Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tall Tales: Phantasm IV

In the wake of the 1994 debacle that was Phantasm III, this film had a lot to make up for.  Will it return to the art-deco mind-set of the original 1979 film?  Will it return to the over-the-top gore of the 1988 film instead?  More than likely, it will be another disappointment like the last one though, let's be honest.  What's new here?  All of the usual suspects are back and there's really not much else.  This film was a clear attempt to recall what worked so well for the first two films and ignore what didn't from Part III.  We get a couple of new characters, but most of the stuff you see is either the old cast in new footage or the old cast in unused footage from the first film.  You want to make it into Stock Footage Hell, don't you, Don?!?  This is also the final film in the series, so let's see just how much they actually wrap up.  Get out your undersized suit for my review of...
This film picks up right after Phantasm III, not that it's really necessary to say that by this point in the series.  The new Tall Man has Reggie caught by a bunch of the orbs- none of which use their blades, BTW- but decides to let him go.  Um, why?  Mike, meanwhile, is off in The Tall Man's stolen hearse and trying to get away.  He's partly-transformed due to having one of those orb things stuck in his head.  What do they do again?  You don't want to tell us, Don?  No?  Alright then.  Unfortunately, taking the guy's car turns out to be a bad idea as he takes over it and drives our hero out to the desert.  He also has the ability to appear and disappear through a casket in the back of the hearse.  There are creative effects and then there are logical effects, guys!  Since the kid is dead and the black girl just sort of left, Reggie is all alone.  He's visited by the vision/projection of Jody, who tells him that he has to help Mike.  Um, you told him to not follow Mike about ten minutes ago in movie time!  Reggie tells him to go screw himself and drives off, leaving the brain in an orb to do the work instead.  A short while later, Reggie is pulled over by a cop, but gets confused when the guy doesn't come right over.  Our hero wanders over, only to find the cop dead in his trunk and replaced with a mutant.  Huh?
After a long fight, some bullets being fired and a bit of orange goo getting poured into his mouth, Reggie defeats the creature with, you guessed it, an explosion.  This apparently convinces him to go back and help Mike defeat The Tall Man just does.  How does this thing relate to The Tall Man exactly?  Yeah, they don't really say.  After that nonsense, Mike ends up in the desert by himself.  Don't ask me- I didn't write this shit.  He starts writing to Reggie in a journal, apparently working under the pretense that he will one day be rescued and/or get a book deal.  During his journey, by the way, we are treated to some un-restored footage from the first film.  Why?  Well, Mike reminisces about 'the good old days,' thus setting up this pointless filler.  Back in the present...of 1998, Mike decides to commit suicide rather than be a pawn of the evil villain.  We are treated to another un-used scene from Phantasm in which Jody hangs The Tall Man up in a tree, but he doesn't die.  That night, young Mike comes by and agrees to cut him down, based on the idea that The Tall Man would leave them alone after that.  How did that work out for you?  Cut back to the present day and The Tall Man shows up and saves Mike.  No suicide for you, mister!
Rather than really explain anything, Phantasm IV decides to just throw more weirdness out there instead!  Mike wanders around the desert for a bit, while Reggie decides to try and bring back what fans liked about the original films.  Rather than a return of tone or writing style, he simply puts on his ice cream man uniform again and grabs his four-barreled shotgun.  Wow, that totally makes up for that shitty movie you made before this!  I should also mention a weird vision that Mike has of himself back in a Civil War army camp being treated by The Tall Man.  Fun fact: Oscar-winning writer Roger Avary has a cameo here.  After wandering around for a while, Mike runs into an old man that looks like The Tall Man & that person appears to be living in a house from 100 years ago.  Yeah, it's too late to make me care about this new revelation, movie.  To make a long story short, Reggie and Mike reunite, leading to a battle between the pair and The Tall Man.  Reggie gets beat up and disarmed, so Mike uses, Tall Man powers to blow up the Man's hearse.  After a brief reunion, another Tall Man comes through the portal and kidnaps Mike.  The final scene has Reggie reminisce via stock footage one more time and go into the void to save his friend!
This movie...did nothing to make me change my mind.  The same principles that worked in the first two films are here, but there are just so many problems too.  The Tall Man is still menacing and all- he just doesn't have anything new to do.  His whole gimmick of a mysterious man only has so much longevity before you have to make sense of it- they don't.  Never mind that his whole immortality thing is both inconsistent (Scrimm is visibly older between films) and lazy (he just regenerates every time).  At a certain point, these guys should have learned that they just can't win.  What drives them to constantly get their hopes up, only to have them destroyed every time?!?  There are some good things here though.  For one, it's nice to see Reggie, his old outfit and the shotgun, but it's not enough.  It just reeks of Don trying to pull fans back in- that's low, man.  Ultimately, this movie exists due to Don failing to get his dream project- Phantasm 1999 A.D.- off of the ground.  When in doubt, make a confusing film and pad it with deleted scenes from a 20-year old film!  If you like the first two films, think of it is a two-film series and ignore these films.
Next up, we begin a new month with a look at a pair of forgotten '80s slasher sequels.  Do you like gore with your satire?  Stay tuned...


  1. If they ever managed to get another Phantasm film off the ground, at this point it would be smart, I think, to pull a "Halloween H20" and forget that parts 2-4 ever happened. That being said, I personally don't like the idea of a new sequel this late in the game. Just like you said, Scrimm isn't getting any younger (or the rest of the original cast for that matter). Personally I think "Phantasm" is one of those films that could use a solid remake/reboot at some point. I know there was talk of a remake a couple of years ago, but it seems to have stalled.

  2. Yeah, Angus turns 83-84 this year, so he's out for the main role. You could do some clever stunt-casting and have him in his some supporting role though.

    I wouldn't be against a remake per say, but I would prefer that it not be a Platinum Dunes one. :-)

  3. Like: the backstory. Dislike: everything else. This one had almost nothing going for it as far as I was concerned, almost a SyFy Channel Original sequel in the vein of Puppetmaster V Demonic Toys..