Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. I was late to the Phantasm party; I saw Phantasm for the first time maybe six years ago, and discovered that it wasn't as bad as I'd heard. There was more of a mystery behind this story than one usually gets with horror movies, especially ones featuring the standard unstoppable force of nature monster at it's center, as Phantasm does with the demonic Tall Man, played by the late Angus Scrimm. I eagerly watched through the remaining three movies, ending with 1998's Phantasm: Oblivion, which ended on a cliffhanger that left me hoping a fifth movie would be made one day. Now that day has come. I need to be more careful what I wish for.

My first disappointment with Phantasm: Ravager was its break from a narrative tradition established by the previous films. Even though there has never been a span of less than four years between installments in this series, each of the previous Phantasm sequels, from 1988's Phantasm II through Oblivion, has managed to pick up immediately where the last movie left off, sticking to the narrative so closely that the subsequent installment begins with the previous movie's ending scene. I love serialized storytelling, so I appreciate when movies do something like this. I've always thought the whole point of sequels was to continue the story begun by the preceding project.

For whatever reason, likely because it's been almost two decades, Ravager doesn't do this. Instead, we are greeted with Reggie (Reggie Bannister) wandering through the desert, still on the trail of the Tall Man. He gives some back story via voice-over narration for the benefit of the audience (who really should have just watched the previous movies), and then the story gets underway.

And that story is almost nonexistent. Even though the movie doesn't mention it, we who have watched the previous installments get the sense that the movie remembers what happened just previously: Reggie had crossed into the Tall Man's world by one of the resonance portals (one of many mysteries in the Phantasm universe), into an illusion of peace that immediately began to make him forget his purpose. This is supported by Reggie abruptly leaping back and forth between several different realities over the course of the story, a la Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale "All Good Things". In some worlds his battle with the Tall Man continues; in others it's come to a head, and in still others it never happened at all. The movie teases us with the mystery of which world is the real one, and while it finally does decide, that's the only mystery that gets resolved. And that really sucks.

Over the course of the previous four films we've been fed a steady stream of tidbits and curiosities that have made the story of Phantasm more tantalizing than what we usually get from horror fare, and I'm sorry to spoil it here, but Ravager will not satisfy you. We'll be reminded that there is a special connection between Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) and the Tall Man, but get no answers as to what that connection is. We will learn that the reason the Tall Man can't be killed is because there are many thousands of him across dimensions, but we get no clues as to what the Tall Man really is, leaving the mystery of his origin (beyond what we got from Phantasm III) unexplained. And anyone who comes to this movie expecting a final battle with the Tall Man (as I confess I did), will be disappointed, but that last is my own fault. The monsters of the movies never die; they just get temporarily hindered. We may wake up from the nightmare, but eventually we'll have to sleep again, and it will be waiting for when we do.

Instead of answers, what Phantasm: Ravager gives us is a feature-length reunion special. Angus Scrimm returns to play the Tall Man one last time (he died shortly after filming was completed), but only appears in a handful of scenes. Reggie and Mike are reunited, and Mike's big brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) returns somehow. The flying spheres and the robed dwarfs that I affectionately call "Hell's Jawas" return to bedevil our heroes, and a few people (and one horse) are killed by the spheres, but that's really it. This isn't a new Phantasm movie as much as it is a dose of nostalgia, and I really could have done without it.

If you haven't seen the previous four Phantasm movies, do so. They're low budget and unselfconsciously silly, but still manage to go beyond the simple slasher fare so common in the eighties, and no one can deny that Angus Scrimm was born to play the Tall Man. I only caution you to stop after Oblivion. As far as I'm concerned, that's where the Phantasm series ended. It's too bad it doesn't have a happy ending, but there it is. I get the feeling that director David Hartman, whose filmography boasts three separate Winnie the Pooh projects and a TV series called -- I kid you not -- Laser Fart, wanted to leave the door open for a Phantasm 6. I pray to Almighty God that doesn't happen, since this would require recasting the Tall Man. Getting someone other than Angus Scrimm to play the Tall Man is like getting someone other than Doug Bradley to play Hellraiser's Pinhead, and we know how that worked out. So let's just quietly chuck this ill-conceived mistake in the trash and go back to our lives a little wiser for it. Phantasm is over. Let's remember the good times.

Phantasm: Ravager is not rated, but contains adult language and violent images.

Robert's Rating: 1/10

Make sure to check us out and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all of our reviews, news, trailers, and much, much more!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment