The strange and fascinating franchise known as POLTERGEIST continues with this third entry that I had no idea was widely ridiculed until recently. A few years ago, I did one of my favorite things to do as a movie lover: binge watch an entire franchise. I had only seen the first POLTERGEIST and part of the second at that point as I realized I had blurred some of the scenes together. For example, after watching the first again, I was confused as to where the scene with the floating chainsaw in the garage was and why Ronnie wasn’t attacked by the wires from his own braces. I hope I’m not the only one who does this, but luckily, these new Scream Factory releases are helping refresh my memory and possibly the memories of those who grew up on these.
Director Gary Sherman takes over this time around and brings little Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) to Chicago. For some odd reason (a reason that I can’t seem to find), she’s been sent to live with her aunt Pat (Nancy Allen) and Pat’s husband, Bruce (Tom Skerritt). While Bruce seems to be welcoming of the new addition, Pat has a more difficult time adjusting as she also is attempting to bond with Bruce’s teenage daughter, Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), from a previous marriage. Carol Anne is now attending a school for gifted children, but it’s clear that she’s probably the most sane one there. For a young kid, she takes the bullying pretty well, rolling her eyes at snarky comments. It doesn’t help that she has to endure the carpool from hell every morning that includes little Marcie, the greatest invention in horror history.
It’s quickly apparent that not all is right in the skyscraper they live in as temperatures seem to drop inside and large cracks are forming in the mirrors. Reverend Kane from POLTERGEIST 2 is not done yet with Carol Anne and begins to appear in reflections, almost in a parallel dimension that not everyone can see. She ends up alone as Pat and Bruce are attending an event downstairs and Donna (in a super 80s move) leaves her unattended so she can party with her friends. The strange events catch up to everyone as Carol Anne finds herself in danger again and the past literally comes back to haunt her. Along the way, Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) gets visions of danger and warns Carol Anne’s idiot psychiatrist, Dr. Seaton (Richard Fire) who obviously assumes this is a prank. Dr. Seaton is the typical movie moron who attempts to rationalize what is going on with Carol Anne’s psychic abilities, but his ideas are even crazier than anything happening to Carol Anne. He’s actually pretty amusing.
POLTERGEIST 3 was filmed on location, which I greatly appreciate as someone who lives in the suburbs near the Windy City and find it rare to see familiar landmarks in movies. Taking away from the suburbs like the previous films definitely adds a whole new element to the franchise and it’s emphasized in the movie’s artwork. It’s interesting how the concept was to go bigger this time around, but was provided with a much lower budget. After listening to the two commentaries (one from Sherman and the other from webmaster David Furtney) there’s plenty of behind-the-scenes stories to eat up, including how some of the mirror effects were created. Those moments are my favorite as I have a particular attraction to supernatural stories involving mirrors (some favorites include CANDYMAN and OCULUS) and it’s incredible how much choreography was involved so the actors could literally mirror their stand-ins. The alternate ending is included in this release (without dialogue, but subtitles are onscreen), but it really feels more abrupt than the actual ending in the film. I personally really dig this movie even if the third act drags a bit with a completely unnecessary car chase sequence in the parking garage. O’Rourke really shows off her acting skills here with both humor and vulnerability, making it all the more tragic as she passed away prior to the film’s release. Screenwriter Brian Taggert filmed a brand new interview for this release and it’s actually a really interesting piece as he discusses how he found himself working on the film and the regrets he has with certain elements of the story. Nancy Allen also gives a new interview with positive reflections on what it was like on set. The film is presented in a new 2K scan and it shows beautifully onscreen at home. Scream Factory delivers another top notch release and fans will surely be happy with this one.