Phantasm Ravager pits Reggie against the Tall Man in a final showdown to the franchise
Angus Scrimm returns as the Tall Man in his final performance prior to his death
Phantasm Ravager review
by TS Alan
The Phantasm franchise is like no other supernatural horror film series. The original Phantasm (1979) was made on a shoestring budget by a young and ambitious director/writer named Don Coscarelli. It was imaginative for its nightmarish storytelling and its imagery. It may have been a crude indie film, but viewers embraced it because it was unique. Coscarelli’s hard work and creativity paid off and earned him the Special Jury Award in 1979 at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, along with a Saturn Award nomination for Best Horror Film in 1980. The film also made a horror icon out of Angus Scrimm, who portrayed the formidable and unforgettable protagonist the Tall Man.
The filmed spawned three sequels — Phantasm II (1988), Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994), Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998) — all made with the same passion, low budget, and creativity of it original. Throughout the franchise the methos of the Tall Man and from where he acquired his demonic powers grew, but was never fully explained.
In 2004, six years after the release of Phantasm IV: Oblivion, Don Coscarelli told Fangoria magazine, “I’d also still like to do another Phantasm film. Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm are still in great shape and raring to go.” Rumors would continue throughout the years that Coscarelli would begin a new Phantasm sequel but the project never came to fruition.
In 2012, Coscarelli and new co-writer/director David Hartman told Entertainment Weekly, a sequel was shot secretly in and around southern California during 2012 and 2013. It would be three more years before fans of the franchise would get to see Phantasm Ravager.
With Phantasm Ravager fans hoped they would get answers to the series mythology. Unfortunately, fans did not get get their questions answered: Why is the Tall Man so obsessed with Jody and Mike? What changed mortician Jebediah Morningside into the Tall Man after going through the portal for the first time, and where did he travel to? From where did the flying metallic “spheres” (also known as “Sentinels”) originate? There are no answers to these questions, however, we do get one answer, and that is why the Tall Man cannot be killed. “You can use your weapons,” the Tall Man tells Reggie and Mike in the new film. “But all you will destroy is this flimsy skin sack. There are thousands of me, tens of thousands. I’m in dimensions you cannot possibly imagine.”
The story centers around Reggie, who is searching for his missing friend and comrade-in-arms Mike. Throughout his journey, Reggie continuously battles the Tall Man in hopes of destroying his undead minions and save what is left of humanity. Throughout, Reggie jumps back and forth through several different realities, never sure of which one is real.
The film at times is disjointed. Whether that is intentional in order to bolster the disoriented feelings Reggie experiences as he jumps in and out of three different realities, or just bad editing, it is distracting at times. It feels like a bunch of Phantasm vignettes were incoherently strung together to make a feature length film.
Although Phantasm Ravager has its flaws, the film is not without merit. The film still remains true to the first Phantasm film with its creative imagery and imaginative storytelling. The cinematography is far superior in this film than any of the others and the acting of Reggie Bannister and A. Michael Baldwin is solid with dialog true to their established characters.
Newcomers are probably going to be confused by this final entry into the franchise, even though Reggie’s introductory monologue attempts to recap the events that lead up to where his story picks up. I highly recommend those new to Phantasm view Phantasm (1979) before viewing Ravager.
Nonetheless, by the end of the film fans might feel cheated and disappointed, as I was at the questions that still remain unanswered, along with the film’s dual ending. So is it worth the view? For fans, yes. It is still a fun and entertaining movie despite its glaring issues. For newcomers? Perhaps, but like previously mentioned, it would be beneficial to see the first film before the final installment.
Directed by David Hartman
Written by David Hartman, Don Coscarelli
Cast: Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Kathy Lester.
Run Time: 87 minutes
Release Date: October 7, 2016.