Review of "Phantasm 2 (1988)"

published 04/02/2013 | jojoborne
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Pro Great for cult followers of the movies
Cons Out-dated. Poor script. Bad dialogue. Continuity problems.
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"If the first one didn't scare you....then this won't either!"

Phantasm 2 - Screen shot

Phantasm 2 - Screen shot

Phantasm II Film and DVD

For the purpose of this movie sequel I will use some of my own quotes from my review of the first movie. So any duplicate wording is from my own work.

I was born in nineteen sixty-seven and I remember being eleven years old and walking past the old ABC cinema in Walsall, which is sadly no longer there, in nineteen seventy-nine. I was eleven, going on twelve and I saw a movie poster that would change my life forever. The poster in question was the movie poster for ‘Phantasm’. It was an ‘X’ certificate, which made it taboo for me and it looked scary as hell. The tag line read ‘’If this one doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead’’. My Mother’s voice telling me to hurry up and not to look at it or else I would have nightmares, made it seem even more enthralling.

Low and behold, just after tea that night, I saw the advert with a young boy waking up to find his bed in a cemetery and a scary looking tall man standing behind the bed and looming over him while hideous little creatures grabbed at him from either side.
I think I finally saw this movie when I was sixteen as my parents were horror fans. They were quite liberal in that way and thought that I could work out for myself that a movie was a movie in the safe knowledge that I would not turn into a career criminal. They were right and these days at sixty-nine, my Mother still loves horror movies and so does my Father and he’s seventy-five this year; cool parents or what?

Phantasm was released in cinemas in 1979 in the UK and went to video a few months later. It easily survived the ninety eighty-three video nasty ban as it was intended more as a scary film than a gore fest. There are some moments in it that although laughable today would’ve been considered quite gruesome back then.
So when I was twenty-four and the sequel came out I was glad to pop along to the old ABC, which was still there at the time, grab my sweets and a drink and make my way up the old fashioned winding staircase with suitable eighties carpeting, to sink into my seat for some mindless, blood, gore and cult indulgence. I didn’t care about the dodgy script or the bad dialogue. For me it was the memories and the fact that I was old enough to do so this time.

Phantasm – A Refresher

The first movie kicks off with two guys Jody and Reggie attending a close friend’s funeral. They were close to Tommy and so was Jody’s little brother, Mike, who Jody has kept away from the funeral due to the fact that they only lost their parents six months ago. He thinks that seeing Tommy in an open casket might be too much for Mike.

Jody enter the huge mausoleum where his parents are also buried and we are treated to the movies first ‘jump’ scene as the ‘Tall Man’ makes his first appearance by putting his hand on Jody’s shoulder and announcing that the funeral is about to start. The Tall Man is a creepy looking Dude and he is very tall and also the towns funeral director.

Mike has been watching the funeral from afar with binoculars and once the mourners have left he witnesses the tall man lift Tommy’s coffin into a hearse on his own. He investigates the mausoleum and is attacked by a man who is killed by a mysterious silver ball which embeds itself into his head via blades and drills a hole into his head.

What follows is a deadly game of cat and mouse where Jody, Mike and Reggie try to find out the truth behind the Tall Man, the mausoleum and the strange little dwarf creatures they have seen about the place. They come across a car that drives itself and a room that contains a portal to what they think is another planet. Who is the Tall Man and what is he doing with the towns deceased?

Phantasm II

Also known as 'Phanrtasm II - The Ball is Back'.

The second movie starts with a teenage girl recounting her dreams in a diary that she has written over the past few months. In this diary there are pictures of Michael and Reggie; some depict scenes from the first movie. She calls out to Michael in her sleep.

The movie then starts off from where the first movie ended, which I won’t detail here for those who haven’t seen the first movie. We see extra -scenes that lead into how Michael would end up in a mental asylum, nine years later.

The lead actor or Michael in the movie was changed for this second movie, but I will talk about that later in the review.

Michael manages to talk his way out of the asylum and links up with Reggie. He tries to convince Reggie that the Tall man has to be stopped and after a series of tragic events, Reggie goes along with the plan.

They make themselves weapons, including a quadruple barrel shotgun and a rather tasty flame thrower and off they set in the car across America to find the Tall Man.
They find that he has a left a trail of small towns in his wake and as they get close to him they meet up with Elizabeth, who is the girl who dreams about them.

