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Home | Film Review: Poltergeist III (1988)

Film Review: Poltergeist III (1988)


Carol Anne is staying with her aunt in a highrise building, and the supernatural forces that have haunted her previously follow her there.


We live in a golden age for independent film making, as least in the sense that it’s easier than ever to get a movie made.  I remember when I was in college, I spent a small fortune to make a 15 minute short on account of the high cost of film.  Today, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference in quality between film and digital.  Therefore, most filmmakers prefer to go with digital.  It’s gotten to the point that many film stock companies are going out of business.

On the one hand, it’s a godsend for filmmakers who might not otherwise be able to see their visions to completion.  On the other, it has led to a glut of sloppily made direct to streaming movies.  Digital filmmaking, along with CGI, has created a whole bunch of lazy filmmakers.  These days, it’s a treat when you see someone who’s gone the extra mile and paid attention to the small details of moviemaking.  Maybe I’ve become cynical in my old age (probably).  However, as I began to watch “Poltergeist III,” which is by no means a masterpiece, I was struck by the craftsmanship involved.

The movie picks up right where the previous film left off.  Carol Anne, played by the late Heather O’Rourke, has been sent to stay with her aunt and uncle (Nancy Allen and Tom Skerritt).  They live in a high-rise apartment complex that seems completely self-contained.  Carol Anne is going to a special school to help her cope with the events from the previous two movies.  Her psychiatrist is Dr. Seaton (I thought they were saying “Dr. Satan”).  Dr. Seaton doesn’t believe in the supernatural, even when he’s offered concrete proof.  He thinks Carol Anne is causing everyone around her to suffer hallucinations.  Dr. Seaton is kind of an idiot.  Eventually, the Loud Ghosts find Carol Anne and begin harassing her.  It becomes clear the only person who can help is Tangina, the tiny psychic from the previous two films.

Poltergeist III” didn’t exactly set the world on fire.  It was a flop with critics and audiences when it originally came out, and the things they didn’t like about the film are still true.  The dialogue is pretty uninspired, and the ending is unfulfilling.  Of course, young Ms. O’Rourke tragically died between principle photography and reshoots.  If she had been available, who knows how much better the ending would have been.  It’s fairly obvious they’re using a body double, and you don’t see her face in the climactic reunion with the family.

There are other problems, too.  Other than O’Rourke, all the other child actors in the movie are pretty obnoxious.  And there’s something off about the score.  The musical queues don’t seem to match what’s going on in the story.

However, my opinion of the film is net-positive, and that’s because of the effort involved.  Director Gary Sherman doesn’t mess around when it comes to the practical effects in the movie.  He does some very clever things with mirrors and people’s reflections.  There’s also a very good scene in a garage where a character is pulled down into a mud puddle.  The fact that it was all done in-camera make it more tactile and more believable.

I also thought the use of the high-rise was a nice touch.  Instead of being set in suburbia, this film is in the heart of Chicago, and it’s fun to watch the characters run around the building like an epic game of hide-and-seek.  It gives the film personality.

The performance of the main cast is also very good.  The aunt and uncle seem to have a believable relationship and a life outside the movie.  The aunt in particular has a fairly well presented character arc.  She does from distant to maternal in her relationship with Carol Anne and her new step-daughter.
I guess what I’m saying is this movie is better than its reputation suggests.  Yes, it has its flaws, and those flaws keep it from being great.  However, I’d rather watch “Poltergeist III” than some of the rushed horror films coming out today.

Bonus 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
    • NEW Reflections – An Interview With Actress Nancy Allen
    • NEW Mirror Images – An Interview With Special Effects Creator John Caglione, Jr.
    • Alternate Ending
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • TV Spots
    • Still Galleries (Behind-The-Scenes Photos, Stills, Posters And Script Pages)

Poltergeist III (1988) is now available in bluray per Shout Factory

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