The time has come. For 37 years we’ve watched as a mysterious force from another dimension wrecks havoc on our world. He comes in the form of a tall, sinister mortician, one who is capable of more destruction than you would believe. His signature raised eyebrow and deep, elongated enunciation of his famous single word phrase — Boooooy — remind you who the devil fears: the Tall Man.
The series began in 1979. A kid named Mike stumbles upon a plot to remove, reanimate, and enslave the bodies of the recently deceased. With the help of his brother Jody and best friend Reggie, they begin to wage a secret war against a seemingly unstoppable villain.
When I say unstoppable, I really mean unstoppable. Over the course of 4 movies, our heroes hang, bury, stab, set fire to, dismember, freeze, blow up and even embalm with acid the terror that is ravaging graveyards and towns across the country. It doesn’t matter what they do, how much damage they cause to his body, the Tall Man always returns completely unharmed. It’s like he hit the reset button on himself. Better yet, it was as if he was Xeroxed and a replica was sent back. In the third film, we see that this may be the case.
Bring Forth Ravager
After every iteration of Phantasm, “Phans” of the series start clamoring for more. It’s easy to understand why. The series is a spectacular display of creative storytelling. The primary cast is always spot on with their characters, so much that people will always recognize them as that person. No matter what Reggie Bannister is in, he will always be the “bald middle-aged ex-ice cream vendor” that fights evil with a quad barrel shotgun.
After 1998 brought us Phantasm IV: Oblivion, the chatter to bring a fifth installment began. Ideas and rumors started floating around about what could or would happen next.
But nothing happened. Year after year, Horrorcon after Horrorcon, Phans asked questions and begged for another film. The great minds behind the series provided responses that teased at the possibility of another film, but nothing definitive. This eventually led to the realization that it may not be possible to make a fifth movie given that Angus Scrimm, the actor behind the primary character, was reaching an age where such a role would be difficult.
On March 26th, 2014, things changed. We found out that not only was a fifth film possible, it was already completed. Everyone involved managed to keep the movie completely under the radar. A trailer for Phantasm: Ravager hit the web and Phans went nuts.
But that was about all that happened. It took the movie two years before it was actually released.
Today is October 7th, the day the world ends
Phantasm: Ravager was released on October 7th to select theaters across the nation. Video On Demand services like Vudu, iTunes, and Amazon made it available a day early via digital streaming and download.
The film picks up where Oblivion leaves off. We find Reggie wandering around the desert (like Moses, according to Mike). It doesn’t take long for things to get worse for him but just when you think everything is going to start moving right along, someone changes the channel and things are completely different. I mean really different. Suddenly, the audience and Reggie are in a completely different story.
Phantasm: Ravager jumps back and forth between one set of events and another. The previous films would play with your head, making you lose track of what was going on. This one, however, takes that to a completely different level, to the point where even Reggie is confused.
“I can’t tell what’s real anymore.” – Reggie
But there is a reason. It all leads up to an ending that was unexpected, one that hurt to watch. It wasn’t a bad ending, it was just one that crushes you, but doesn’t leave you down.
Several familiar faces show up in this film. You may have to wait until the end to see some of them, but they are there. Don Coscarelli even makes a cameo appearance in the final scene that plays during the credits (yes, during and behind the text).
And I must say, Kathy Lester and Gloria Lynne Henry, are still quite hot. However, Kathy Lester is certainly a bit scarier, given her ability to morph into monstrous creatures.
The movie is 1 hour and 25 minutes. It is heavily built on digital effects, which is a change from all of the previous films. The film style is also very different. If not for the story — excuse me, epic story — and the actors involved, I would have thought I was watching a random Sci-Fi Channel Made for TV movie. The style is just very different and not within the same feel visually.
Anyone who isn’t into this series will most likely ignore this movie. They won’t like the jumping around, they won’t understand why things are happening. They won’t get it. But this was for the Phans, the people who have loved this series for decades.
Thoughts from a Phan on Phantasm: Ravager
As someone who loves Phantasm, I think the ending was terrific. It was heartbreaking but perfect at the same time. The original cast members lived up to their roles and rocked them well. The new characters…less so. Some of the acting from the new characters was more like a Sci-Fi Channel movie and less like what you would expect from the finale to an almost 40-year-old story.
Then again, it’s not like they had the money to hire Brad Pitt or Sela Ward. This was a super low-budget horror movie sequel. If you don’t expect bad acting from that, you must be nuts. Still, the acting from the newcomers wasn’t that bad, but there were moments that could have been better.
The editing and style of the film also could have been improved. It felt a bit rushed together, and while the story wasn’t bad, it could have been told better. However, they only had a very short window to tell the story and on a super limited budget. It had many obstacles that it had to overcome, so it’s hard to expect gold.
Then again, silver is more their style. And that’s what we got.
It was unfortunate that they had to rely so much on digital effects for the movie. The Phantasm films were built on guerilla-style practical effects. All of those stunts Bob Ivy had to do, the many spheres various people had to throw to simulate flight, the mausoleum made of paper. I love practical effects, but time and money were certainly against them when it came to this film.
I will give them this. The massive sphere attacks that destroyed the city, those were pretty awesome. Also, the need to digitally smooth the skin of the Tall Man is a given considering the character is a carbon copy of another man. Otherwise, they would have to find a way to explain why he has aged if he is just a duplication.
Still, the digital effects smothered many of the scenes in Phantasm: Ravager. This wouldn’t have been so bad if they were done better, but again, they didn’t have the budget of Transformers and Industrial Light and Magic wasn’t exactly knocking their door down to help. If they had, we may have gotten a look at a longer version of the film that went more into depth on the destruction of Earth and how the Tall Man took over. We also may have seen more of the Tall Man’s world and what he’s actually doing.
Then again, with JJ Abrams being such a huge fan of the original film, maybe one day he’ll throw down some digital fixes to clean up some of the effects, just like he did with Phantasm: Remastered. Or not. Who knows.
Was Phantasm: Ravager perfect? No. Will it win an Academy Award? Of course not. Will it make everyone happy? Does anything?
It doesn’t matter because this is it. This is the ending. Phantasm: Ravager closes the book on a story full of amazing chapters. Angus Scrimm, the man who gave a face and voice to the iconic cross-dimensional character, has passed away. He was a wonderful actor and from all accounts, an incredible human being. No matter the fate of the series, if Hollywood tries to reboot it, there will never be another Tall Man.
And that in itself is depressing to me. I grew up watching great horror movies. Most of them are now being remade and reconstructed to fit in with the new Hollywood idea of horror, but Phantasm was always Phantasm. It was always the same characters, the same people (except when they replaced Mike because someone at Universal lost their mind), building upon a story that began in the mind of a guy barely in his twenties. This has been a completely amazing ride that is coming to an ending.
And that sucks. It really does. Phantasm has been a staple of the horror film genre that can not be repeated.
The thing that many of us love about this series goes beyond the story or the characters. It’s the effort put into making the films. The people behind them want to make them. They work very hard to create films that live up to the expectations they instilled in us. They make movies on a shoestring budget, putting multiple hats on everyone just to get it done. It’s been this way since the beginning and they should be commended for it.
So seriously guys, thanks for the films, the many years of hard work and effort, and taking care of the Phans who love what you do. Thank you for a wonderful ending to such a tremendous effort that built this mind-blowing story. We greatly appreciate all you have done.
I’m now off to watch Phantasm: Ravager for the third time. Yes, the third.