What follows is more gore and horror movie action and the return of the iconic steel balls.

Will Michael, Reggie and Liz be able to stop the Tall Man before he kills any more innocent people or will they fall prey to his evil clutches and end up as slaves themselves in another world?

My Thoughts

The one thing that will always stick with me from the first movie is the score (see my review of the Phantasm soundtrack). The music is absolutely brilliant and I still loved it in the second movie. Frederic Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave created the soundtrack to the movie and the main title theme is brilliant. It is very reminiscent of John Carpenters theme for ‘Halloween’ and the tubular bells theme from ‘The Exorcist’. It has that same synth sound with that deep and heavy back beat which seems to add more menace. The second movie tends to play an almost mixed track of the first movie and you always hear something along the lines of the main track in the background or through the score.

When the first movie originally hit cinemas it was considered to be very scary indeed and its past is full of stories of people fainting or leaving the cinema, which quite frankly would be absurd to anyone today and most teenagers would find it laughable. I remember going to see the Exorcist in about nineteen ninety-two with a cinema full of teenagers at midnight, which was a strange experience as it was an eighteen certificate. I remember feeling quite miffed as you would’ve thought it was a comedy from their reactions. I can understand this to a certain extent these days from the kind of things teenagers are exposed to. These old seventies horrors are nothing to what they see now. Phantasm two was unfortunately met with an even more laid-back approach and seen as a bit of a comedy. I think it is a shame as for cult followers of the movie it is a bit annoying to have to sit and watch it with people who are really paying attention. This wasn’t the case when I saw it in nineteen eighty-eight as most people still used morse code and semaphore to communicate, but I saw it at a horror festival in 2002 and most people were playing games on their phones for the duration. Just goes to show you how boring and obsessed with rubbish our nation has become.

I must admit that Phantasm doesn’t really stand the test of time when it comes to being scary and some of it is very tame and also very lame but for its time it was quite controversial and is still a classic for being one of the pioneers of the run of horror movie that assaulted the early nineteen eighties. Phantasm two is OK as far as sequels go. These days in the heady world of CGI and big budget movies, sequels are no longer frowned upon but back in the eighties your sequel was always, sometimes unfairly, compared to the first movie. The horror genre was responsible for the sequel in a way. Movies like ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ meant that a movie could set up as a franchise almost on the backing of its cult following.

The now iconic (in the world of horror at least) silver balls flying around guarding the Tall man were deadly spheres that contained blades and a drill. The first scene where we saw one embed itself into a man’s skull and drill a hole was a dreadful scene back in nineteen seventy-nine but today it is rather pathetic to be honest and the colour of the blood is so red and so tomato ketchup that it is almost unblood-like. In the second instalment we find out that the balls don’t necessarily guard him and are out for what they can get.

The second movie also gives us that good old Ambrosia Devon custard that flows from the undead or midget slaves known as ‘Lurkers’ and the Tall Man when they are cut or wounded. The film makers can be forgiven for this though as at the time it was a big deal to see fingers chopped off and horror of this kind in the cinema and a man having a hole drilled in his head was shocking. Let’s also, again, not forget that CGI and the like was unheard of back then.

Don Coscarelli wrote, directed and produced the movies and by today’s standards they would’ve been regarded as a huge success and a crowd puller. The tag-line ‘If this one doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead’ was a master stroke when it came to promotion. It was more a challenge to movie goers than a pull-line and it worked tremendously well in terms of sales.

