Review: Poltergeist III
Directed by: Gary Sherman
Written by: Brian Sherman, Brian Taggert
Starring: Nancy Allen, Heather O’Rourke, Tom Skerritt
Released: 1988 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
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Talk about smoke and mirrors. Director Gary Sherman, he of Dead and Buried fame (or perhaps shame, depending on who you are speaking to), utilises this old magicians trick to, at least at first, great effect. Indeed, Poltergeist III begins with far too much going for it. Here is a film that is following in the footsteps of a poor sequel to a great horror movie. The original leading star names (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams) have decided against reprising their roles, and it’s fighting a battle with all the other high profile horror sequels appearing in 1988 (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood). Yet, surprisingly, Sherman manages to create an opening that is both intriguing and genuinely unsettling through, almost primarily, the use of mirrors, reflection, and depth of field photography. It’s a shame then, that around the halfway mark, what originality there was is thrown from the sixtieth floor window of the film’s main high-rise location, and Poltergeist III quickly, and I guess inevitably, becomes just another throwaway franchise filler.
The film follows on from Poltergeist II as Carol-Anne (Heather O’Rourke) is sent to her Auntie’s in a bid to put the events of her recent past behind her. Almost immediately, she begins to have visions of Reverend Henry Kane, a dead priest whose grave was desecrated when Carol-Anne’s father began a housing project over it. At the special school Carol-Anne attends, her psychiatrist doesn’t believe her stories of evil supernatural beings, deciding that she has a gift for hypnotic suggestion. When one of his experiments goes wrong and he sees what Carol-Anne can see, Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein, the caring medium from the first two films) is alerted telepathically that the dead have once again awoken, and that they want Carol-Anne to lead them into the light.
Poltergeist III was a product of the horror franchise culture that plagued the genre throughout the late 1980s – lazy producers who wanted to make a quick buck through audience recognition of memorable characters, plot lines, and high-concept ideas. It is a shame because there’s a good film in here somewhere – there’s flashes of skill and craftsmanship, certainly in the first half hour – but it’s lost in poor scripting and a waste of acting talent.
Review by Daniel Stephens
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