Horrorthon '11: Poltergeist II: The Other Side (Brian Gibson, 1986)

So that's why Chief really fled the institution.

One of the highest - and most obvious - compliments one can pay a horror film is to say it persisted as a catalyst of fright beyond its viewing. This is something I can now say about each "Poltergeist" film, as after finally bridging the gap between multiple outings with both the 1982 original from Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg and the much-derided '88 threequel I can confess to being vividly reminded of those afraid-of-the-dark jitters I was so familiar with as a child. Long hallways, mirrors, shower curtains, etcetera... let's keep 'em on an as-needed basis for a few days, 'kay? Thanks.

I suppose I have an odd relationship with the "Poltergeist" trilogy, since, contrary to popular opinion, I find the original to be void of substance beyond the scares. Oh, the scares are extraordinary and enduring, to be sure (can't sleep, clowns will eat me, for real), but where I often think it would be interesting to create a film based solely on horrific vignettes that occur within a haunted house involving little in the way of rhyme and reason, whenever I find something brushing on that territory I realize I desire more solid grounding and the '82 film is absolutely an example of this. What's more, despite its heinous lack of Craig T. Nelson I've always found a certain charm in "Poltergeist III" - the deep, mirrored and sepulchral skyrise setting, the chillingly seductive interactions between a Lovecraftian "other side" and the eerily adorable, immortally young Heather O'Rourke, that neon puddle a supple Lara Flynn Boyle complete with timely hair teases is unforgivingly tossed to - it works nicely for me as an unexpected and spooky diversion.

"Poltergeist II" proves to be sheer entertainment from beginning to end with no time to rest between set pieces and satisfyingly practical effects. Even in their refuge the returning cast is relentlessly bombarded by tricky, demonic presences through always-unsettling electrical fiddling, manipulation of physical objects (the toys are back), the trusty act of possession and, finally, gruesome manifestation. All the while they are tracked by a church song singing spectre - Henry Kane, portrayed by the skeletal Julian Beck who perished prior to the film's release.

There's not much more to say than that "Poltergeist II" is, quite simply, a load of fun through and through. Not by any means should it go down as any great example of the cinematic medium, but it represents why many of us so enjoy silly horror flicks when they're done with spirit, and it's certainly returned me to the temporary habit of thinking twice before opening my closet, or glancing over my reflection's shoulder at the bathroom sink.