Coscarelli's 2012 film JOHN DIES AT THE END and his 2002 BUBBA HO-TEP reminded us that there's plenty of fuel left in his tank and proved that he remains a genre director to be reckoned with. And despite those two films being 10-years apart they gave us a reason to be excited about a new PHANTASM. Were he to have invested as much energy and creative prowess into the new instalment then we were, indeed, in for a treat.
And here we have it; PHANTASM: RAVAGER.... a blemish on the face of the series. Yep. To say that it is a disappointment is an understatement, and what we've been given is a cheap and ugly lacklustre movie that may as well have been made for daytime television.
We catch up with the series protagonist, Reggie, as he wanders through a desolate desert wasteland. He's the same Reggie we came to love throughout the saga and he continues his search for his friend Mike while evading the ever-ominous Tallman. Nothing's changed and aside from the ravages of time the old feller is looking good. Of course it's great to see Reggie back on screen again and fans will no doubt be salivating at the sight, but the tragedy is that he's stuck in a low-rent film with awful cinematography, bland dialogue, token cameos and stodgy supporting performances.
From the get-go it is clear that this particular PHANTASM is not the work of Coscarelli and it was in fact directed by David Hartman whose career -up to this point – has been spent in animation. The Coscarelli nuance and glossy finish are missing, and the camera ricochets between characters like a blowfly at a barbecue. The narrative repeatedly shifts between parallel dimensions as Reggie wages his personal war against the Tall Man. The back-and-forth setting makes for a convoluted and irritating storyline that feels lazy and contrived. Coscarelli and Hartman have attempted to bring closure to the series by bending the storyline back, as to connect with the original film. It's a nobel convention that is, sadly, under developed and poorly executed.
Of course it must be noted that PHANTASM RAVAGER was Angus Scrimm's final film before his passing, and it is only fitting that his final on-screen performance is of the character he made so iconic. As a fan of the series there is definitely a warm-fuzzy feeling that comes with seeing Scrimm grace the screen one last time.... and the same goes with the fellow series favourites. The team are back together and that's a wonderful thing. What isn't wonderful, however, is the stodgy material they have to work with and the train-wreck of a movie they find themselves stuck in.
Now the questions remain: is this where PHANTASM ends? Does it have a future? And if so, should it be remade or reinvigorated with a story that builds upon the legacy that exists?