Sunday, April 2, 2017

Phantasm II (1988)

Director: Don Coscarelli
Notable Cast: James LeGros, Reggie Bannister, Paula Irvine, Angus Scrimm, Samantha Phillips, Kenneth Tigar

The first Phantasm took a fun and silly horror movie concept and layered it with an interesting and thoughtful approach to give it the nightmare logic and structure to push boundaries. Almost ten years later, the first sequel to this cult classic has no intent with trying to out-artist its predecessor, but instead trims the dream like layering back and delivers a much more exciting, packed to the gills kind of 80s horror experience. Phantasm II is just insane and very, very entertaining in being that way. The film doesn’t present itself as anything particularly clever or smart, but it does take all of the entertaining ideas of the franchise and amp them up to a full fledge screaming ’11.’ Take it with a grain of salt, enjoy it for its bat shit insane plot and moments, and just run with it and Phantasm II is bound to hit all of the right buttons.

Mike (LeGros) is ready to be released from the psych ward and his friend Reggie (Bannister) is there to pick him up and bring him home. But The Tall Man (Scrimm) is not done with him yet and he’s using a psychic connection between Mike and a young woman Liz (Irvine) to draw him out for another showdown.

This time they are prepared with awkward to use weapons.
Granted, comparisons to the first film about which one is better has mostly to do with what kind of cinematic experience one wants to have with your horror. The first one is atmospheric and much more serious even with its dark humor and oddities, but Phantasm II is another level or energetic out pour. There are occasionally moments where the film uses its atmosphere to indicate its rooted nightmare logic like when Mike and Reggie find a messed up “hostage girl” or in the way that the new mortuary becomes a sort of labyrinth for our heroes. It adds in a few characters along the way, taking its dream logic aspects and spinning them into telepathic powers that Michael has developed that links him with a young girl in a town with The Tall Man in Oregon. However, this film has no intent in creeping out its audience or truly developing its characters beyond the minimum. Instead it goes for the throat.

This, naturally, is the excess that 80s horror provides. Phantasm II is blissfully in tune with how outrageous it is and simply runs with it. Just in the first 15 minutes or so, there are two giant house explosions. That’s just how this film rolls. From there, it’s almost a non-stop chase kind of film as Michael and Reggie go slightly Rambo (making a quadruple barrel shotgun in the process), stop for a couple of nonsense romantic subplots, and then have a full on throw down that even includes a chainsaw duel. By the time that three of the flying spheres of death arrive, complete with a larger gold one that’s version 2.0, there is no turning back for this film…which is a huge compliment.

Put your ball to the wall, man.
Granted, while the film could have used a bit more character development in the first act to establish a more cohesive continuity with the first one and drive home the character interactions for the rest of the film, Phantasm II still powers through with enough wink-wink charm and outrageous gory horror action to keep things massively entertaining. In the end, is there much more that anyone could ask for from this series as it reaches new heights of preposterousness? It’s a film that comes off as a love it or hate it experience so keep that in mind and enjoy it for what it is.

  • 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
  • Rare Short film featuring Rory Guy (Angus Scrimm)
  • The Gory Days an interview with Special Make-up Effects Artist Greg Nicotero
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • BD-50

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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