Phantasm (5 Movie DVD Collection) (DVD Review)
Rated: R/Region 1/Widescreen/Number of Discs 5
Available from Well Go USA
Phantasm (1979) (Remastered)
Directed By: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Angus Scrimm, A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury
Mike, a young teenage boy who has just lost his parents, is afraid to lose his brother. This fear causes him to follow his brother to a funeral, where Mike witnesses the Tall Man lift a coffin on his own. Mike decides to investigate and discovers a horrible world where the Tall Man, along with his flying spheres, shrink the to half their normal size and reanimate them as slaves. It is then up to Mike, his brother, and Reggie, the ice cream man, to stop the Tall man…
As I’ve stated with very few films before, only a small group of movies are what I’d really consider being scary. And this usually goes back to when I was a kid and I’d come across a movie or two that literally freaked me out. The Phantasm series was something that freaked me out. The series started with the original Phantasm in 1979. Now obviously I wasn’t even born yet, so I never saw it til I rented it many years later, but it is one of those movies I’d call actually horrifying. And as weird, as the first movie is, I think it also packs what it needs to freak someone out. It’s almost like Coscarelli wanted to make a weird Italian horror film here in American. Not everything you see in this movie will always make sense, but that seems to almost be the point. This is a film that came out in 1979, so we still have that 70’s vibe going. This means that the film does seem a lot like an acid trip on screen at times. Terrible things happen only for the film to renege on it moments later by having someone wake up. It confuses the viewer, but it’s just so unique and different that you want to see it to its end, regardless of how odd and confusing things might get. It doesn’t pack the most gore of a Phantasm film, but the iconic spear does make a small a few appearances and one scene it is in is a memorable and bloody one.
The movie packs an ending that seems to be a love it or hate it type deal. I grew up during a time when the sequels were out already, so I can imagine how people felt originally when it was still long ways off before they got a sequel, leaving them with just what the film gives them at the end. The Tall Man isn’t Freddy or Jason, but I like to think that Angus Scrimm shows us here in the first film why you could probably say his name with those in the same conversation and not be out of place. Oddly enough, it’s in the movie’s last few scenes that The Tall Man seems to finally get on the path he is still known for today. The closing moments also are foreshadowing of our dear Reggie being more than just some hippie-ish ice cream man like he is here. The movie doesn’t always make sense, it isn’t always well acted, but perhaps it still holds up extremely well when compared to the others to come on pure eeriness alone. I know this movie may be a bit confusing in some areas to some people, but I still really dig Phantasm.
– Audio Commentary with Don Coscarelli and actors Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm and Bill Thornbury
– Graveyard Carz Episode
– Interviews with Don Coscarelli and Angus Scrimm (Vintage 1979 television interview)
– Deleted Scenes, Interview Outtakes
– PHANTASM Behind-the-Scenes Home Movies with commentary by Don Coscarelli and Reggie Bannister, Additional home movie footage
– Deleted Scenes and Trailers
Phantasm II (1988)
Directed By: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Angus Scrimm, James Le Gros, Reggie Bannister
Mike is released from psychiatry when he agrees with the doctors that the terrible happenings in his past were just in his imagination. But once he’s free, he contacts Regg and they team up to hunt down and eliminate the “Tall Man”, who plunders the graveyards and abducts the sleeping with help of his terrible gnomes. A beautiful strange girl starts to appear in Mike’s dreams. He assumes she’s in danger and needs their help – will they find her before the Tall Man can do her any harm?
Okay, I have to admit something here. I don’t love Phantasm II. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it and while I understand a great number of you love it the most but for me, I just don’t dig it as much. Phantasm II is a big 180 from the original in a lot of ways. Another thing left out of this one that was due to the input by the studio was the fact that nobody is having a lot of weird dreams that make the viewer think they are real only to wake up moments later. Now don’t get me wrong, Mike and his lady friend Liz have had visions in this thing, but they are much more straightforward. Some liked that better. I, on the other hand, think it just lacks the major feel of every other Phantasm film to be released. Still, I would say that this movie does have its merits. Reggie is more comical, but he’s the Reggie everyone who loves the series remember and is more fond of. The Tall Man is in pure form here, as Angus Scrimm is in the style and rhythm most associated with the franchise. Mike is recast sadly, so we really aren’t that fond of him. Instead of the tormented and confused Mike, we get in every other Phantasm film, as played most notably by A. Michael Baldwin. This time around we have more of a pretty boy, in an obvious act by the studio to make the ladies more interested in the film. While usually, the plot of Phantasm seems to be Reggie, Mike, and friends trying to run from The Tall Man all the while trying to figure out a way to stop him, this time Mike and Reggie are chasing down The Tall Man and it just doesn’t seem like Phantasm.
