Hey look, it’s more from Christmas 1990 on BBC1. They really did put out a lot of telly I liked in those days.
Do I like this though? It’s Poltergeist II, sequel to Steven Spielberg’s Tobe Hooper’s classic 1982 horror film. This one has neither Hooper nor Spielberg on hand. I’m surprised that Spielberg isn’t even there as an Executive Producer. I wonder if there’s a story behind that, since he not only produced the original, but he has story credit. But this one is only credited to Michael Grais and Mark Victor, co-writers of the original’s screenplay, and there’s not even a ‘based on characters created by’ credit. This is very unusual, since the writer’s guild is pretty hot on stuff like that. Look at Philip Kaufman getting a ‘characters created by’ credit for Indiana Jones because he was originally going to direct it.
I wonder if Spielberg distanced himself from this one deliberately. Or some deal was done. I feel like there’s something there.
Naturally, only the credits are being presented in letterbox here, the rest of the film is full frame.
We’re introduced to a new character right at the start, the Native American shaman Taylor, played by Will Sampson. If he looks familiar, it’s might be from playing the Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A film where one of the best lines, not to mention one of the best lines in movie history, is him saying “Thanks” when Jack Nicholson gives him some gum.
At the start of the movie, he’s doing some kind of ritual, and there’s lots of flying smoke around, reminiscent of the climax of Raiders, or Ghostbusters. Not surprising, since Richard Edlund, who did the effects for Ghostbusters, did these effects.
He visits Cuesta Verde, location of the first film, where small medium Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) is excavating underneath the swimming pool where the Freeling’s house used to be before it was pulled into a nether dimension in the previous movie.
The Freelings themselves are living with Diane’s mother, Gramma Jess (Geraldine Fitzgerald). She’s noticed things about Carol-Anne, like her being able to pick out the right colour wool from a basket without looking. So clearly the strange things haven’t stopped.
Another clue is that Carol-Anne is drawing creepy pictures of a strange man.
During a trip to the shops, she loses track of her mother, and she’s found by a man who looks a lot like her pictures. This is Kane, played by Julian Beck, who gives a very creepy performance, and is probably the best thing about the movie. I still think of the hymn he sings, “God is in… his holy temple…”
More bad news for the family, as Gramma Jess dies in the night. Plus, scary clouds are back.
Taylor turns up to help, and is soon doing some of his magic in the garden, which seems to involve butterflies.
Kane turns up at the house and is generally scary.
There’s another haunty set-piece involving the Freeling’s son Robbie and his braces.
Taylor blows smoke up Steves nose.
Steve drinks the tequila worm, which is a very bad move even if we didn’t just see it open its eye.
It has rather a negative effect on Steve’s behaviour. This was possibly the scariest part of the movie when I first saw it, and it’s still pretty disturbing.
It then gets disgusting as Diane tells him she still loves him, so he can vomit out the evil.
A reminder that HR Giger did design work for this film, although the end results aren’t the best examples of his work.
The family flee to their car, but a haunted chainsaw pursues them. Groovy.
They drive to their old house, where Tangina and Taylor are waiting, and the whole family have to cross over to defeat the evil. It all gets very trippy here, with things like a decaying Carol Anne.
There are some more Giger designs as stop motion monsters
But even though they seem to kill the monster, Carol Anne falls into the light, and all seems lost. Until she’s brought back by Gramma Jess, who is presumably an angel now.
Whilst this has the look and feel of a serviceable horror film, it does fail to reach the heights of the original. Perhaps it’s something indefineable, a lightness of touch that the director here, Brian Gibson, lacks. His only previous movie credit was the British punk musical Breaking Glass, and he didn’t do an awful lot afterwards.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th December 1990 – 22:25
After this, there’s a trailer for programmes for Thursday.
Then, there’s the start of Toto Live in Paris, and the tape ends a few minutes into this.