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  • Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988)

    Director(s): Brian Gibson / Gary Sherman

    Starring: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Julian Beck, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson & Geraldine Fitzgerald / Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Heather O’Rourke & Zelda Rubinstein

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Haunting high-definition once more in new Collector’s Edition form, Scream Factory, the horror/cult subsidiary of Shout! Factory, welcomes the continued terrorization of the Freeling family to their catalog of frights!  Following the traumatic events of the original film, Poltergeist II: The Other Side finds the Freeling’s attempting to revert back to a normal existence until the forces of darkness, led by the chilling Henry Kane, pursue their clairvoyant daughter Carol Anne with ungodly vengeance.  Next up, from the suburbs to the big city of Chicago, Poltergeist III sees the young Carol Anne living with her aunt and uncle when the restless Reverend Kane weaves his devilish powers upon their daunting high-rise.  

    They’re back as suburban scares persist in the supernatural followup to Steven Spielberg’s original ghostly production of 1982.  Struggling financially in the wake of their house’s frightening decimation, Steven and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson, Coach and JoBeth Williams, Kramer vs. Kramer respectively), along with their children Robbie (Oliver Robbins, Airplane II: The Sequel) and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke, Happy Days) (sans older sister Dana (played originally by Dominique Dunne who was tragically killed following production on the original film)), attempt to start anew in the house of Diane’s elderly mother.  Retaining her clairvoyant touch, it doesn’t take long before the spirits thought left behind in Cuesta Verde emerge once more to claim Carol Anne for themselves.  Discovering an underground tomb located deeper beneath the Freeling’s former home, trusted psychic Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein, Sixteen Candles) and Native American shaman Taylor (Will Sampson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) sense the greater danger that now targets the evading family.  Stalked by the chilling and skeletal-looking Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck, The Cotton Club), Taylor rushes to the Freelings’ aide in order to prepare them for the dark battle that awaits.  Demonstrating impressively refined special effects that can’t be understated with Native American mysticism and a disturbingly memorable villain, Poltergeist II: The Other Side admirably balances what made the original a suspenseful success while, instilling its own chilling parameters that stand on their own.  Topped with Jerry Goldsmith’s score that blends innocence and dread effortlessly, climactic seat-jumpers featuring nightmarish braces gone wild, floating chainsaws (originally intended for 3-D effectiveness), an unforgettable regurgitated monster worm and a final showdown into the ghostly netherworld all make this sequel a respectably fun and grossly underrated followup to its pitch perfect predecessor.

    Inspired by Lewis Carrol’s own fantastical continuation Through the-Looking Glass, Poltergeist III ditches small-town frights and much of its original cast for a towering continuation of lofty ideas that struggle to land their mark.  Relocating to Chicago for placement in a school for gifted children, Carol Anne, cared for by her Aunt Trisch (Allen), Uncle Bruce (Skerritt) and teenage cousin Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle, Wayne’s World), finds herself frightened by reoccurring images of Reverend Kane (played by Flowers in the Attic’s Nathan Davis following the passing of original actor Julian Beck after wrapping production on its sequel) from beyond the grave.  Sensing Kane’s return and his pursuit of Carol Anne, faithful psychic Tangina (Rubinstein returning once more) seeks to stop the evildoer once and for all.  Jeopardized by budgetary limitations and a personal black cloud of despair following O’Rourke’s untimely passing during the film’s post-production phase, Poltergeist III’s skyscraper setting lends an intriguing visual change of pace for the series that ultimately falls second best to the familiarity of safe suburbia.  In addition, although Skerritt and Allen’s chemistry feels genuine together, Aunt Trisch’s random spouts of disdain for her troubled niece feels uncomfortably out of touch for a character that audiences should see as more maternally understanding.  Furthermore, while the return of Tangina is most welcome, Zelda Rubinstein appears particularly fatigued in the role, further underlining the fumes the franchise is running on.  Passionately directed by genre helmer Gary Sherman (Raw Meat, Dead & Buried), Poltergeist III conveys several worthy concepts through terrifying reflections, demonic doppelgängers, possessed teenagers and Kane’s hellish wrath literally freezing over the high-rise building.  Unavoidably imperfect given its tragic history, Poltergeist III, although busting at the box-office and ranking lowest on the franchise totem pole, delivers just enough light from the other side to draw the curious into its vortex for a brief time.        

