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The 1988 sequel to Phantasm.

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The Tall Man strikes again.

  • Mar 10, 2012
Rating:
+3
*** out of ****

It's not easy having to review the sequel to a movie that you so passionately cherish, but here it goes. As it is, I have just started playing the theme from the original "Phantasm" so that the process of reviewing the sequel, "Phantasm II", will be as painless as possible. I'm thinking that perhaps the music will put me in a sort of trance, making things easier on myself. Before I go any further, let me just say that I am not implying that this is a bad sequel - in fact, on the contrary, it's actually a pretty good one by my standards - although when watching it, I was bothered by the fond memories that I had of director Don Coscarelli's original masterpiece of the surreal and the macabre. This second coming came out just ten years after the first, thus a few of the returning actors have aged rather noticeably and the original has garnered a strong cult following, but Coscarelli hasn't changed a bit.

I admire Coscarelli. He's an imaginative fellow; and in every interview I've watched regarding him and whatever film that has been made the subject, he seems like a very friendly and down-to-earth guy. Just recently I've watched an interview he did with actor Angus Scrimm on a T.V. talk show back in 1979, when "Phantasm" was just not getting its theatrical release. This interview can be found on the most recent Anchor Bay DVD re-release/restoration of "Phantasm", and it's easily one of the best I've seen. Knowing Coscarelli's background makes it all the more enjoyable to watch one of his movies, and I think this interview certainly helped me to just take "Phantasm II" for what it is; a whole lot of dumb, ridiculous, gory fun. It's not as good as the first film in the franchise (which has spawned two more sequels since this one), but on its own grounds, I've judged it fairly; and I had a really good time watching and admiring it in all its absurd glory.

Picking up six years after the events of "Phantasm", the sequel begins with a revealing flashback sequence in which Mike (Michael A. Baldwin) and family friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) look back on the events that occurred during the storyline of the first film, only for the notorious Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) to attack them once again. Fast-forward to now present day, and Mike (now played by James LeGrose) has been transferred to a mental institution, and is just now being allowed to return back home once again. Reggie's home, that is. Once the two reunite and catch up, they decide the best way to make up for lost time, in their case, is to stock up on chainsaws/shotguns/blowtorches so that they may successfully hunt down the Tall Man and avenge Reggie's house, which blew up in a fire when The Tall Man and his little Jawa-esque minions invaded it.

There's also a blonde-haired girl who Mike is having strange visions of; he senses that she is real, and that she also is aware of The Tall Man's presence. So would most people, if they or their small towns lived to tell the tale (it's said that you can tell where the Tall Man has been if the area is desolate and destroyed). There's also a priest who gets his ear sliced off by one of those flying metal balls that The Tall Man controls, and a lady for Reggie too! A record number of scenes take place in morgues, funeral homes, graveyards, and creepy old houses. But this is a horror film by way of Don Coscarelli, and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.

After "Phantasm", Coscarelli decided to lay low for a while until he got enough money to make a more expansive and overall bigger version of his classic original. "Phantasm" was a low-budget horror feature in which Coscarelli had to make do with what resources he had, whilst this sequel has all the special effects that money can buy. It's impressive and slightly maddening at the same time; Coscarelli is intelligent and gifted enough to work with these effects to create something that is stimulating for the mind and the imagination, although it's also sort of sad to see him so detached from his usual minimalist/independent/low-budget style. But you know what...this is still quite solid. For what it is, "Phantasm II" could have easily been a lot worse; and yes, it's a mess, but it does have a lot of what the original had, and more. Whether you will enjoy it or not is based almost entirely on what you liked about "Phantasm" and how much you liked those things. If you enjoyed the company of these characters - and can do fine without the presence of Michael Baldwin - then you will appreciate what the sequel has to offer.

While this is clearly not the great film that "Phantasm" was, I still enjoyed a good portion of it. There are some noticeable flaws, and it could have used some polishing, but it makes up for most of its short-comings with some good laughs, some truly bad-ass moments, some solid performances, and great make-up effects. Also, the cinematography is both gorgeous and likably quirky, at times. Coscarelli has complete control over his vision with "Phantasm II" - with the themes of death and existentialism from the film being brought over to the sequel with some mixed but entertaining results - and it just boosts my confidence in the man. I believe that if he's allowed to have fun, then he can do just about anything, even if he doesn't have much to work with. This isn't his best movie, but as a film that fulfills the desire to see images of pale corpses and mutilated human flesh, you'll likely have a ball.

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March 10, 2012
Your thoughts mirror mine on this movie. A well rounded write up, Ryan! You are really developing in your reviewing....
 
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More Phantasm II reviews
review by . May 15, 2009
Phantasm II is the sequel/remake that was produced by a Hollywood company nine years after the release of the first film. More of a remake than a true sequel. This time armed with a bigger budget and "named" actors, Don Coscerelli and company this time around make a film with mixed results. What could have been a great film turns out to be the first film with a big budget. This time around Reggie and Ice Cream man and the kid (James Le Gros) have been following the "Tall Man" (Angus Scrimm) all …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie

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The long awaited sequel to Phantasm.
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Details

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: JUly 8, 1988
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
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