With the bigger budget did come more gore, effects, visuals, and flying balls. And to be honest, this is the film in the series that many want to praise next to the original. But I just didn’t share those same feelings. And as weird as it may sound, I believe I actually prefer part four of Phantasm slightly over this one. It’s not a horrible film. It is packed with what are probably the best two characters doing their signature stuff. I just think when compared to the feel of the others, it just kinda seems different. And different in this case isn’t the best thing.
– Audio Commentary with Don Coscarelli, Angus Scrimm and Reggie Banister
– The Ball is Back: The making of PHANTASM II
– Deleted Scenes, Workprint Scenes, TV Spots
– Theatrical Trailers, Behind the Scenes, Still Galleries
– Workprint Scenes
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)
Directed By: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin
The Tall Man, that imposing menace from Morningside Mortuary, is back and once again haunting the thoughts of the now-adult Mike and his friend, ex-Ice Cream vendor Reggie. The two continue their hunt for the mysterious figure and in his path of destruction encounter a variety of dangerous situations, friends, and enemies. They also must contend with the resurrected dead plus a growing number of the infamous and deadly silver spheres which aid the Tall Man as he sets his sights on indoctrinating Mike and finishing the fight begun so many years ago…
Phantasm III is a bit of a revert back to the original format, all the while keeping the more humorous Reggie the same as he was in part two. This was still a Universal film but they didn’t seem to care about it as much, cut the budget and sort of let Don do what he wanted to do. Luckily, after the events of the last film, Mike wakes back up and is being played by the man who originally played him, A. Michael Baldwin, which helps more than you might think. Pretty much most of what the studio wanted last time is done away with here, even having Mike’s love interest Liz be killed off in the opening moments of the movie. That’s not much of a waste here, seeing as how she was pretty but useless anyway. So things are MOSTLY back to normal for Phantasm fan. Notice I said MOSTLY. Yeah, The Tall Man is still creepy as all hell. He has his evil dwarfs, balls, and other evil things going for him that makes him as iconic as always. He also has about three villains that start off alive and turn into the Tall Man’s minions later. They sadly are about as 90’s as you could get and are highly annoying and corny. Way more corny than the character of Rocky or the kid, Tim, that Reggie teams up with while along with his way of trying to rescue Mike. He sort of does the horror version of home alone and isn’t that bad after seeing it a few more times now. Some lame new characters placed to the side and the rest is well worthy of the Phantasm name. This was a film I rented as a kid at the video store, so I will admit I have some nostalgia attached to it when I watch it.
Also adding a bonus to this film is the character Jody, Mike’s brother, being brought back into the plot of things. The fact that he is still played by the original actor Bill Thornbury helps a lot. Phantasm as a whole contradicts itself more than once. Confusing the viewer as much as it confuses the people in the film. Was the first film really a dream? What does The Tall Man want with Mike? What is Mike? Will Reggie ever have sex? If he doesn’t this movie shows that it at least won’t be from a lack of trying. This is a series that gives us more questions than answers and part three here might give us the most questions. I still kinda like that oddly enough. It seems to confuse us, but not bore us. It also seems to do everything right that part two did wrong. Phantasm III ends up being a mix between the original Phantasm and the more studio influenced part 2, but it is still more enjoyable than it is flawed.
– Audio Commentary with Don Coscarelli and editor Norman Buckley
– Balls of Steel: Bob Ivy s Stunt for the Ages – The Phantasm III Car Stunt
Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)
Directed By: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin
Taking off immediately where the last one ended, in this sequel Mike travels across dimensions and time fleeing from the Tall Man, at the same time he tries to find the origins of his enemy, and what really happened the night that his brother died. Meanwhile, Reggie (accompanied by a beauty he picked up on the road) battles the spheres and the undead in a quest to find Mike before the Tall Man can complete his transformation…
There seems to be the overwhelming opinion among the horror community that this film was a letdown. And as a result for years, they had all wanted a 5th film that seemed less and less likely to happen as more and more time passed. I, however, am here to say that while it’s far from the strongest Phantasm, I don’t feel it’s the weakest either. And when you take into account how you at least have everyone from the original back again and how the film ends (more on this later), that perhaps it wraps things up about as perfectly as it could have all things considered. This is a film I use to be a bit indifferent one but now having watched it much older and wiser than I was before, I appreciate this one more. I also love how old footage was used to seemingly blend everything we had already seen together. On the surface, you could say that this Phantasm movie is a bit weak. There’s not a ton of action outside of Reggie doing battle with the evil forces The Tall Man tosses at him. A lot of that could be blamed on the movie having the lowest budget for a Phantasm film since the original. Most of the film is people walking around, dreaming, and going from dimension to dimension all the while trying to figure out what everything really is and to try to figure out the secrets of The Tall Man. But what I really dig about this movie is how is that interlaced the unused footage from the original film that is used to seamlessly sync together and make a complete story that backtracks and tries to make everything add up. It doesn’t always succeed to the naked eye, but it may more than you think if you look deeper.
Mild spoiler aside, once this film ends, you again seem to have more questions than answers, or at least the average movie goers are more inclined to think things seem unfinished. And while the film’s end, which seemed to be the ending of the series for the longest time, might feel like it needs another chapter (and did leave room for one), if you really think about things you see here, it’s an ending that seems fitting and very haunting. That is just one of the things I like and respect about it. It’s not typical and it’s eerie, just like the series as a whole. “Oblivion” isn’t going to be anyone’s favorite, and alone without having just seen the other films it could be a letdown, but it’s not by any means terrible. And now after all these years it just seems fitting. Despite the lower budget on this entry in Phantasm, I think the movie still looks and is pretty solid.
– Audio Commentary with Don Coscarelli, Reggie Bannister, and Angus Scrimm
Phantasm: RaVager (2015)
Directed By: David Hartman
Starring: Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm
After battling with the Tall Man in Phantasm: Oblivion, a battered Reggie wanders through the desert in search of his missing friend, Mike. After recovering his 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda, Reggie is targeted by two of the Tall Man’s Sentinel Spheres and destroys them. He awakens suddenly to find himself sitting in a wheelchair pushed by none other than the elusive Mike! Although overjoyed by their reunion, Reggie is in this alternate dimension an aged and weary old patient in a psychiatric ward. And only he remembers their battled and bloodied past with the Tall Man. Reggie must travel between dimensions and discern what is reality in order to confront the mysteries at the heart of a decades-long struggle against evil. He is met with new and familiar faces along the way, and an epic showdown on the Tall Man’s home world awaits!
I remember being very happy when I learned a new Phantasm movie was in the works. I admit I was happy but also a bit torn because while I felt the series wrapped up in a very good a Phantasm-ish way with the last film, the idea of seeing everyone from Reggie to The Tall Man again was almost too good to throw shade at. Now, however, after a long wait, I saw Phantasm: Ravager and I have to say the time for throwing some shade is certainly now. First and foremost I will again say that it was great seeing Reggie, The Tall Man, Mike, and even Rocky. Seeing the evil dwarfs, the lady in lavender, and all those spears is a sight that any horror loving fan of the Phantasm will enjoy seeing. The trouble is with Ravager is there is no substance to this nostalgia. In fact, nostalgia is all you get and that isn’t good enough to make you overlook the shoddy ways of this film. If I am to call it like I see it, then I’d have to say that Ravager plays out like someone took a DSLR camera and made a Phantasm fan film but somehow got the original cast to play along. The jump from film to digital is something we’ve all had to accept and deal with but Phantasm seems like a duck out of water here in this form. It looks very cheaply made in part and while I can look over some of the CGI there are times when things really needed to be nipped in the bud on quality control before this one ever seen the light of day. The film already seems uneven but the quality of the look seems to vary and also make things seem disjointed at times. And this isn’t even getting started on the actual plot of the film yet.
So, the movie is billed as the end of the Phantasm series but I will go ahead and say after seeing this you will have more questions than answers. This isn’t really about Mike here nor The Tall Man, this is a Reggie story. He’s looking for Mike, we’re seeing him meet people that die and then pop back up later, we hardly see The Tall Man (maybe due to the sad death of Angus), and the story jumps between two different times periods taking place at the same time that just become more confusing and not the typical good Phantasm style confusion way we’re used to. Nothing here feels settled once the dust clears and you feel as if we’re waiting for the story to get kicked into gear and it never does seem to fully do that. It’s too disjointed for its own good and while Reggie is a fun character I think we needed a little more stuff with Mike than the small brushed over stuff we end up with. Look, I know we all love Phantasm. Phantasm is one of my favorite movies ever and the others make-up a weird and atmospheric franchise that I hold in very high regards. But we can’t let our love for the series and our sorrow for the death of Angus Scrimm get in the way of our good judgment when it comes to this film. This is not a good movie and when compared to the other Phantasm films it is downright awful in delivery and gives us nothing but disappointment. Not only is Phantasm: Ravager perhaps the most disappointing horror film of the decade, it might just be the worst horror film of the year.
– Audio Commentary with co-writer/director David Hartman and Don Coscarelli
– Behind-the-Scenes Promo
– Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by David Hartman and Don Coscarelli)
– Phuntasm: Bloopers and Outtakes
– Teaser / Theatrical Trailer
Phantasm (5 Movie DVD Collection)