Ruth C. Engel
Mark Anthony Major
Action horror, with a bit of comedy thrown in.
Trivia In the scene where the Caretaker is in the Crematorium and he pours the ashes into the bag, the bag has the name Sam Raimi on it.
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Phantasm II (1988)
31st Oct 05
After eight years in a mental institution, Mike is finally released to rebuild his life after finally admitting that the Tall Man of his dreams is just that, in his dreams. But he’s not telling the truth and, reunited with Reggie the ice-cream man (the only ‘family’ has left), things immediately take a turn for the twisted again, most immediately by way of Reggie’s family being killed in a fire. With nothing left to lose the pair hit the road in their trusty Plymouth Hemi cuda – the trunk full off weapons and tools – tracking the Tall Man across the North West of America, guided only by Mike’s vague visions and those of new girl Liz, a pretty young telepath who dreams of both Mike and the Tall Man, but is hoping Mike reaches her small town first.
Review Reviewed as part of the Phantasm Box set
Don Coscarelli resisted the call to make Phantasm II for many a year, citing the reason for not going back that he just didn’t know how to do it. Then it hit him one day: why not take up the story the very second after the first film finishes? And he did just that, so let’s recap on what happened in the first. Even though Mike’s brother Jody pushed the rock off the cliff that trapped the Tall Man down the mine and Reggie had just been killed by the Lady in Lavendar, Phantasm I ends at Reggie’s house with Reggie consoling Mike over the death of his brother’s in a car crash. Such is the dreamy world of Phantasm. But wait; as Mike heads up stairs to pack his bags – bang! – the Tall Man’s back and Mike is pulled into a cupboard by one of the Tall Guy’s dwarves, so ending the footage borrowed from Phantasm I. Now it’s time to cut to Reggie, who rushes upstairs to see what the noise is. Spying the Tall Man and his minions dragging Mike’s body, Reggie runs downstairs, grabs a baseball bat, has a short battle with another dwarf, turns the gas oven on, grabs Mike and leaps out of the window just before the house explodes, and the audience cheer. Ladies and Gentlemen, Phantasm is back!
And except from the lady stuntwoman who played Mike jumping through the window having a much bigger ass than a 13 year old boy would have, that intro to Phantasm II is nigh on perfect, and pretty much sets you up for the entire rest of the movie. Phantasm II takes all the basic motifs of the last movie (the dreamy quality, the American fascination with death, the silver spheres of doom) and builds on them. The Tall Man is no longer just turning dead people in one small town into his dwarf army; he’s taken his game on the road, feeding off small American town after small American town along the way. Mike’s no longer just a kid (he’s indie darling James Le Gros now actually) and Reggie’s no longer just an ice-cream seller, they’re both now actively hunting the Tall Man and have what they hope are the tools to do the job. And the balls are back too, but this time they slice, dice and liquidise as well as drill, and also you can no longer see the camera crew in the each ball’s reflection as it flies. It’s wonderful what a little bit more money can do.
But then again, that is a bit of a problem. Being a studio financed deal; Phantasm II has a different feel from the other three films in the series. Most obvious is the replacement of Michael Baldwin by James Le Gros, something that the studios insisted on (it was him or Reggie, and you know Reggie’s going nowhere), but also is the seriously pulled back attention to dream sequences. Whereas the first had whole chunks which may or may not have been real (if any of it was) Phantasm II is a lot more accessible and makes a lot more sense. Later instalments in the franchise revert more to the original’s mould (thanks to independent financing) and happily confuse the hell out of us whenever necessary, but Phantasm II only really becomes completely nonsensical near the end, with the famous “It’s only a dream!” cliff hanger. Still, in the grand scheme of things it’s a small price to pay. For all the bother loosing much of the unreality actually streamlines the movie, making it more of a popcorner, which perhaps fits the mood and the time of its release better. And beside, the studio did finance a four barrelled shot gun, a chainsaw duel, an amazing death by embalming fluid mixed with sulphuric acid scene, and some of the most outrageous ball death action from the whole series, most notably the funeral attendant getting shredded to pieces by the now infamous gold sphere. Money well spent I think you'll find.
So we have to thoroughly recommend Phantasm II in every way. As a companion piece to Phantasm it’s excellent, and back to back as a Zombie Club double bill with the first, you’re bound to have a great evening. It’s fun, scary and thrilling, it takes the story to a new place, and it has a really bonkers ending that makes very little sense, just like the first movie. Oh and it has that wickedly chilling music back again too, although this time with a bit of 80s synth played over it, just so you know what decade you’re in this time around.
Versions The only version you'll be wanting to hear about is the new Anchor Bay UK release, with all the amazing extras provided by our friends at Nucleus Films. Interviews, behind the scenes footage, cast and crew commentaries, it's all there.
Extras Introduction by The Tall Man, Angus Scrimm
Audio commentary by Don Coscarelli, Angus Scrimm and Reggie Bannister
Stereo 2.0 audio; optional 5.1 and DTS
Subtitles for the hard of hearing.
On the Phantasm II disc is also a great little easter egg of Michael Baldwin being asked what his favourite Phantasm movie was. "Oh definitely the second one!" he cries, which of course he wasn't in.
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