Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Better Late Than Never Review: All The Phantasm Movies

The Phantasm Series Shows Players Riding Out Their Passions

I just recently watched all the Phantasm movies. 

I watched the entire franchise in two days after not seeing any of the films since I was a kid. I know things are opening up and the weather is nice, but we're not quite out of the COVID-19 woods yet. Since that is the case I am still re-watching old horror flicks and catching ones I might have missed. The Phantasm series stretches to almost 40 years of horror, beginning in what I feel was the best time for horror films, the 80s.

The first one, Phantasm (1979) came out when I was still wet behind the ears, barely a kid. I didn't even set eyes on it until the early 80s. All I could remember about the movie was "The Tall Man,' played by Angus Scrimm in all the films, those flying chrome-plated death spheres, and little dudes in cans. 

Along with Scrimm, the film stars Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornberry, and Reggie Bannister. Baldwin plays Mike Pearson, who is the main protagonist in most of the films. he's only a kid when this all begins but the battle against The Tall Man will become what seems like a life-long battle for the rest of the film series.

What I noticed about the sequel, outside of it being done almost 10 years after the first one was you can see when Hollywood smells money in something, how they like to step in and start changing things. In Phantasm II (1988) Baldwin is replaced by another actor, James LeGros to play Mike Pearson. Apparently, with Universal Pictures picking up the franchise, they preferred LeGros over Baldwin. 

It picks up right where the first film left off. Including some reshooting of the final sequence of the first film to keep fans up to speed where things left off, then pick up from there. This is something they do for the rest of the film series, and I have to say as cheesy as some of it looks, I like the effort. A lot of times franchises can lose fans when they make changes to things they got used to, and Phantasm stuck to their guns.

Phantasm III: Lord of The Dead (1994) again writes the noticeable time and aging of characters into the story by having Mike be in a coma for a few years as a result of what happens at the end of the previous film. I'm not going to lie, by now it's just the original cast of players wanting to see the franchise through for themselves and for fans and somehow, it works well in this series. Even when the budget is noticeably less than it was for the earlier films, these guys make it work.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998) follows the same recipe with events taking place immediately after the previous film. I remember feeling an "Army of Darkness" vibe with this one, then found out Bruce Campbell was rumored to be a part of it the budget couldn't swing it. Not for nothing, Campbell's got his franchise and this is its own so I think it worked out for the best. 

The time travel thing does happen in this, but more to give some background to "The Tall Man" than to start something like fighting in another time before it all began. But the cool thing is, they do get into a more post-apocalyptic thing because of this element in the fifth and final installment of the series, which would be Angus Scrimm's last appearance as "The Tall Man," in Phantasm: Ravager.

Phantasm: Ravager (2016) This final film is a little confusing because of the dream world and real-world sequences along with the dimensional travel and time travel, but they somehow find a way to wrap things up in this film, well enough to close out the franchise. Scrimm passed away at 89-years old before the film was released in September of the same year but there's something really stand up about Scrimm and the rest of the cast riding this thing out from start to finish.

Sometimes franchises can drag out to the point fans wonder what they're doing with it. They can go so far from where they started that it makes no sense and is purely just a money grab but the Phantasm series didn't seem to do that. I'm sure some folks made money but after sitting through all these films, I could see everyone liked their characters and just wanted to put them away properly.

Check out these films if you haven't because they were well worth watching. 

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