4 and wrote that director Brian Gibson "simply runs the family through a maze of Indian rituals, ghostly vapors and astral projections. Lots of sound and fury signifying you know what."[12] Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times stated, "The trappings of 'Poltergeist II' are fairly effective: Jerry Goldsmith contributes another eerie score, and H. R. Giger ('Alien') has dreamed up some loathsome monsters ... But the second film never has the hardness or urgency of the first."[13] Paul Attanasio of The Washington Post wrote, "There are movies that make you want to mince words, and then there's 'Poltergeist II: The Other Side,' a movie so ineffably bad, you can't even find the words to mince."[14]

As of July 2019 film holds a 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 19 reviews.[15]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Result
1987 Academy Award Academy Award for Best Visual Effects Nominated
Saturn Award Saturn Award for Best Horror or Thriller Film Nominated
Saturn Award for Best Special Effects Nominated
Golden Raspberry Award Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress - Zelda Rubinstein Nominated
Young Artist Awards Young Artist Award for Best Younger Supporting Actress - Heather O'Rourke Nominated

Audio of Henry Kane singing "God Is In His Holy Temple" is sampled in the song from Marilyn Manson's debut album, Portrait of an American Family (1994).

See also


  1. "POLTERGEIST II - THE OTHER SIDE (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 2, 1986. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  2. "HR Giger Museum - Biography". HR Giger Museum. Archived from the original on July 18, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  3. "Poltergeist 2: Giger talks about Aliens and Poltergeist". Alien Explorations. Archived from the original on May 23, 2015. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  4. "HR Giger Works Weekends". Vice. Vice Media, Inc. May 13, 2014. Archived from the original on April 25, 2015. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  5. Mackie, Drew (May 20, 2015). "20 Things You Might Not Know About the Original Poltergeist Trilogy". People. Time Inc. Archived from the original on May 21, 2015. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  6. Poltergeist II soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com
  7. Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
  8. "Scream Factory's Poltergeist II and III collector's editions hit in January". October 10, 2016. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  9. "Poltergeist II The Other Side". Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  10. Darnton, Nina (May 23, 1986). "Screen: JoBeth Williams In Sequel, 'Poltergeist II'". The New York Times. C12.
  11. "Film Reviews: Poltergeist II". Variety. May 21, 1986. 24.
  12. Siskel, Gene (May 23, 1986). "Filmmakers' sins back to haunt us in 'Poltergeist II'". Chicago Tribune. Section 7A.
  13. Wilmington, Michael (May 23, 1986). "'Poltergeist II' is Haunted by 'Poltergeist I'". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 10.
  14. Attanasio, Paul (May 23, 1986). "Horror of Horrors: 'Poltergeist II'". The Washington Post. D2.
  15. "Poltergeist II: the Other Side (1986) at Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved September 10, 2013.
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