Poltergeist III (otherwise known as Poltergeist 3 or Poltergeist 3: We're Back) is a 1988 American horror film. It is the third and final film of the 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. However, O'Rourke died suddenly and unexpectedly four months before the film was released and before post-production could be completed. The movie was dedicated to her memory...
The Freeling family has sent Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) to live with her Diane's sister Pat (Nancy Allen) and her husband Bruce Gardner (Tom Skerritt). Carol Anne has been told, she is in Chicago temporarily to attend a unique school for gifted children with emotional problems, though Pat thinks it is because Steve and Diane just wanted Carol Anne out of their house. Pat seems to have no knowledge of the events from the first two films, just 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 by her teacher/psychiatrist, Dr. Seaton (Richard Fire), to discuss her experiences from the first and second films. Seaton believes her to be delusional, however the constant discussion has enabled Henry Kane/The Beast (Nathan Davis) to locate Carol Anne and bring him back from the limbo he was sent into at the end of the second film. Dr. Seaton, having never experienced the supernatural, believes that Carol Anne is simply a manipulative child who has created something of a mass hysteria within her family, falsely making them 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. 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 by Kane. 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 Donna did not actually come back, but rather the person who came back was a reflection of Donna, under the control of Kane, who then vanishes back into the mirror, with a reflection of Scott at her 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. The ending is somewhat unclear, but apparently Tangina somehow manages to convince Kane to go into the Light with her. Donna, Bruce and Carol Anne are returned to Pat, whereas it is never revealed, if Scott returned or is still trapped on the Other Side.. The final scene shows lightning flashing over the building and Kane's laughter is heard.
- Tom Skerritt as Bruce Gardner
- Nancy Allen as Pat Gardner
- Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne Freeling
- Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina Barrons
- Richard Fire as Dr. Seaton
- Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna Gardner
- Kipley Wentz as Scott
- Nathan Davis as Reverend Henry Kane
- Roger May as Burt
- Paul Graham as Martin Moyer
- Meg Weldon as Sandy
- Stacy Gilchrist as Melissa
- Joey Garfield as Jeff
- Christian Murphy as Dusty
- Roy Hytower as Nathan
Director Gary Sherman thought the idea having the setting in the city 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.
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.
Heather O'Rourke's death and a revised endingEdit
By the time Poltergeist 3 started production in the 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, which took place in Chicago. Principal photography for the movie began on Monday April 13, 1987 and lasted for 11 weeks, ending on Friday June 19, 1987, with June 10, 1988 as its scheduled release date. After Heather completed filming, she returned home to California, with her illness apparently in remission. However in late January 1988, Heather suddenly became ill again, her condition rapidly deteriorated, and she died on Monday February 1, 1988, during Poltergeist 3's post-production period, just 5 weeks after her 12th birthday.
Shortly before Heather O'Rourke's death, the studio had requested that the ending of the film be reshot.Template:Citation needed However, with her death, this made filming a new ending very difficult, given how central her character was to the film. Rather than cancel the project with so much of the film already completed, the ending was written in a way that a body double could be used in Heather's place. This is why Carol Anne's face is never seen when she comes back from the Other Side during the finale of the movie. The new ending for the film was filmed in March 1988. Poltergeist 3 was dedicated to the memory of Heather O'Rourke (1975-1988).
The film received extremely negative reviews from critics, resulting in a 15% rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Meanwhile, Zelda Rubinstein's performance was given generally mixed reviews, causing to grant both nominations for a Saturn Award and a Razzie Award (which she also received previously for the first sequel) at the same time. However, despite the generally unforgiving reviews for the film overall, a substantial amount of the film's miniscule amount of praise was directed primarily towards Heather O'Rourke's performance.
While Poltergeist III made back its $9.5 million budget, it 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. 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 3 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.