Poltergeist III

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Poltergeist III
Poltergeist iii movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gary Sherman
Produced by Barry Bernardi
Written by
  • Gary Sherman
  • Brian Taggert
Based on Characters 
by Steven Spielberg
Music by Joe Renzetti
Cinematography Alex Nepomniaschy
Edited by Ross Albert
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • June 10, 1988 (1988-06-10)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10.5 million
Box office $14.1 million

Poltergeist III is a 1988 American horror film and is the third and final entry in the original Poltergeist film series. Writers Michael Grais and Mark Victor, who wrote the screenplay for the first two films, did not return for this second sequel; it was co-written, executive produced, and directed by Gary Sherman, and was released on June 10, 1988 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. The film was panned by critics, and was a box office disappointment.

Heather O'Rourke and Zelda Rubinstein were the only original cast members to return. O'Rourke died four months before the film was released and before post-production could be completed. It was dedicated to her memory.


The Freeling family has sent Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) to live with Diane's sister Pat (Nancy Allen) and her husband Bruce Gardner (Tom Skerritt) in Chicago. Carol Anne has been told she is living with her aunt and uncle temporarily to attend a unique school for gifted children with emotional problems, though Pat thinks it is because Steven and Diane just wanted Carol Anne out of their house. Pat and Bruce are unaware of the events that the Freeling family had endured in the previous two films, only noting that Steven was involved in a bad land deal. Along with Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), Bruce's daughter from a previous marriage, they live in the luxury skyscraper (Chicago's 100-story John Hancock Center) of which Bruce is the manager.

Carol Anne has been made to discuss her experiences by her teacher/psychiatrist, Dr. Seaton (Richard Fire). Seaton believes her to be delusional; however, the constant discussion has enabled the evil spirit of Rev. Henry Kane (Nathan Davis) to locate Carol Anne and bring him back from the limbo he was sent during his previous encounter with her. Not believing in ghosts, Dr. Seaton has come to the conclusion that Carol Anne is a manipulative child with the ability to perform mass hypnosis, making people believe they were attacked by ghosts. Also during this period, Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein) realizes that Kane has found Carol Anne and travels cross-country to protect her.

That night, Kane drains the high rise of heat and takes possession of reflections in mirrors, causing the reflections of people to act independently of their physical counterparts. When Carol Anne is left alone that night, Kane attempts to use the mirrors in her room to capture her, but she escapes with the help of Tangina, who telepathically tells Carol Anne to break the mirror. Donna and her boyfriend, Scott, see a frightened Carol Anne running through the high rise's parking lot, and move to rescue her; however, before they can, all three are taken to the Other Side through a puddle by Kane and his people. By this point, Tangina and Dr. Seaton are both at the high rise, along with Pat and Bruce. Dr. Seaton stubbornly assumes that Carol Anne has staged the entire thing, while Tangina tries to get her back.

Scott is seemingly released from the Other Side through a pool in the high rise, and Donna reappears after Tangina is taken by Kane disguised as Carol Anne. Scott is left at his home with his parents. Nobody notices that the symbols on Donna's clothing are reversed from what they were before she was taken. As Dr. Seaton attempts to calm Donna, Bruce sees Carol Anne's reflection in the mirror and chases her while Pat follows. Dr. Seaton is not far behind, and he believes he sees Carol Anne in the elevator. However, after Dr. Seaton approaches the elevator doors, Donna appears behind him and pushes him to his death down the empty elevator shaft. At this point it is revealed that what came back was not Donna, but a reflection of her under Kane's control, which then vanishes back into the mirror with a reflection of Scott at its side.

Pat and Bruce struggle to find Carol Anne, but Bruce is captured and eventually Pat is forced to prove her love for Carol Anne in a final face-off against Kane. Tangina manages to convince Kane to go into the light with her. Donna, Bruce, and Carol Anne are returned to Pat. The final scene shows lightning flashing over the building, and Kane's evil laughter is heard.



Director Gary Sherman, thought the idea of the city setting, was just as scary as isolated suburbia. His feeling was that "there are people on the other side of the wall, and no one cares that you are in trouble".[2]

Unlike the previous films, nearly all of the special effects, were live and were performed on stage. The only visual effect added in post-production, was the lightning, casting over the John Hancock Center in the very final shot of the picture. Sherman himself designed the special visual effects.

