Retro-review: New in a PHASTASM 5-Film Collection set from Well Go USA!
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Written by Don Coscarelli
Starring James Le Gros, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm, Raula Irvine, Kenneth Tigar
I light a tightly written story as much as the next guy. But there are times when story doesn’t really matter and if there’s just a bunch of cool shit going on, I’m willing to forgive a narrative that doesn’t really make a whole helluva lot of sense. Now, I’m not saying that PHANTASM II is a nonsensical story. I am saying, though, that it is clear that Don Coscarelli was much more concerned about packing his sequel to his 1979 classic to the brim with cool shit than having it all make sense. And I’m the type of madcap bastard that can accept that.
PHANTASM II starts just where the original PHANTASM left off, with Mike being pulled through the mirror having just filled his pants upon seeing the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) in his bedroom. As Reggie (Reggie Bannister) strums his hippie guitar downstairs, the Tall Man prepares to steal his soul and shrink his carcass down to one of his Jawa hooded dwarf minions. Though Reggie is able to rescue Mike, their adventure has only begun.
There’s something about films that start right where the previous installment left off that I love. I loved it when they interconnected the FRIDAY THE 13TH and HALLOWEEN films instead of making them one to ten years later. It makes it feel as if, if I wanted to, I could play all of these films back to back and they’d make one huge movie. I’m a geek like that. I love those things. Don Coscarelli seems to like that too as he has done it a few times in his PHANTASM series.
In this installment, Mike is played by James LeGros before he was known by moviegoers as James LeGros, that guy from that movie. LeGros is definitely the most talented of the actors in this film, but that’s not saying much. Reggie Bannister does a decent job of trying to be Bruce Campbell by spouting macho Ash-isms here at there, but it just doesn’t feel as authentic. Angus Scrimm’s visage is great as the lanky Tall Man and he’s able to bellow out the imposing lines he’s given. As for the rest of the cast, there’s not a lot of Oscars going to be doled out. But then again, that’s not the type of movie PHANTASM II is.
PHANTASM II is the type of film that constantly tries to one up itself every five minutes as to how much cool shit it can throw at you. From hunchback demons, to flying silver spheres of death, to face biting dwarves, to four barreled shotguns and ten foot chainsaws; this film throws the cool like few other films I’ve seen and not one of them feels lame or misses its mark. It’s almost as if in the almost ten year interim between the original and the sequel, Coscarelli did nothing but focus on a sequel and wrote down the best and coolest ideas possible to add to this film.
PHANTASM II is a highlight reel for the best of the best of practical special effects. No CGI was used during this film and you can tell by the sheer imagination and craftsmanship put into each effects piece. When the gold orb bores through the undertaker’s back and comes out his mouth. Amazing. When the Tall Man is embalmed with acid and I burns out of his neck and face. Fantastic. When the priest gets drilled in the head by the silver sphere. Holy shit ballz! Good, good stuff. From start to finish, this feels like an FX man’s dream and considering this was the day and age when FX guys were gods, this is a fantastic film to feature what these gods could do. Damn I wish modern films would do this sort of thing more often instead of relying on animated looking CGI.
The effects is the subject of one of two documentaries provided with this special BluRay release, showing behind the scenes footage of how it all was put together and the stories that go along with them. I found these docs as fascinating as the film. Having seen PHANTASM II numerous times in the theater and on VHS, I knew the story, but it was great to revisit this treasure chest of cool again. This is a must own BluRay for those who appreciate how horror films were made before the computers took over the world.