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By Jeremy Zoss | June 19, 2002

Take a high-tech office building in a big city, a mysterious presence that causes things to go haywire in said building, make it a sequel to a popular 80s film, and what do you get? Well, if you like enjoyable films, you probably answered “Gremlins 2,” but if you enjoy pain, you probably said “Poltergeist 3.”

Wisely, the makers of both “Gremlins 2” and “Poltergeist 3” realized that a change of scenery was necessary to keep the franchises fresh. But while “Gremlins 2” is a funny, fresh spoof of the original, “Poltergeist 3” is a cookie-cutter mess. Set in a Chicago high-rise, “Poltergeist 3” stuck with the same plot as the first two, but with an uglier set. This time out, Reverend Kane and his ghosts chase Carol Anne through her uncle’s building with which she is living. Carol Anne is the only member of the Freeling family to appear in the film, which is explained in the barest detail. As Carol Anne, Heather O’Rourke proves she would have had a bright future as a washed up child star if she had survived the so-called “Poltergeist curse.” Her performance in “Poltergeist 3” is so wretched that she makes Jake Lloyd seem like Haley Joel Osment.

Also conspicuous by his absence is Julian Beck, who as Reverend Kane was the only bright spot of the second film. Considered another victim of the poltergeist curse, Beck died before the third film began production. However, he’s almost lucky he didn’t survive to make this film. The only interesting tidbit about “Poltergeist 3” is that it was the only acting appearance of Richard Fire, writer of the far superior horror film “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.”

While that film may be considered a classic, in “Poltergeist 3,” his acting provides the true horror.

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