Thursday, October 13, 2016


Director: David Hartman
85 minutes
United States

After 18 long years, the world finally has its next and final Phantasm film. Filming began in 2008, envisioned as a webseries tentatively titled "Reggie's Tales". Filming wrapped in 2014, and the installment was announced publicly, but due to post-production problems and distribution negotiations, it would not be released until 2 years later in October of 2016. In the interim, fans were clamoring for information, the hype became fever-pitched, and aggravations grew.

The Phantasm franchise has always had a special place in my heart. Though it is utterly perplexing at times, I've found it to be one of the most consistent horror franchises, due to its reoccurring cast and the solid direction of Don Coscarelli in parts 1 through 4. Part 5, however, is directed by David Hartman, a protégé of Coscarelli's, and announcement of this switch-up in 2014 had caused concern amongst the hardcore fans of the series.
This long awaited installment is likely to be highly divisive. Viewers are either going to love it or hate it, with very little middle ground. That was to be expected, given the same fan response to part 4. Reggie is the focus here, rather than Mike, and he is dimension-hopping through three different timelines. One follows the conclusion of part 4, one is in a post-apocalyptic future wherein the Tall Man has eradicated the Earth, and one in which Reggie is a resident of an old folk's home, dying of dementia. All three of these timelines begin to coalesce and poor Reggie, as well as the viewer, can't figure out which reality is real.

Having been filmed with almost no budget, the special effects take a big dip from previous installments. It is also abundantly apparent that the film was a patchwork of old footage, webisode footage and new material meant to pad the runtime. It is disjointed and schlocky and comes across like a Troma film without the humor. Despite these flaws the film, at least for me, it still works.
As for closure to the franchise, there is a lot of room for interpretation. The film requires the active participation of the viewer, as you have three endings to choose from. Yet it remains true to the spirit of the original and its themes of loss and mortality. It even makes sense of the rather nonsensical beginning of part 2. Overall, if you are a fan of the series, this film is like a bleak and somber love letter. If you haven't seen the first 4, watch them before you dig into Ravager or you will be utterly lost.

"Ice cream man. It's all in his head." - Phantasm 4