The script to the second movie would be panned by most critics but the storyline is actually quite cool if you like your portal, time-travel, scary and mysterious plots and if you read behind the lines; i.e.: the corny dialogue, then you can find an interesting story that conjures up a lot of questions. The script was a little more involving than the first movie but the casting would produce some controversy. A. Michael Baldwin, who plays Mike in the first movie would not be cast in the second movie, although he would return for the third and fourth. Universal studios told Coscarelli that they wanted bigger names to play the two main characters of Mike and Reggie. Baldwin and Reggie Bannister, who plays Reggie, would have to go along to auditions with everyone else. This was a no brainer for Coscarelli as he would just choose them anyway. That is what he thought, but Universal gave him an ultimatum; either choose just one of them or do without them both. Coscarelli chose Reggie as it would be easier to get away with a Mike that was nine years older. Baldwin was furious and James LeGros was chosen to play Mike. LeGros has gone on to be a hard working actor and as starred in Ally McBeal, House and Grey’s Anatomy. He was liked by the Phantasm two cast but Baldwin will always feel irked by the fact that he was in the first, third and fourth movie and missed out on the second. The soundtrack to the third movie contains sound-bites and Baldwin can be heard sarcastically referring to the second movie as the movie that didn’t count. The casting of LeGros also caused problems for the film crew when filming the extra-scenes that were meant to be a continuation of the first movie from nine years earlier. A stunt double was used for Mike and his face was never on camera. In fact, the stunt double was a woman used because of her long hair and svelt physique; in the first movie Mike was a fourteen year old boy with flowing locks. Baldwin is still on the credits from the original footage, which is included from the first movie.

Angus Scrimm is his usual dark and terrifying self as the Tall Man and I love him in this role. He has appeared at many a comic con or horror festival as the Tall Man, to the great delight of fans of the movie and of his character.

Paula Irvine is a nice addition to the cast in that her character, Liz, was intimately locked with Mike in that they could read each other’s thoughts through their dreams and it gave another angle on the Tall Man’s mysterious powers.

With a small budget and an inexperienced crew comes the inevitable mistakes and there are a few in the second movie like the first. Some of the continuity is terrible but again, back in nineteen seventy-nine, I doubt many people noticed most of them on the big screen and a lot was due to the recasting of Mike and was apparent in the first scenes. There is a stair case next to the fireplace in the first movie and in the second movie there is a drinks bar there. The director got around this by having Reggie ascend to the second floor by some alternate stairs. It doesn’t really work because the stairs on the outside of the house and are obviously not the stairs from the first movie.

The thing with the Phantasm movies is that you have to take them at face value and embrace them for what they are. If this second movie was dissected scene by scene you could pull it to pieces but what is the point? I would rather remember it with fondness and even though it may not really stand up as a great film today you can see why it was a cinema favourite back in the eighties.

The movie only cost three million dollars to make. I say only because even though you may think of that as a lot of money back in eighty-eight, it was the lowest budget of any movie in that period and it made 7.2 million dollars at the box office and more in DVD sales since.

A t ninety-seven minutes it is hardly a taxing movie to get through and if you like the characters and the story it can be quite enjoyable. OK, let’s not kid anyone here, it is by no means a great movie but, like I said, you have to embrace it for what it is.
The Tall man is such an iconic villain and one of the great boogeymanesque characters of horror movie history. The movie has gained a huge cult following and spawned another two sequels; which I will no doubt be reviewing at a later stage.
I give Phantasm two two out of five stars because although LeGros was OK in the role of Mike, it just isn’t Baldwin and it is a shame that for the second movie the director had to fall fowl to the big wigs who wanted to cash in on big movie names for the role.


James LeGros as Mike Pearson

Reggie Bannister as Reggie

Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man

Paula Irvine as Liz Reynolds

Samantha Phillips as Alchemy

Kenneth Tigar as Father Meyers

Rubin Kushner as Grandpa Alex Murphy

Ruth C. Engel as Grandma Murphy

Stacey Travis as Jeri Reynolds

A. Michael Baldwin as Young Mike

J. Patrick McNamara as Psychologist

Mark Anthony Major as Mortician


I own the US region 1 version of the DVD and also the bootleg version, which contains cast interviews, Behind the scenes, making of and set diary documentaries. There is also a documentary on the cult following and horror festival appearances.

There is a new Blue Ray version planned and also a box set version which will be released under the ‘Scream Factory’ label in March 2013.

The region two version was distributed poorly by Anchor Bay for its UK release after they became embroiled in a sales debate over who could best promote the DVD with Universal.

The Blur Ray box set will contain edited footage, cut scenes and a re-mastered copy of all four movies.

©Lee Billingham

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Comments on this review

  • Secre published 05/02/2013
    Wouldn't be one on my list to see anyway in all honesty...
  • yazoo88 published 05/02/2013
    Excellent Review x
  • Graygirl published 05/02/2013
    Superb review x
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