…but the game is finished, now you die!
In an age where original, iconic horror films seem to be getting fewer and further between, sometimes what we need to salvage a Friday night is pizza, beer, and another installment in a tried and true horror franchise.
Enter Phantasm: RaVager.
The fifth film in Don Coscarelli’s beloved Phantasm franchise hit a limited number of theaters on October 7th, and as a lifelong fan of the movies, I was happy to sit down and watch this one (with a pizza and beer in hand…)
RaVager opens with franchise veteran Reggie (Reggie Bannister) walking out of the desert, presumably having spent an indeterminate amount of time (although one could argue that it’s been 18 years since the last sequel, so…..) fighting the Tall Man and looking for his friends Jody and Mike. After recovering the always badass 1971 Plymouth Barracuda and dispatching a couple of the Tall Man’s “Sentinel Spheres,” the story takes its first of many convoluted jumps into an alternate universe.
This is the part of the review where I warn you NOT to watch this film under the influence of alcohol or drugs, because doing so would probably make it impossible to keep up with all of the jumps and cuts between realities and dreams. More on this later…
Fans of the series will rejoice as the cast of the original film make their way onto the screen—A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, and culminating with Angus Scrimm’s final onscreen performance as the legendary Tall Man.
As I mentioned above, the story is a little tough to follow at times, and even at the end of the film you’re not quite sure which of the several alleged realities you were just exposed to is the truth (if any). If RaVager happens to be your first experience with the Phantasm universe, I could see how this could turn someone off of the entire series, but the original 1979 film had its fair share of faults as well, and die hard horror fans found a way to forgive those. RaVager should be no different.
Again, if you’re a fan of the previous films, there’s plenty to like about RaVager. First and foremost, you can just see and feel how much damn fun the actors had putting this thing together. Every few years or so I get together with some old Army buddies, and as soon as the first beer is cracked we just fall into the old routine and it’s like we never spent any time apart at all. That’s the kind of camaraderie I saw on the screen last Friday night.
Angus Scrimm doesn’t have a ton of screen time, but what’s there is as creepy as ever, and while I wish the deceased actor a peaceful rest, I hope that the Tall Man lives on forever.
So what else did I like about the film? Well, I’m a hot rod guy, and next to Christine’s 1958 Plymouth Fury, Reggie’s 1971 Plymouth Barracuda ranks as one of my top “horror cars” to date (hmmm, future article maybe?). Seeing it appear on the screen again after nearly 20 years damn near brought a tear to my eye.
There’s plenty of blood and gore delivered up by those pesky Spheres, and while this is the only film in the franchise so far that Don Coscarelli didn’t direct (only produced), director David Hartman conveys the same heart we’ve come to expect from a Phantasm flick.
Perhaps what surprised me the most about Phantasm: RaVager is the fact that I actually liked what the film did with CGI. Like the vast majority of horror fans I generally loathe effects that are computer generated, but what RaVager does digitally with larger landscape scenes is not only gorgeous, but it really adds something to the film.
I ultimately give Phantasm: RaVager 3 out of 5 stars. It’s not a perfect film, but it is a trip down memory lane for any of us that grew up during the glorious horror age of the 70’s and 80’s, and that alone is worth the price of a rental.