EDIT JUNE 2018: This is a lousy overview of an interesting series, and I need to redo it some day. Two years ago I got to see Phantasm in theaters, which I briefly mentioned here, and now I’ve seen a 35mm screening of Phantasm II at the Alamo. The guy introducing the film made some sense, saying this was the cheapest Universal picture of the 1980’s and that the studio mandated a casting change, love interest, explanatory VO, and linear plot with no dream sequences. So it’s the most anti-Phantasm of Phantasm movies, but it still pretty much works, advancing the mythology while throwing in a couple of real nice explosions and the most horrible sphere-death of the series.
Best horror series ever? Maybe not, but let me hyperbolize. Totally consistent and original movies with a really interesting conclusion, even if I still think Don is being vague just so we’ll think he’s way deep. Might find out later on the commentary. This weekend, listened to Don talk about parts 1 & 2, and watched 3 & 4 for the first time since they came out.
Part one gets better every time. Obviously so low budget but you can see ’em putting their heart into it. Love how Don waits until Mike is struggling with the rubber fly monster wrapped in a jacket to talk about the excellent acting in this series… I laugh at first, but dude’s got a point in general. Weird how Reggie & Jody’s song on the porch is one of my favorite scenes. The British tagline for this movie was “Where The Dead Are No Longer That Way”. Too bad I missed this at the drive-in.
“The Ball is Back”. I used to think this was the best Phantasm movie, but now I see it’s just the slickest and most expensive (and not coincidentally, the one that was always on cable in 1988-90). James LeGros of Drugstore Cowboy and Living In Oblivion takes over the Mike role cuz Michael Baldwin was busy that week. Still might be the best Phantasm movie, I’m just not positive about it anymore. Best Tall Man death (exploding eyeballs!) and Balls and effects and stuff. Not much left to write about, since I’ve watched it a hundred times now. Don says the fans used to complain about this one a lot… until part 3 came out.
“Lord of the Dead”. I used to complain about part 3 a lot… thought it was silly, what with the kid with the killer frisbee and the feminist/lesbian with nunchucks. Watching all the movies together puts it in better perspective. They’re ALL kinda silly. Nobody ever really bought the rubber fly in the jacket scene, and you can almost see the stagehands lobbing metal canisters at Reggie at the end of part 2. It’s just fun with bursts of horror and some good storytelling underneath. The repeated bits in each movie (especially the mirror endings) are fun, too. Anyway, the kid and the drifters and the nunchuck lesbian aren’t bad, and it’s nice to see Mike back, and this is where the whole thing gets weird, what with Jody’s return from the dead and the Tall Man implanting a Ball in Mike’s head, then spending part four trying to get it back, I think.
“OblIVion”, or, The One Composed Largely Of Deleted Scenes From Part One Used As Flashbacks. Given about a third the budget of the last one, Don found a way to create a new story around old leftover footage rather than give up or sell out the characters. Hardly any peripheral actors/characters, lot of final-standoff Mike vs. Tall Man stuff and of course an origin story. No horror series makes it to part four without an origin story. The Tall Man gets a name (Jebediah Morningside, a funeral home director who builds portals to other dimensions at home in his spare time), Mike tries to control the Ball in his head (or something), Jody keeps popping up but I still don’t know why, and Reggie gets in some good bits. Watch these movies enough times and they start to seem like real people. I’m sad to see the story finally end.