AUGUST 22, 2008
I'm sure it's legal crap, but I have no idea why Phantasm II has never hit DVD in region 1 (as of this Tuesday, all of the other Phantasm movies will be on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay). As a result, I had to borrow the region 2 disc from a pal and hook up my all region player, which was replaced with an HD DVD player (go ahead and laugh - the discs still work and look just as good as Blu-Ray, except now I get them for a fraction of the cost). My only other option was to find the VHS copy I made when I was like 14, so F that noise.
Like the first one, I didn't recall much about the movie other than that Mike was played by a different actor and at some point Reggie made a four barrel shotgun. Watching it now, I can see why so little was retained in my head - the movie is kind of half-assed all the way through. Apparently, Universal put up some good money for the movie (more than any other Phantasm movie anyway) but only under the condition that it, well, make sense. No dream sequences, no loopy narratives, and certainly no "Let's play a song so we can introduce tuning fork foreshadowing" scenes. As a result, it's just a sort of generic chase movie, with Reggie and James Le Gros-Mike hunting the Tall Man around the country.
In one of the sequel's best ideas, we see that the Tall Man and his army of midgets and guys who resemble Boy from Little Monsters are now pretty much wiping out entire towns. The film's best scene shows Reggie and Mike driving through a small town that has been totally wiped out; complete with overturned cars and tumbleweeds. It's an eerie visual, and I would like to think that even if he got a huge budget, Don Coscarelli wouldn't have shown the actual carnage, only the aftermath.
Unfortunately, right after that the movie takes an odd detour. Reggie and Mike disappear for close to a half hour as the movie focuses on some blond girl with a psychic link to Mike, and a priest. Not that the scene(s) are bad, but after 9 years (though the movie keeps saying 7), we want our guys front and center! The Tall Man also barely appears in large chunks of the film. And since the priest is killed and never referenced again, this portion of the film seems like the result of a film clocking in way too short to be considered a feature, so a new character/sequence was produced to pad the running time.
It's also strangely short on action. Even with the bigger budget, the movie has just about as much action/gore as the original. The oddness was a big part of why the original worked; if they are going to remove it, they could at least add more action to help us forget it. Granted, there are three explosions in the movie (has to be a record for a horror movie) and the sphere scenes are more frenetic (love the smashing doors bit), but it still feels more like a retread at times than the "bigger and better" sort of approach most sequels attempt. Indeed, the car chase is shot exactly like the one in the original, same angles and everything (only this time it's Reggie chasing the Tall Man, a nice little twist); this is an area where they really should have gone all out.
That said, it's still very much Phantasm, and thus very fun. This film begins the tradition of Reggie's cock getting him into trouble, and the scene where they raid the hardware store is a blast (and inspired the "Butch picks a weapon" scene in Pulp Fiction, according to the commentary). The improved sphere work translates into messier kills, and the new "Sphere Vision" is an improvement as well. And while I hate re-casting a role, Le Gros does a damn good job here, and it's funny to see him in a studio horror movie, since he's the king of indie drama/comedies.
The commentary is pretty much the only real extra on the disc. It's interesting enough, but I wish Coscarelli had discussed the studio limitations more. It's not even a Universal release (Anchor Bay UK handled the region 2 release) so he'd have no one to stop him if he wanted to piss and moan for our pleasure. There's a lot of great technical info and some clever editing is pointed out (there are really only two explosions, not three; one of them was merely shot from two angles), so it's definitely worth a listen. The only other extra besides a trailer and TV spots is the same Fangoria Convention footage that was on the first movie's disc.
With a meatier storyline and maybe a little more freedom from the studio, this could have been the series' best entry. As it stands, it's entertaining, and it's good to see everyone again, but the movie as a whole just seems to be treading water more often than not.
What say you?