In an attempt to freshen up the series, the action is moved from a suburban home to a luxury skyscraper: A 100-story colossus complete with its own mall and art gallery. In charge of the tower is Bruce Gardner (Tom Skerritt), the new husband of Patricia (Nancy Allen) - the sister of JoBeth William's character. As well as having to adapt to newly married life, Pat is also having to deal with her daughter from a previous marriage, Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), so the last thing she needs is the arrival of spooky Carol Anne (O'Rourke), who seems to bring trouble with her wherever she goes. I don't recall an explanation given for why the Freeling family would suddenly send the daughter they almost lost twice to an auntie they've never mentioned, but the script by Sherman and Brian Taggert isn't concerned with making too much sense. It's happy to simply drag out the franchise as far as it will go and ignore what made the previous films so popular with audiences. The Freelings always fought off the supernatural forces at play with their unbreakable family bond, but Poltergeist III sidesteps establishing this newly family unit in favour of lazy jump shocks.
The Gardner's don't seem particularly adept at taking care of a traumatised 12 year-old either, happily leaving her in the care of their irresponsible teenage daughter and enlisting her in a special school, where sceptical psychiatrist Dr. Seaton (Richard Fire) believes the spooky events experienced by Carol Anne and the people around her are brought on by some kind of mass hypnosis. This leaves plenty of time for Carol Anne to be harassed by Reverend Kane (Nathan Davis, replacing the late Julian Beck), who still wants her to lead them all into the light. The film quickly dissolves away into a series of set-pieces plucked at random from Cinema's Big Book of Characters in Peril, involving falling through ice and killer cars revving in the underground car park. Without the family bond so purposefully developed over the course of the last two films, these moments lack any dramatic weight. Sherman would prefer to have the characters yell each other's names repeatedly at the expense of actual dialogue, and in one case is happy to toss away one supporting character without any explanation at all. On the positive side, there are some fantastic 'in camera' effects deployed as the spirits use mirrors to communicate with the living world, and the presence of Zelda Rubinstein and Tom Skerritt's moustache is always a pleasure.
Directed by: Gary Sherman
Starring: Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Heather O'Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein, Lara Flynn Boyle