Original title: Phantasm Ravager
2016 – U.S.A.
Director: David Hartman
Music: Christopher L. Stone
Screenplay: Don Coscarelli and David Hartman
With Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Badlwin, Bill Thronbury, Kathy Lester, Dawn Cody and Angus Scrimm
Story: Reggie is lost between several realities, still trying to find his best friend Mike and his brother Jody, to fight one last time the Tall Man.
Ah Phantasm ! Phantasm and me, it’s a long love story. Like other horror series, like Hellraiser, I discovered the first Phantasm very young, thanks to the VHS of my uncle. So young, and so sensitive, impressionable, ok I didn’t understand a lot, but I knew I had in front of me something unique. I liked and watched right after Phantasm 2, and then Phantasm 3 when I rented the VHS back in the days, and even if I hated it back then (now, I like it), Phantasm was still something special for me, something important in my heart. Then came Phantasm Oblivion in 1998, I discovered it thanks to the Zone 1 dvd (only the third one exists in France on dvd…), a film some hated, and I just loved it, and still do. Phantasm was back to its roots, to the atmosphere, the weird stuff. So yeah, I love Phantasm, even if it’s not perfect of course, the budget were also ridiculous ($300,000 for the first one, 3 millions for part 2, then 2,5 millions for part 3, and $650K for part 4. Ambitious movies with very low budget. But the atmosphere is so excellent, the world so incredible, unique, with this never ending terrifying nightmare in front of us, I don’t care if it’s not perfect. The idea for a fifth film isn’t new. In 2004, Don Coscarelli, the creator of phantasm, director and screenwriter of all of them, was already talking about that possibility.
Between that, negotiations for a reboot with New Line Cinema in 2005, rumors arrived in 2012. Don Coscarelli indeed filmed, well, wrote and produced in secret a new Phantasm. And finally, the first trailer arrived in 2014, when post production was complete. A trailer for the phans! We had to wait a long time, and finally it’s on October the 4th this year that Phantasm Ravager arrived! 18 years after Phantasm Oblivion, 37 years after the first one, and unfortunately, 10 months after the death of Angus Scrimm, the actor playing the Tall Man in all of them. So yeah, it was a long introduction, because I love Phantasm since so many years. So, is Phantasm Ravager good? The phan inside me will just say « fuck yeah it is ». The movie fan will say « yeah it is, but it’s far from being perfect ». Phantasm Raver is a movie for the phans, and only for them. Fans here since the beginning, and like for the first film, they don’t care about the small defects, we can forgive them to live one last adventure with Reggie, Mike, Jody and the Tall Man. Because Phantasm Ravager has a lot of defects. Still, the fan will be happy from the start, with the first shot on Reggie walking in the desert, face to the camera, with his famous double shotgun his hands, on the famous theme song.
And pretty fast, we understand that, like for all Phantasm’s films, the budget wasn’t big at all. And the project is really ambitious. So yeah, Phantasm Ravager has two problems, two visual problems. The first one is the cinematography, sometimes it looks like a low cost film, done fast. Interior scenes are good, with colorful lights, with the dark, but sometimes outside, it doesn’t look that good, especially when there’s grass everywhere. Then, the CGI. Yeah I know, I’m a pain in the ass because I’m talking about bad CGI a lot lately, almost for each film in fact. it’s not my fault, I grew up with old fashion special effects, practical one, and if it’s bad, it can be funny. Bad CGI won’t, he will just hurt my eyes. Phantasm Ravager has a lot of CGI. Flying balls in CGI, giant balls in CGI, blood, some locations. It took me a while to say « ok, CGI are bad, I can deal with it ». But hey, it’s Phantasm and I finally did, because the film has so much to offer!
Because since the start, Phantasm Ravager is an invitation, an invitation to be with stuff we love again, like the characters, the mood, the atmosphere, but not only. The best thing about it, it’s his script, the evolution of those characters, and the evolution of the various themes. Remember, in the first one, Mike was young, a little boy. In Phantasm 2, Reggie was more important (and found his double shotgun, so bad-ass!!!), and Mike was a young adult. In Phantasm 3 and 4, Reggie was even more important as he was looking for Mike, and Phantasm 4’s ending was just beautiful, nostalgic. And I liked it a lot. Phantasm Ravager is also nostalgic, but it doesn’t talk about a young boy, or young adults, no, it talks about being old. It’s a journey, the last journey of those characters we love so much, a journey between several realities. In the beginning, there are almost no surprises, so our eyes are attracted by some of the defects of the film, but then, the film goes deeper into his own world, gives us some keys, and new questions, and we forgive everything, we just follow Reggie, the simple guy, and people are asking Reggie to let go, let go of his friends, to evolve in a way. In the end, Reggie is us, the audience, the fans! Don Coscarelli thanks us for this wonderful journey after all these years, and tells us it’s time for us to move on too.
A lot of sequences are full of emotions. The first scene when everything is questioned, with Reggie in a hospital and Mike visiting him and telling him he has dementia, that he invented the whole story, is a great moment. Reggie is then lost, between the hospital, an abandonned hospital where Mike will come to save him from an apocalyptic world controlled by the spheres, a mausoleum (again yes!) with a woman from the first film, and even a few flashbacks, a few memories, but are they real, and are they his? The Tall Man is of course at the center of everything and gives us some excellent sequences, a few more revelations and some new questions. Phantasm always asked more questions than it gave us answers, and this one is no different at all. The narration is fractured again, all the characters are here (even Rocky from part 3), and the fan then loves Phantasm Ravager. Yes, the cinematography isn’t perfect, yes some CGI are bad, but Phantasm Ravager has what every Phantasm must have.
This new Phantasm has what’s the heart of Phantasm is. I’m not only talking about the characters, about the music (done by Christopher L. Stone, who’s here since Part 3), about the narration. Phantasm Ravager captured the heart of Phantasm. We have everything we waited for, like the Tall Man, the Spheres, the dwarfs, the location), but also the sound design we all know since the first one, with the strange sounds, and also a continuity for the themes of Phantasm, a real respect for the atmosphere. Yeah I know, Coscarelli is still the cowriter and producer, but for a sequel that long after the last one, it’s worth to mention it. The elements from part 2 and 3 like the action and the nightmarish aspect from part 1 and 4 are here. And that’s what makes Phantasm Ravager a strong film for the fan. But only for them. Those who don’t know Phantasm will only see the defects, and of course, they won’t understand a thing.
The characters are back
So good to be in the world of Phantasm again
The themes of the film
Lots of nostalgia
Cinematography isn’t always great
Some bad CGI
So: One final Phantasm made by a fan for the fans, and only them. It’s far from perfection, but it’s good to see it!