    Boasting new 2K scans from their interpositives, Scream Factory presents both sequels with 1080p transfers, preserving their respective 2.35:1 (Poltergeist II: The Other Side) and 1.85:1 (Poltergeist III) aspect ratios.  While both films received above average debuts on the format in years past, their latest outings are that much cleaner, washing away the slight hints of softness found previously with strong skin tones, vibrant color grades, deep black levels and otherwise graciously filmic appearances on hand, leaving both films in their best conditions to date.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes that captures crisp dialogue levels and energetic stabs during supernatural attacks, the film’s scores are excellently handled adding necessary emphasis to their quieter moments and rise to their thrilling tempos.  In addition, both films are accompanied with optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes for your listening pleasure.

    Supplements pertaining to Poltergeist II: The Other Side include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Michael Grais and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist II Webmaster David Furtney, both of which are newly recorded for this release.  Additionally, Robbie’s Return with Oliver Robins (14:25) catches up with the middle Freeling child today as he commends Director Brian Gibson’s vision for the film, the fun atmosphere making a feature as a child and the sequel’s special effects sequences.  Meanwhile, The Spirit World (22:09) is a first-rate featurette catching up with Special Creature Effects Artists Steve Johnson & Screaming Mad George as well as Special Effects Supervisor Richard Edlund to discuss the many memorable monsters and apparitions that separated the film from the original.  Furthermore, Ghosts of Giger (21:02) takes a look back at the iconic H.R. Giger’s contributions to the film through slideshows and interviews with Steve Johnson and Giger’s agent Les Barany.  Lastly, vintage offerings consisting of They’re Back: The Making of Poltergeist II (6:15), Monster Shop (2:45), Ghost Makers: The Magic of Poltergeist II (6:28), the Theatrical Trailer (1:22) and TV Spots (2:04) are on hand while, a Still Gallery (73 in total), the Poltergeist II Script and Reversible Cover Art retaining the film’s original 1-sheet poster conclude the bonus features.

    Bonus features found on Poltergeist III include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter/Director Gary Sherman and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist III Webmaster David Furtney, both newly recorded.  In addition, High Spirits with Co-Screenwriter Brian Taggert (16:02) finds the writer sharing warm memories of his collaborative relationship with Sherman, the film’s budget cuts, O’Rourke’s passing and his friendship with the wise and occasionally feisty Rubinstein.  Reflections with Actress Nancy Allen (12:15) sits down with the star who commends Sherman’s approach to the project, O’Rourke’s old soul personality and her unforgettably sad funeral plus, her working relationship with Skerritt who notes is the only actor she had an argument with in her career.  Furthermore, Mirror Images with Special Make-Up Effects Creator John Caglione, Jr. (12:47), an Alternate Ending (2:50) that lacks audio with dialogue from the original script added in as subtitles, the Theatrical Trailer (1:04), TV Spots (2:06), a Still Gallery (77 in total) and the Poltergeist III Script are also on hand.  Lastly, Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet imagery completes the release’s supplements.

    Topping the television fuzz and tree attacking terror of the original classic may be no easy feat but, the combined efforts of Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III make strong cases for followups of underrated merit.  While, Reverend Kane’s initial attack on the Freeling family is by far the superior sequel, Poltergeist III, although ranking in last place, still maintains a mild charm that continues to persevere through its many setbacks.  Honoring both features with wonderful new scans, a plentiful sum of bonus features exploring the film’s makings and frighteningly fantastic new artwork by Justin Osbourn, Scream Factory welcomes fans back to the ghostly netherworld where your house will be all the cleaner with both Collector’s Edition sequels in them.

