Review of "Phantasm 2 (1988)"

published 15/01/2005 | ThePolarOne
Member since : 20/05/2004
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Pro Superb action and gore, great cast and script
Cons doesn’t fully explain parts of the story
very helpful
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"Horror with Balls"

Phantasm 2 (1988)

At the tail end of a golden age of horror movies Phantasm 2 quietly slid itself onto the shelves 9 years after the original Phantasm’s cult success. Some people argued that this new instalment was too Hollywood and betrayed the low budget heart and soul of the original. I believe the opposite is true and this is a much needed change of style to fully bring to life the story’s awesome scope and potential. Don Coscarelli once again writes and directs with a larger budget, clearer script and improved cinematography.

The film starts where the original left off using extended footage from the previous films ending. Then quickly jumping nine years ahead we catch up with the now adult Mike, played by James LeGros (who later found fame in Ally McBeal) has grown up in a mental institute to cure his ‘delusions’ of evil dwarves trying to kill him. Of course, as we all know, they were real as was The Tall Man; their evil overlord. Once Mike has conned his way out of the asylum he hooks up with his old friend Reggie (again from the original) to prove his sanity and get revenge.

This simple yet effective premise sets in motion a full-blown action road movie horror to compete with the best of them. The Tall Man is as mysterious a character as he is sinister. Posing as an undertaker he swallows towns whole, taking their dead and crushing them down into dwarf servants (Lurkers), then moves on to the living until no one is left alive.

Mike and Reggie (a man always “thinking with the wrong head”), make a dubious pair of hero’s, “I’m a nineteen year old kid. You’re a bald, middle aged, ex ice cream vender”. However, they have sworn to hunt down the Tall Man, who has killed many of their loved ones, and put a stop to his operation. They take a midnight shopping trip at the hardware store in a tooling up sequence to match that of Evil Dead 2. Armed with homemade flamethrowers, electric drills, a four barrelled shotgun and an assortment of trusty chainsaws they are ready for action. They must face the Tall Man, his dwarf army, mortician henchmen and flying sphere killing machines. Certainly one of the more inventive foes in the horror genre, they scout indiscriminately for victims, which they hurtle toward, attach themselves and use a number of sharp weapons to take apart their body. Long before Tarantino these things were loping off priests ears. To complicate matters further Mike has formed some sort of telepathic link with an innocent girl named Liz (Paula Irvine) who is in the midst of The Tall Man’s latest campaign. He feels compelled to track her down; convinced it will aid them in their quest.

Let me take a moment here to pay full compliments to Angus Scrimm for his portrayal of one of the most evil and overlooked villains in horror history. The Tall Man. Here you have one of the few characters designed to be a very serious and therefore genuine force of evil. There are no cheesy asides or manic laughter. Just a cold hearted desire to succeed without a care for anyone else’s life. Scrimm adds real gravitas to lines like “You think that when you die you go to heaven. You come to us!” Reminiscent of Freddie Krueger’s vicious one-liners in the original Elm Street, they put a genuine chill down the spine due to their bloodthirsty sincerity.

Despite this being a direct sequel it is not at all necessary to watch the original. I didn’t and found the plot very easy to pick up. When I finally got around to watching the original I was actually quite disappointed. What I will say is that the Phantasm series is built on the fantastic and so you need to surrender any sense of reality to it. Some things don’t make any conventional sense and it isn’t all explained in minute detail, so you just need to trust in it and it does come together by the end.

I will admit that Phantasm 2 isn’t a terribly frightening film. It is too hell bent on action and gore to create enough tension for good old fashioned traumatising fear. What it does do is shock, dazzle and keep you on the edge of your seat. Admittedly there are a few dodgy lines and the odd misplaced joke but nothing too serious to warrant a full scolding. On average the acting is convincing throughout. The plot fast moving and exciting. Coscarelli’s script is full of snappy dialogue. Add an atmospheric score sounding something like John Carpenter meets Tubular bells, in a good way, and I think you have a very entertaining hour and a half of wholesome adult entertainment. This is a must see film for fans of the genre.

Cert: 18
Running time: 97 mins

There are two further instalments in the Phantasm series. Phantasm 3: Lord of the Dead (1994) and Phantasm: Oblivion (1998). Both of which were in my opinion lack lustre. Coscarelli is currently in talks over a new sequel. With talk of a more audacious script from Roger Avary (Killing Zoe, Pulp Fiction) and Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell’s involvement it could put the waning cult series back on the map.

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Comments on this review

  • LazyOaf published 07/11/2008
    Excellent review - it seems we share a penchant for similar films! B
  • Ailran published 23/06/2006
    Ah yes Angus Scrimm, like you say one of the most eerily scary villians around :o)
  • Averilla published 20/02/2005
    Am a real horror fan, must watch this one, I remember seeing the original but didn't know about this one. Thanks "Killer leech Girl" xx
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Listed on Ciao since: 15/01/2005