Review: Phantasm Remastered & Phantasm: Ravager (2016)


Phantasm: Remastered & Phantasm: Ravager

Directed by Don Coscarelli & David Hartman

Egyptian Theater, October 1 2016

Making its way across the world like the Tall Man exhuming his unearthly army, “Phantasm” a franchise that began the year of my birth is celebrating four decades of the little franchise that could with a remastered version of the film that started it all and it’s long in making finale with the fifth part, “Ravager.” Will you be impressed with the renovated original and does the latest have the balls to match its brethren? Find out after the jump.

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When I received word that the roadshow would be occurring in select theaters throughout the states, I was excited but that was elevated to full blown elation with the opportunity to see both films in the gorgeous Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles with all surviving members of the cast and crew including but not limited to Don Coscarelli, A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury, Kathy Lester and Paul  Pepperman and many more was a dream come true. An excellent introduction kicked off the evening with numerous “Tall Men” tossing out various promos including painted silver spheres and various promos (as well as passing out delicious raspberry filled, sphere shapes vegan donuts courtesy of Donut Friend) before launching into a trivia contest with the winner dominating the contest to nab himself a signed copy of the forthcoming collector’s edition of “Bubba Ho-Tep” before the night really got underway. A fabulous Q & A occurred, moderated by director Joe Lynch with each and everyone involved getting an opportunity to share personal memories and hilarious notes about a film series that has been a part of their lives since 1979 capped off by a beautiful solo acoustic performance of “Sitting Here At Midnight” courtesy of Bill Thornbury. Of course, from the beginning no one could deny the overwhelming absence of the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm who passed away earlier this year but it also truly felt like he was there with us and his spirit livened the evening with an paranormal presence that made the theater  home sweet home for the next four hours.


For the uninitiated, “Phantasm” is a film that is difficult to summarize; influenced equally by “Suspiria,” “Invaders from Mars” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” with a mix of small town conspiracy, giallo visuals & score and elements that are simply out of this world and still retain their unique attributes to this day. A tale of two brothers and their friend who uncover horrific happenings Morningside Cemetery that lead to a showdown with the Tall Man, a formidable foe and horror hallmark. To say more would lead to spoilers but if you are planning a first time watch, this remastered version is the way to go with a gorgeous 4K Resoration courtesy of JJ Abrams & Bad Robot Studios that revives the lush tones of both sight and sound to the quality of a print freshly minted for the premiere and then some. There are so many minute details that surface and as always, I find something new every viewing, with this most recent experience highlighting just how fucking weird this movie is. There really is nothing like it and there’s no attempt to just be bizarre or odd for the sake of it; Coscarelli and Co. went in with bravado by their bootstraps and made something so enduring and powerful, you want to start again as soon as it stops, like an ethereal dark ride.




“Phans” have been waiting nearly 18 years for the next chapter in the ongoing struggle between Reggie & The Brothers Pearson in their all-consuming endeavor to topple the Tall Man’s reign and with the death of Angus Scrimm, the final feature is imperfect but a fitting tribute to a monumental franchise.


“Ravager” director David Hartman and co-screenwriter Don Coscarelli take the time traveling and dimension drifting essence of “Oblivion” to a whole new level with the fifth entry, as mainstay Reggie (who has starred in every film since its inception) pans between three realities; the past (largely told through the series signature flashback clips), the present (where he is a debilitated patient in throes of early onset dementia) and the future (where his worst fears have been confirmed and a Terminator style Resistance of his friends fight to an all-powerful incarnation of the Tall Man.) It’s classic low budget Phantasm with Reggie at the forefront, quad barrel shotgun at his side and lovely ladies on his mind. Yet, we also see a dystopian world where little hope remains for Reggie finds the will to carry on and a terminal reality where he has difficulty distinguishing between his long battle on the road and this war at home. The Tall Man offers Reggie opportunities to give in and be freed but his loyalty and conscience will not accept until he garners the release of his dearest friends, Jody and Mike, with Angus Scrimm’s scarce but screen grabbing scenes showing that at nearly 90, the master was and always will be unstoppable. Scrimm’s performance is not just powerful because it is posthumous but due to the fact that no matter how tight knit and tandem strong the cast is, his ominous presence captivates so superbly it is the very heart of the Phantasm series. While he and Reggie take center stage here, the returning Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) and Jody (Bill Thornbury) bring it full circle and in their scenes the chemistry is clear and strong while newcomers Dawn Cody and Stephen Jutras and fan favorites Kat Lester and Gloria Lynne Henry add a lot of fun and energy to the final product.


“Ravager,” much like the sequels that preceded it is a roughshod mix of ideas that seem disjointed, some which hit it out of the park and others that go nowhere. It’s obvious that this was filmed haphazardly due to a multitude of limitations to be sure but everyone puts in their best effort. Sure, the effect are SyFy original quality and the story is far from a masterpiece but it’s Phantasm. It never really made a ton of sense, with a cast and crew that did it because they had balls and not just of the silver sphere variety. While some are likely to say this is the weakest entry (and it may well be,) it’s definitely a Phantasm film and I say that with the authority and recommendation to watch the series again if possible before undertaking “Ravager.” Even the big budget Universal backed direct sequel shares the same bloodline and not solely because of Coscarelli but because of the core team, led by the Tall Man from the unhallowed halls of Morningside to the unearthly edges of Mars to the very end here – and it’s been a hell of a ride. After nearly forty years, the sphere shines brighter than ever.

*Special thanks to Egyptian Theatre, Beyond Fest, Cinematic Void, Joe Lynch, Don Coscarelli, cast and crew for making this happen. RIP Angus Scrimm, you magnificent gentleman.*