get it, OBLIVION, and it’s part 4
If there are any Romans out there I think you’ll get the joke. Little numeral humor there on the part of the Phantasmers
I hate to be a tattle tale but PHANTASM part 4 here is a total fuckin cheater. If you saw part 3 you may remember the ending: Reggie is pinned against a wall by a swarm of metal balls. He tells the little HOME ALONE kid Tim to leave, that they’ve lost. But the kid won’t leave. Then I guess a dwarf might’ve jumped out and grabbed him or something, I don’t remember for sure. But the point is he was there.
When part 4 picks up right there, suddenly there is no kid. He’s not shown, he’s not mentioned. Reggie doesn’t look for him, say anything about him, mourn him if he’s dead. I guess the kid probaly had acne scars and a mustache by this time and it would’ve been hard to pass him off as the same kid in the same time period. So they just erased him.
I’m sure there are some people who like part 4 better than part 3, because it’s a little less goofy. No nunchakas, flipping pink hearses or throat-slitting pink frisbees. This is the one that realizes nobody is watching these movies who’s not kind of a nerd, and they just say “fuck it” and just throw ten tons of PHANTASM nerdery onto the screen. What will happen to Mike, but who is the Tall Man anyway, and where do the balls come from, and whatever happened to all those deleted scenes from part one, and as a side note could we please have some time travel to complicate this fucker? Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good stuff in here, but by now the plot has gotten so complicated and incoherent that it seems kind of weird to have to sum it all up and then continue and try to add to it.
Come to think of it, PHANTASM might be the only horror series before SAW that actually continues in each chapter instead of starting over with new characters most of the time. PHANTASM makes it way more interesting but it does have that problem of piling things up too high. I mean honestly at this point thinking back I can’t even make sense of part 1 in context. Did his brother die in the car accident or get killed by the Tall Man, and why is he a ghost, or is he not a ghost, and then in this one he turns out to be evil? Or not his brother? And is that only this time or was that all along? Not sure.
This one splits up the team for most of the movie, so you got Reggie doing one thing and Michael standing around thoughtfully in the desert or on a beach or something. And he starts to uncover some things about the Tall Man.
I got some advice for anybody who finds themselves doing a later sequel to a horror movie. If your horror icon has been mysterious all along, DON’T fall into the trap of explaining where he comes from. We didn’t watch part 2 and part 3 and whatever hoping, yearning to find out what it was like when the same actor who plays this great monster was in different makeup or acting different when they were human. So we don’t want to know in HELLRAISER III that Pinhead used to be a soldier named Phinneus T. Pinhead (or whatever – it’s been a while) before he turned into an unfathomable monster from hell, and we don’t want to know that the Tall Man was a civil war doctor who travelled into another dimension and became the Tall Man. Maybe we thought we did, but now that we know those things we wish we could unknow them. Do us a favor and don’t tell us in the first place from now on.
This goes for robots too. If you got a humanoid robot, don’t fucking tell me he was based on his inventor or the founder of the company that built him and then we’re supposed to be excited when the same actor plays the non-robot version of the character. It’s a dumb cliche and I’m not sure it even makes sense. If YOU were building an amazing android would you make it look like YOU? I don’t think you would. At best you would make it a much more chiseled and cool version of yourself. But enough about robots.
I do sort of like seeing the kid from part 1 fully grown, and it’s kind of amazing how much he looks like the Tall Man. They never could’ve known that would happen when they made the first one, or that anyone would care at this point. Michael is worried that he’s turning into a Tall Man or an associate of the Tall Man, so he goes out into the desert, finds a solitary tree and tries to hang himself. Doesn’t work though, which is a bad sign, and we flash back to his childhood when he strung up The Tall Man but it didn’t kill him. See, it turns out they shot a ton of scenes for the first one that were never used, and they fit a bunch of them into this story. It’s a weird feeling seeing a movie like this. It’s kind of a brilliant idea, like a movie shot over 20 years to show the characters aging in real time. But also it’s kind of like a shitty straight to video movie made mostly of pre-existing footage. It’s right in the middle between those two.
Everybody knows the best character is Reggie, so the movie’s better when it’s about him. Once again he saves a hot girl from an about-to-explode car and brings her into the fold. It made me realize that Reggie has the most frustrating sex life of any horror movie hero. Most horror movie protagonists are one-timers, they don’t return in the sequels, and they don’t have alot of time for sex. Or in the case of slasher movies of course it has been pointed out that they are usually the more chaste one, like Laurie in HALLOWEEN for example doesn’t have a boyfriend or anything. Reggie is a horny dude and comes surprisingly close to success with women for a bald dude, but he ends up spending alot of times sharing hotel rooms with women who reject him. In part 2 he got some wild sex, but she turned out to be a monster or something. In part 3 he thought he was gonna get some, but the handcuffs turned out not to be a kinky sex thing, they were a way to keep him off her while she sleeps. Also I think he got a blowjob but it turned out to be from a zombie. In this one he gets rejected again, wakes up and notices how hot the girl is, then her boobs turn out to be Phantasm balls. It’s just not working out well for this guy.
I don’t think Reggie has as much to do in this one, but he does have one great badass moment where he’s got the quadruple-barreled shotgun leaning on his shoulder, he flares his nostril as if smelling something and then fires over his shoulder without looking, hitting one of the dwarves.
Don Coscarelli has a rare ownership of the series. I’ve compared it to the EVIL DEAD series a couple times and it’s a good comparison because that’s one of the only other series where the same director did every installment. You just don’t see that too often. And you can’t say he’s a one hit wonder – BEASTMASTER and BUBBA HO-TEP also have big cult followings, so even if he has no new material PHANTASM isn’t necessarily the only well for him to keep going back to. He must like them metal balls.
I didn’t enjoy part 4 as much as the other 3, but it does have some interesting ideas and I would welcome a part 5 with open arms. It could be called PHANTASM’S REVENGE.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.