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side RATING: 4/5

    Poltergeist III RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 31st from Scream Factory, Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Bad Moon (1996) Blu-ray Review

    Bad Moon (1996)

    Director: Eric Red

    Starring: Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré & Mason Gamble

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shortly after suffering an attack during an exotic expedition, Bad Moon finds Ted Harrison (Michael Paré, Streets of Fire) attempting to conceal his curse of transforming into a savage werewolf from his older sister Janet (Mariel Hemingway, Manhattan) and young nephew Brett (Mason Gamble, Dennis the Menace).  As local bodies being turning up around their isolated community, Ted strives to pass the blame onto his sister’s loyal German Shepherd who is acutely aware of the true monster at work.

    Adapted from Wayne Smith’s novel Thor, Writer/Director Eric Red’s (Cohen and Tate) lycanthropic feature casts a full moon of shocks and bloodshed against a family driven tale centered around a boy and his dog.  Opening in Nepal, photojournalist Ted Harrison is disrupted from a passionate lovemaking session in his tent when a towering, fanged wolf tears his lay to shreds, leaving him gashed and barely alive.  Shortly after returning home, Ted is harboring a dark ailment he believes can only be cured by the company of his loved ones.  Crashing with his older sister Janet and blonde-haired, blue-eyed nephew Brett proves hazardous as local hikers and drifters are found brutally murdered, reportedly believed to be the work of a wild animal.  While his owners are startled yet never second guess the events, Janet and Brett’s protective German Shepherd Thor picks up a suspicious scent from Uncle Ted that can’t be shaken.  Consumed by his curse and selfishly attempting to pawn his bloodthirsty deeds off on the K9, Thor is hauled off by Animal Control leaving his distraught owners to fend for themselves against the true terror waiting in their own wilderness.  

    With the exception of the fangtastic werewolf design courtesy of special effects wiz Steve Johnson (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Warriors) and a generous helping of throat-ripping and face-slashing gore, Bad Moon is fairly straightforward during its tightly-constructed 79 minute runtime while its performances never fully resonate.  Signing off on a strong note with a suspenseful showdown between wolf and mutt plus, a last-minute jump scare for good measure, Bad Moon, although not overwhelmingly memorable, is a commendable inclusion into the beastly subgenre that was all but banished to hibernation by the time of its release.

    Scream Factory presents Bad Moon with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Capturing strong skin tones that only occasionally favor a redder pigment, well-balanced black levels and a presentation free of discouraging scuffs or scratches, Bad Moon makes a striking debut on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible while the shrieking howls of the wolf, gunshots and Thor’s bark make for a most effectively trembling listen.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  In addition to presenting Eric Red’s approved Director’s Cut (1:19:25) that merely exorcises the rather dated CG werewolf transformation and the Original Theatrical Cut (1:19:51), special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Eric Red on his preferred cut plus, an additional Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Eric Red & Actor Michael Paré on the latter version.  Furthermore, the first-rate Nature of the Beast: Making Bad Moon (35:17) looks back on the development and impact of the film with new interviews from Writer/Director Eric Red, Actors Michael Paré and Mason Gamble plus, Special Effects Make-Up Artist Steve Johnson among others.  Also included, the VHS sourced Unrated Opening Scene from the Director’s First Cut (6:07), the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:06) and Transformation Sequence Storyboards (6:30), Thor/Werewolf Fight Storyboards (9:40) and Thor Stares Down Uncle Ted Storyboards (4:15) wraps up the surprisingly loaded sum of supplements.

    Hardly as memorable as its werewolf brethren from a decade earlier, Bad Moon supplies ample entertainment in the splatter department while Steve Johnson’s more grayed design work of the monster is call for applause.  Arriving technically sharp-looking and fluid sounding, Scream Factory celebrates this mid-‘90s howlfest in style that although not credited under their illustrious Collector’s Edition banner, acts the part in the quality and quantity of its bonus features.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available July 19th from Scream Factory, Bad Moon can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.