Sunday, June 11, 2017


Back in 1979 a small horror film was released that captured the imagination of fans around the world. It spawned several sequels back when the term franchise was yet to be a dirty word. It was original and brought to us a world we never knew existed, a world harbored over by someone called the Tall Man who controlled silver orbs with protruding blades and drills that could drain a man of blood in no time. The movie was PHANTASM.

With each subsequent sequel fans have begged for more. Writer/director Don Coscarelli answered their pleas by releasing three follow up films, each leaving the door wide open for the next. So when word came out that he had another film in the making fans were ecstatic. Unfortunately he turned the director’s helm over to someone else and the end result is PHANTASM RAVAGER.

The movie opens in a near apocalyptic future with Reggie (Reggie Bannister) walking down the highway having had his ’71 Cuda stolen from him. As he walks along the car nearly runs him over before screeching to a halt. The man behind the wheel takes the time to yell at him and in return finds himself removed from the car and Reggie back behind the wheel.

What follows is a movie that seems to be in the same world we’ve visited before but at the same time not quite that world. Sure the spheres are still out there cruising along looking for victims. But their CGI inspired versions are just not quite the same as the old methods used. The Tall Man is back as well but even he seems less inclined to want to do damage like he did in the past.

What makes the movie even more jarring is that it moves back and forth not only in time but in location as well. One minute we’re seeing Reggie battling the spheres as they attempt to kill him and the next it’s as if he’s just woke up and finds himself sitting in a retirement home talking to Mike (A. Michael Baldwin).  In this world Reggie is dealing with bouts of dementia, the events of the previous films being nothing more than images created in his own mind and having never actually taken place.

This back and forth goes on for most of the film. Not only do we see Reggie having lengthy talks with Mike he has them with the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) as well. Perhaps all of this was due to budget but the film ends up with more talking than action, more discussion than discovery of what happened. Not only that, but the entire series is called into question since we’re not sure it’s real of if it’s all in Reggie’s head.

The movie feels like something is desperately lacking here and my guess is it was the emotional tie in that would have come from Coscarelli. All of his films have had something of the man himself in them. In the hands of director David Hartman that spark is just not there. Hartman could have been the biggest fan in the world but somehow his vision of this story felt lacking.

On the plus side it was great to see nearly all of the entire original cast back together again. Not only was the aforementioned cast in the film so was a returning Bill Thornbury as Mike’s brother Jody and Kathy Lester as the Lady in Lavender. All of them on hand again just gives fans a warm feeling.

In the end I’m sure that fans who want to own the complete story of PHANTASM will add this to their shelf. I’m not sure I can say the same. I just didn’t enjoy it. It does deserve to be watched at least once though. And sad but true yes, it did leave the potential for yet another sequel. If that happens it needs to happen while the actors are still alive. Angus Scrimm passed away before this was released. And it needs to be under the helm once again of Don Coscarelli.

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