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‘Poltergeist III’ (PG-13)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 11, 1988

For "Poltergeist III," the third installment in the tale of little Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke), the blond angel terrorized by baddies from the spirit realm, the setting has shifted to a high-tech, high-rise apartment complex, where the tyke is staying with her Uncle Bruce (Tom Skerritt) and his new wife, Pat (Nancy Allen).

Carol Anne is older now and, in spite of this nearly incessant harassment from the other side, enormously bright and self-possessed. She sees things, though, mostly in mirrors and other reflective surfaces, but she doesn't want to talk about them. The problem is, there are so darn many mirrors in the world, so many places for bad things to lurk.

Gary Sherman, the film's cowriter and director, has set up a showcase for scary effects, and some of them are rather nice, in a grisly sort of way. It's clear that Sherman knows how to engineer this sort of thing. What's also clear is that without some semblance of an actual movie around them, these pyrotechnics really start to get on your nerves.

The film revolves around the efforts of the Rev. Kane (Nathan Davis) and his flock to abduct the child, whom they still need to lead them into the light, and those of her family to rescue her. With the exception of Zelda Rubinstein, who throws herself tiny body and soul into her characterization of the paranormalist Tangina, the actors all look a little sheepish. Allen, in particular, looks as if she hopes her parents won't find out about this one.

It's hard to watch O'Rourke as Carol Anne, too, but for other reasons. The 11-year-old girl died of a congenital intestinal disorder just a few months after shooting was completed.

What you have to wonder while watching this second sequel is why the dead souls in these films have nothing better to do than bother this poor child and her family. Dr. Seaton, the unspeakably fatuous headmaster of Carol Anne's school, doesn't believe all this nonsense about poltergeists and visitors from beyond. He's a man of science, and his theory is that these things aren't actually happening but are the result of hypnotic suggestions that the child is planting in the minds of those around her. In other words, it's all a kind of bad dream.

Oh, if only it were that simple.

"Poltergeist III" contains some pretty gross stuff but probably nothing you haven't seen before.

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