The reduced budget, meant that the filmmakers, were unable to afford the services of Jerry Goldsmith, who had scored the first two films; Joe Renzetti was hired instead.

Corey Burton returned to provide the voice work for Kane, although he was uncredited for this effort.[3]

Death of O'Rourke[edit]

At the time Poltergeist III began shooting in spring of 1987, Heather O'Rourke had been ill for several months with what was misdiagnosed as Crohn's disease, and subsequently underwent medical treatment during parts of the filming. Principal photography for the movie lasted from April 13 to June 26 of that year, with June 10, 1988 as the film's scheduled release date. After O'Rourke completed filming, she returned home to California with her illness appearing to be in remission. However, in late January 1988, O'Rourke suddenly became ill again, her condition rapidly deteriorated, and she died on February 1, 1988 (barely a month after her 12th birthday) during Poltergeist III's post-production period.

After the completed film was rated PG by the MPAA in November 1987, Sherman and the studio decided to re-shoot at least part of the ending with a different special effects sequence. Planning and design for the new SFX make-ups took place between December 1987 and January 1988, with a possible shooting date set for early February. However, Heather O'Rourke, the child star of the film, died on February 1. Initially Sherman did not want to complete the film, but pressure from the studio prevailed, and the entire ending was re-shot in March, 1988 using a body double stand in for O'Rourke. In April, a re-edited version of the film including the new ending was submitted to the MPAA, after which it received a PG-13 rating. The finished film proved to be a critical and box office failure. Sherman has said that although he is proud of portions of the movie (particularly the creative use of mechanical "in camera" effects instead of the traditional optical effects often seen in movies of that genre), it is the least favorite of his films.

O'Rourke's death complicated MGM's marketing for Poltergeist III, out of fear of appearing to be exploiting her death.[4] Skerritt and Allen were discouraged from giving interviews about the film to avoid questions about O'Rourke's death.[5]


The film received mostly negative reviews from critics, resulting in a 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 17 reviews (3 fresh, 14 rotten), with an average rating of 3.6/10. Famed Chicago film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert hated the film; they were both annoyed by the film's excessive use of a certain screenwriting strategy of characters crying out each other's names almost all the time; particularly the character of Carol Anne. Ebert even noted that when he went to see the film, the audience in the theater also became annoyed at the tactic, so the audience started screaming back the names of the characters towards the screen.

Rubinstein's performance earned mixed reviews, garnering nominations for a Saturn Award and a Razzie Award (which she also received previously for the first sequel) at the same time.

Box office[edit]

Poltergeist III wound up being the lowest grossing and least attended film in the Poltergeist trilogy. The film opened at #5, making $4,344,308 on its opening weekend, averaging about $2,953 from 1,471 theaters.[6] The bottom fell out from then on, as the film then fell out of the top 10 in only its second weekend, dropping 52 percent to only $2,093,783 (1,467 theaters, $1,427 average) ranking at #11, and bringing the 10-day cume to $8,165,286. Poltergeist III ended up with a domestic box office total of $14,114,488. The film sold 3.434 million tickets at 1988's ticket price of $4.11, compared with 25.410 million tickets for the first film, and 11.050 million tickets for the second film.[7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Result
1989 Golden Raspberry Awards Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress - Zelda Rubinstein Nominated
1990 Saturn Award Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress - Zelda Rubinstein Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "POLTERGEIST III (15)". British Board of Film Classification. June 22, 1988. Retrieved May 12, 2015. 
  2. ^ E: True Hollywood Story: Curse of Poltergeist
  3. ^ "Interview with the Voice of Kane". PoltergeistIII.com. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "Studio Unsure How To Market Latest 'Poltergeist' Movie". Lexington Herald-Leader. Lexington, Kentucky: Tim Kelly. 1988-03-27. p. J5. 
  5. ^ Cieply, Michael (1988-03-21). "MGM Ponders Selling of `Poltergeist III'". Los Angeles Times. p. 6. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  6. ^ "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : 'Crocodile' Swamps 'Rambo'; Hanks' 'Big' Hit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  7. ^ Poltergeist III (1988)

External links[edit]