Poltergeist III (1988)

poltergeist iii poster 1988 movie
1 Overall Score
Story: 1/10
Acting: 1/10
Visuals: 1/10


Loses all the horror and scares

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Poltergeist III

Studio:  MGM

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  June 10, 1988

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


I’d rather just do my Speak & Spell than be in this movie…

Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) has moved in with her aunt Pat Gardner (Nancy Allen) and her new husband Bruce (Tom Skerritt) and his daughter Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle).  At the encouragement of her school psychologist (Richard Fire), Carol Anne begins reliving the torments of her past…allowing Reverend Kane (Nathan Davis) to return.  As the spirits who seek Carol Anne begin to invade the high rise complex where she is living, just getting out alive could be a challenge.  Kane wants Carol Anne and Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein), Pat, Bruce, and Donna cannot stop him.

Directed by Gary Sherman, Poltergeist III followed Poltergeist II:  The Other Side from 1986.  The movie was widely panned by critics and Zelda Rubinstein was once again nominated for a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress.


Heather O’Rourke is already looking ill

What started out as one of the scariest films in Poltergeist, ended up with this…a complete mess.  Poltergeist III is awful and one of the least scariest and non-sensical horror films to make the big screen.

The movie isn’t entirely the fault of the director.  Heather O’Rourke died as the film was being made (the film was in post-production and having problems with the ending) and the studio demanded that the film be finished.  It was bumped up to a PG-13 rating and the mess which was left with the lead actor’s death is obvious.  The basic premise that the family has given up Carol Anne is not realistic…you get a half-baked story that is neither scary or logical and have a sappy ending.


I could use a hand here!

Heather O’Rourke was a good child actor but not very good as she grew older.  In her last film, she’s pretty weak, and even worse, you can tell she was ill during filming.  She is puffy and appears sluggish at points, and it makes you question whose decision it was to keep her working during this period.  The character was cute when she was young and here it feels like she’s being intentionally kid-i-fied (pajamas and costumes), but she was twelve when the movie was being made.  Plus, we are subjected to hearing the name Carol Anne 121 times through the course of the hour and a half movie…yep, people counted.


Twin Peaks takes me away!!!

The other actors also struggle.  Nancy Allen has never been an acting great and Tom Skerritt doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing (it is also interesting that they made Carol Anne’s actual relative like her less).  The film marks the debut of Lara Flynn Boyle and part of the reason that Zelda Rubinstein’s role didn’t make sense is that she too had to leave about half way through the production due to a death in the family but she did return to shoot scenes.  With Julian Beck’s death during Poltergeist II, a man in a rubber mask steps in for Reverend Kane…and he looks awful too.


Uh…what happened here, and is the boyfriend still dead?

Visually the movie doesn’t help the weak script.  The movie looks awful.  The setting at the John Hancock Center in Chicago is a bit different for a horror movie at the time, but it doesn’t help.  Even the invovative effects of the other film are gone.

Poltergeist III makes Poltergeist II look like an amazing Oscar caliber film.  Neither Poltergeist II or Poltergeist III live up to the original’s horror and great scares.  I wish that the series had passed away with Heather O’Rourke, but the franchise was resurrected with a remake.  Poltergeist III was followed by the critically panned Poltergeist reboot in 2015.

Related Links:

Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist II:  The Other Side (1986)

Poltergeist (2015)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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