EDITOR’S NOTE: this started out being a review, but as the writing progressed it became more of a retrospective. Regardless, I hope the main points come through that I originally sat down to write.
Almost 9 years after the original Phantasm, Don Coscarelli gifted us with the follow up film, Phantasm II. This film is the most iconic of the films. If you do any online searching for the films, results for Phantasm 2 is abundant. Is it because Universal was at the helm of this larger budget sequel, is it the most popular film in the series? I don’t have these answers, nor does it really make a difference. All I know is being 16 at the time of the release it had a HUGE impact on me and my love for film and the horror genre. Thus, it will always have a special place in my heart.
The main difference in the two films is in tone. The original was much darker (just listening to the opening score you can tell a difference) and it had a lot more plot twists and turns that just blew your mind. Phantasm 2 was a more mainstream, effects heavy horror film. Which to say is not a bad thing.
The story starts right after the first, which is one of the great aspects of the series, it follows Mike (now played by James Le Gros) as he hooks back up with Reggie, and they search “murdered towns” for the woman of Mike’s dreams, literally, Liz, and of course, The Tall Man.
Phantasm 2 was a movie more about Reggie than Mike, which was great, it helped to progress a character that was needed to catapult the overall story of the series. This is where Reggie got a lot of his character trends that would flow over to the other films. He became a 4 barreled yielding, yet reluctant, badass. His love interest in the film went from good to deadly in the matter of moments, but he remained the hippie-esque “we’re hot as love” dude from the first. Reggie has to be hands down one of my all time favorite characters in film.
Don Coscarelli could have gone the route with other horror sequels and gave a lot more screen time to the villain but chose not to. He kept the scenes with The Tall Man to a minimum and kept his dialogue that way too. This kept him mysterious, scary, and still down right fuckin creepy. Angus Scrimm’s performance here is probably the best throughout the series, he is truly the only Tall Man. I freaked out one year at a Fangoria convention meeting him, the only time I had really been starstruck and speechless with anyone. Reason being, he’s a monster without a mask. He wasn’t burnt, he didn’t wear a sack or hockey mask over his face, he looked, well normal.
The makeup FX team headed by makeup master Mark Shostrom, was amazing. You had the “Hunchback” puppet, the melting Tall Man, the carnage of the Sphere’s and of course the dwarfs.
This film is my favorite of the series, just because of the “fun factor”. Sure the first one was more haunting and frightening, but I’m even more a fan of “fun” than being scared. It was lighter, had more makeup FX, and had a touch of comedy that wasn’t thrown down our throats.
I know that Don went through a lot of sacrifices with Universal to get this film made and it really could have and should have been a completely different film, but those sacrifices that were made is the result of a movie I love to this day and do hold it close to my heart.
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