If there’s one thing I can say about the “Phantasm” series (and I’ve only seen two so far), it’s this: it is one confusing franchise! The opening of “Phantasm 2” was so mind boggling and convoluted that I had to go back and watch the original “Phantasm” just to see where/how the original ended and where/how this sequel, made 9 years later, began. The result? I’m still confused!
It’s impossible for me to accurately describe to you the convoluted and contradictory nature of how “Phantasm 2” began, so I won’t even try. Leaving me to tell you that 7 years after young Mike (James LeGros) witnessed his brother killed and his parents being turned into dwarf demons (yes, you heard me) by the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), Mike is finally released from a psychiatric hospital. Of course Mike has revenge on his mind, but with the Tall Man having disappeared into the country, Mike and buddy Reggie (Reggie Bannister) must hunt him down. Which shouldn’t be too hard, since the Tall Man shows as much discretion as Michael Jackson fondling a young fan in public.
For much of its 90 minute run, “Phantasm 2” is a series of contrived storyline, contradictory plotting, and tedious waiting for something to happen onscreen. It wouldn’t exactly be fair to say that the sequel is almost as bad as the first, since by being the first, the original “Phantasm” deserves some brownie points. As a sequel, “Phantasm 2” has no such built-in advantage, and as a result its many plot holes, examples of lazy writing, and lack of follow-through to “shock” scenes just keeps adding up until the audience has to decide to either shut off their brain entirely or turn this thing off. (I chose the former, if you couldn’t guess.)
Having said all of the above, James LeGros provides a nice transition from the 13-year old Mike in the original to the burgeoning action hero in this sequel. I’ve always liked the Mike character, simply because he wasn’t the usual stock kid character found in most Horror movies. Mike was resourceful, tough, but also vulnerable. LeGros seems to have thrown away the vulnerable for just resourceful and tough, but it does make sense because LeGros’ Mike has spent 7 years in a mental hospital, so he’s had a lot of time to pound the weakness out of himself.
Reggie Bannister returns as Reggie, the middle age ex-hippie ice cream salesman turn chainsaw-wielding mercenary. I would tell you what Reggie’s relationship to Mike is, but since I can’t make heads or tails of the film’s opening sequence and the original’s, well, original ending, I’ll just say that Reggie ends up being Mike’s sidekick in the hunt for the Tall Man. Paula Irvine plays Mike’s love interest, a girl whose town is currently being (literally) sucked dry by the Tall Man and his minions. Apparently Mike and Liz have a psychic link, although how that’s possible is beyond me.
The worst offender of “Phantasm 2” is the screenplay by writer/director/franchise creator Don Coscarelli, who seems to have constructed the script from “cool” scenes, but neglected to tie them up with the rest of the movie. For instance, one boo scene will take place in the film, but by the next scene, it’s forgotten. Continuity errors anyone? This happens throughout most of “Phantasm 2” and after a while it gets a little grating. For someone who has spent most of his career dedicated to one franchise of his own creation, Coscarelli’s poor script stuns me.
For a film that likes to advertise its horror elements, “Phantasm 2”, like the original, is surprisingly very light on the blood and gore. We don’t even get any killing until the 50 minute mark, when the franchise’s trademark killing device, the flying sphere, shows up to suck the brain out of some poor priest’s head. For that matter, even franchise star Angus Scrimm has what amounts to a cameo throughout most of the film. He doesn’t have a sustained presence until the last 10 minutes.
I don’t have anything against the “Phantasm” franchise per se. I sort of like its premise and its notion of making a horror movie that isn’t all horror, but parts sci-fi with a lot of mystery thrown in. Unfortunately I’ve watched two installments already, and I still have no idea why the Tall Man is resurrecting bodies, turning them into demon dwarfs, and then shipping them off to some alien planet/dimension via an interplanetary/dimensional gate doohickey. Maybe the third installment will tell me, but I am highly dubious.
If I had not seen the original “Phantasm” and just saw this sequel, I would have absolutely no interest in watching a third. But since I have seen two so far, a part of me wants to know what the hell is the deal with the Tall Man, and another part of me doesn’t feel like getting cheated again.
Don Coscarelli (director) / Don Coscarelli (screenplay)
CAST: James LeGros …. Mike
Reggie Bannister …. Reggie
Angus Scrimm …. The Tall Man
Paula Irvine …. Liz