If Phantasm’s The Tall Man had a creepier brother, more predatory and warped by religious fervor, the Reverend Henry Kane from Poltergeist II: The Other Side would be him. A dying Julian Beck gave an effective, original, and genuinely scary performance as Kane in an otherwise blemished sequel to the stellar Poltergeist. Currently scored at 5.6/10 on IMDb and 37% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes, The Other Side is another of my favorite horror sequels generally unfavored by viewers.
Director Brian Gibson’s production again focused on the Freeling family with the foxy JoBeth Williams and affable Craig T. Nelson reprising their parental roles of Diane and Steve. Heather O’Rourke’s Carol Anne and Oliver Robin’s Robbie are back, too, though older sister Dana is absent, due to Dominique Dunne’s tragic murder. The story tells that the Freelings have moved in with Diane’s clairvoyant mother to heal and escape from the traumatic events of the first film, but The Beast, in the guise of Reverend Kane, has returned to torment Carol Anne and family. To assist in the renewed paranormal conflict are Zelda Rubinstein’s psychic Tangina, aided by Will Sampson’s shaman Taylor, who offers critical, magical firepower and protection.
Poltergeist II overall suffers from poor editing due to studio meddling, weak writing, and simply being surpassed in excellence by its predecessor. However, the reason I enjoy and recommend this movie is primarily because of the accomplished Julian Beck’s performance. He was at the end stages of stomach cancer and utilized his frail, sickly visage and distinctive voice to create a monster who I elevate near the level of more famous horror icons.
A truly unnerving and popular scene is when Kane arrives at the Freeling house while singing the hymn, “God is in His Holy Temple.” His chilling persistence in pursuing Carol Anne, emotional manipulation, and firm demands to “Let me in” make these several minutes required viewing for horror fans.
Unfortunately, the Reverend did not have an exceptional film to better spotlight his character, thus is a possible reason for a lack of greater profile as a horror antagonist. 1988’s failed Poltergeist III featured the Reverend again, but his subpar appearance, as portrayed by Nathan Davis, looked like a trimmer, zombified Larry, the Quaker Oats Man. The film ended the original franchise and the only praise I can offer is for the mirror scenes and skyscraper setting. Reverend Kane should have been gracefully retired following Beck’s demise with the wonderful cover art of Anthrax’s finest album, Among the Living, as a tribute.
If The Other Side seems tempting, don’t fear exploring. It is sturdy enough to view simply for Beck’s Henry Kane and the last appearance of the nearly all original Poltergeist cast.
To read my first entry in this series and further rouse the Halloween spirit within you, direct your attention here.