Three times is not always the charm. Such is the case with Poltergeist III. Once again, they hired a new director/writer/executive producer, Gary Sherman, whose work is better than some critics contend but he’s hardly Tobe Hooper who did the first film. Still, Sherman pulls off a nice visual trick in that we see much of the spirit activity through mirrored surfaces while these same figures are absent from the real world. It adds a nice element of mystery but does get a bit old since it’s used rather extensively in the film.
Some of the other visuals are a bit lame such as the ice-covered boy who looks like he’s been dipped in oatmeal! Sherman also borrows a camera tricks from Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street but doesn't do them with the same skill and shock value as Craven. They come across as groan-worthy instead of terrifying. P3 also suffers from a bad case of late 80’s fashion sense that does not serve the film well.
Heather O’Rourke is back as Carol Anne and so is Zelda Rubinstein as psychic Tangena [LOVE her!]. The rest of the Freeling family is MIA which is remedied by Carol Anne staying with her Uncle Bruce and Aunt Patricia. Thankfully, they got Tom Skerritt [Alien, Top Gun] and Nancy Allen [Carrie, RoboCop] to play these roles. Both are excellent actors in their own right and their presence in this film helps it considerably. However, this new family configuration lacks the emotional punch that the first two films had. The nuclear family in Poltergeist I and II simply works better as the emotional heart of the story.
Another minus…Julian Beck who did an amazing job as Reverend Kane in P2 died before P3 was filmed. Nathan Davis took his place but was not nearly as effective as Beck’s impeccably creepy preacher persona.
Sadly, this was Heather O’Rourke’s film as she lost her battle with Crohn’s Disease, signs of which you can see in the puffiness in Carol Anne’s face. She was only twelve years old and it breaks my heart every time I think about it. A remake of Poltergeist is slated for 2014 with horror icon Sam Raimi at the helm. This is a “contemporized” version of the story so who knows what they will end up with!!! Hopefully, they won’t massacre this classic film series.
RATING: Good. [Don’t pay attention to its rating on IMDB. It’s better than you think!]
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.