Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ten Days of Terror!: Phantasm II

Films: Phantasm II
Format: HBO Go on rockin’ flatscreen.

What’s the big sell of the movie Phantasm? It’s the flying orbs that kill people. Sure, you get the Tall Man, too, and the Tall Man is pretty damn awesome as a bad guy, but we wait for the flying orbs, especially because they aren’t really used that much. Phantasm II has the chance to correct that and it kind of doesn’t. The other thing that the sequel gets to correct is the fact that the first movie has a ton of ideas that aren’t really presented in a way that makes a great deal of sense. There’s the Tall Man digging up corpses, the flying orbs, and weird little dwarves that are apparently made by squeezing the corpses somehow into these new critters. It’s kind of a narrative mess.

Phantasm II picks up immediately at the end of the first movie, with our hero Mike (A. Michael Baldwin in this footage, which was clearly made at the same time as the original) be attacked by the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and a couple of dwarves. Pedophile-looking former ice cream man and Mike’s friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) coming to his rescue. Fast forward eight years and now Mike is played by James Le Gros and he’s just getting released from an institution since no one believed his weird story.

We’re also told that Mike has a psychic connection with a girl named Liz (Paula Irvine). Like most of what happens in Phantasm in general, this goes completely unexplained. Mike, fresh out of the institution, returns to his home town and starts digging up graves, which is what he’s doing when Reggie discovers him. Reggie is convinced that Mike is going back into the asylum, this time for good, but Mike tells him that none of the coffins contain bodies because the Tall Man has stolen them. The two leave the graveyard and Mike has a premonition that Reggie’s house is going to explode. It does, and suddenly Reggie believes everything Mike has to say. The break into a hardware store and gear up, which includes taking a bunch of power tools, a chainsaw, and a couple of shotguns that Reggie straps together, making a four-barreled weapon. And off we go across the country.

Look, I’m doing my best to make Phantasm II have any sort of narrative sense and cohesion, but it simply doesn’t. Eventually, Mike and Reggie reach a town in Oregon along with a hitchhiker who calls herself Alchemy (Samantha Phillips), and naturally this is the town where Liz lives. They meet up and spend a lot of time in a local mortuary/graveyard and out come the orbs. We’re also going to have a local priest (that-guy Kenneth Tigar) and dwarves, guys who dig up bodies, and all sorts of mayhem. There are close calls, attacks in the crematorium, and even another visit to the alternate world where the dwarf critters seem to live. Honestly, I don’t know.

That’s the issue I had with Phantasm is that I didn’t really understand why anything was happening. Things just happen on screen, and while some of them are pretty cool and interesting, I never really got what the Tall Man was doing, why he was doing it, or why he evidently needed dwarves to do it. Phantasm II doesn’t cure that problem and it adds in the psychic connection between Mike and Liz and also gives us a new actor in Mike’s role, so there’s a weird disconnect there, too.

And, just like in the first movie, the spheres aren’t used enough. They show up a couple of times and we get a couple of interesting quality kills with them, but that’s pretty much it. Things happen. Our heroes get attacked. They make colossally stupid decisions (like picking up the hitchhiker) because Reggie decides he’s horny. I still have no idea what the hell is going on here.

I kind of like these movies, but, just like I don’t know what the hell is going on, I’m not entirely sure why. The biggest issue with Phantasm II is that it seems to counter what we’re told in the previous film, which essentially tells us that the Tall Man, the dwarves, and everything else is something just occurring in Mike’s head. So is this actually reality? Or is it all still in Mike’s head?

Honestly, it all makes more sense if it’s all in Mike’s head, whichever Mike we’re dealing with. I like this, kind of, but I think I’m probably done with the Phantasm series.

Why to watch Phantasm II: The Tall Man is awesome.
Why not to watch: It actually makes less sense than the original Phantasm.

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