Saturday, April 20, 2013

Phantasm II - Scream Factory Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review

Phantasm II [Collector#39;s Edition] with Exclusive Poster!

Director: Don Coscarelli
Writer: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Reggie Bannister, James LeGros, Paula Irvine, Samantha Phillips, and Angus Scrimm

Current classic-horror champion Scream Factory have recently released the Blu-ray premiere of Don Coscarelli's Phantasm II, the 1988 sequel to his 1979 classic.

Released after seven years in a mental hospital, Mike convinces his old pal Reggie to join forces with him to hunt down and destroy The Tall Man once and for all. Mike’s visions lead the two to a quiet little town where a horde of flying killer balls aim to slice and dice their gruesome way through everyone. Exploding with special effects, unparalleled thrills, horror and suspense, Phantasm II climaxes with a blood-curdling conclusion that you have to see to believe.

Reggie: Folk Singing Ice Cream Man turned Asskicking Asskicker
Mike: Fresh off of a 7-year asylum stint, ready to find his hot telepath girlfriend and destroy The Tall Man
Liz: Mike's telepathic girlfriend. She has a hard time in this movie, attacked by dwarfed version of her dead grandmother, thrown around a mausoleum by Angus, and nearly rolled face first into a creamatorium.
Alchemy: Mysterious hitchhiker/bald fetishist
Tall Man: Towering otherworldly mortician, leader of an army of demonic dwarfs

Before getting this new Scream Factory Blu-ray release I hadn't seen Phantasm II in probably a decade and I wasn't sure how it would hold up. I'm happy to report that the film holds up very well, and is even better than I had remembered. The pacing is incredibly tight with very few unnecessary scenes weighing the movie down. Pretty much every scene here serves it's purpose to keep the plot moving swiftly along. It helps that the plot is really rather straight forward for a film about an evil mortician from another dimension shrinking corpses down into dwarfs and reanimating them. Because of this there's very little time for useless little subplots to pop up and slow things down.
Phantasm II is a lean and mean action horror film with some wonderful atmosphere and energetic performances from the capable cast members. Reggie really breaks out here, becoming a bit of a Bruce Campbell-style smarmy horror action-hero, banging women with bald fetishes, blasting dwarfs with a shotgun, and burning down churches. Not burning churches down in like an evil black metal Pro-Satan kind of way, the church had been taken over by the Tall Man. That's one of Reggie's rules. It's okay to burn down a church if it's been taken over by the forces of darkness.

Moving on, Michael Baldwin is out for this particular sequel (though returning in Phantasm III and IV, which makes this series slightly confusing if you watch them all in a row) and replaced by James LeGros who is a very likeable replacement Mike. He plays off of Reggie very well and it does come off like these two guys have known each other for years. Angus Scrimm gets to talk more in this one, but thankfully he doesn't ever become jokey like so many horror villains of the late 80's. No quips or puns, his Tall Man is still every bit as creepy and frightening as in the original.

Director Coscarelli was really able to stretch the 3-million dollar budget out, Phatasm II is a sleek, great looking film that never once looks like it had a fairly small budget. To achieve this Don (we're on a first name basis) and crew utilized a lot of clever time and money saving techniques. Sometimes luck was also in their favor, somehow they ended up spending something like $500 for the house they blew up at the beginning, which is one of the best scenes, and a hell of a way to start a movie.

Phantasm II is the overall best film in the series, and one of the best horror films of 1988. This was a year which also saw The Blob, Brain Damage, Child's Play, Friday the 13th Part VII, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Night of the Demons,, there's a lot, actually, 1988 was a pretty great year for horror and Phantasm II is one of the best of the year. Check it out.

Samantha Phillips goes completely nude, but it's during a dream sequence where she is dead with autopsy scars allover her. So that really kills any boner potential that there might've been.

Although it was trimmed a bit back before the 1988 release, this is still a pretty gruesome film and the gore is outrageous and inventive. Dwarfs are blasted. Hands are hatcheted. Ears roll. Flesh is melted. A scrotum is chainsawed. In one of the highlights a gold sphere works it's way through one of the Gravers, starting at the guy's back and working it's way up his throat and out of his mouth. This was one of the scenes with trimmed gore (which can be seen in the bonus features) but it's still a pretty gruesome scene. Reg and Mike MacGuyver themselves some pretty gnarly weapons. For Reggie, a shotgun with four barrels fastened together. For Mike, a flamethrower made out of three small propane tanks. These weapons are so badass they look like they'd be just as dangerous for the people using them as the people they're using them on.

Things to watch for:
  • Shopping cart headlights
  • Mutant hand-puppet Torch-ure
  • Quattro-barrell Shotgun
  • Makeshift Flamethrower
  • Accidental Immolation
  • Little People Liquidation
  • Extreme Rodent Termination
  • Dueling Chainsaws
  • Grand Theft Hearse
  • Gravers - a graver is a kinda gothy guy in a suit who works for the Tall Man, exhuming bodies to be shrunken down into dwarf form. I think these guys are human since they bleed red. This really distracted me once I started to think about it. How were they recruited for this job? What's a job interview with the Tall Man like? Are they hourly or salary? Do they get some kind of health plan? Dental? Vacation? Stupid questions, I know, but these thoughts consumed me for a good 10 minutes of the movie.
  • Most of this movie takes place in the fictional town of Perigord, in the non-fictional state of Oregon. Perigord is a ghost town and it actually looks a lot like Hill Valley after Biff took over when he used the almanac to bet on the ponies, or whatever the hell he bet on. Both films were made by Universal around the same time, I guess it could be the same neighborhood on the lot. Anyone out there happen to work on both movies who can verify this?
Things to watch for - Extra Features version:
  • A midget in full body demonic dwarf costume on a smoke break.
  • Greg Nicotero Pumpkinhead Attack
  • As Reggie Bannister gets older he continues to look more and more like Jeff Dunham's Walter puppet. The only difference being that Reggie is actually funny.

Bonus Feature Screenshots


Scream Factory has filled this Blu-ray/DVD combo with so many extra features it's almost ridiculous:

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary with director/writer Don Coscarelli and actors Angus Scrimm and Reggie Banister
  • “The Ball is Back!” Documentary – featuring new interviews with writer/director Don Coscarelli, actors Reggie Banister, Angus Scrimm, Paula Irvine, Samantha Phillips and more!
  • Vintage Behind the Scenes footage: Makeup Effects
  • Vintage Behind the Scenes footage: On the Set
  • “The Gory Days with Greg Nicotero” Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes from archival film elements from Don Coscarelli’s archive
  • Additional Scenes – alternate takes and deleted gore footage from the workprint
  • Original TV Spots
  • Trailers for Phantasm , Phantasm II & Phantasm III
  • Still Galleries (Behind the Scenes, Make-up Effects, Poster and Still Gallery)
  • Rare short film starring Rory Guy (aka Angus Scrimm) as Abraham Lincoln

  • Apart from the commentary, the biggest extra is the 46 minute "The Ball is Back!" documentary which features a lot of behind the scenes footage and interviews with pretty much everyone from the movie, except for James LeGros. Lots of great stories about the production, my favorite being the story of the fire marshal who tried to limit the size of the house explosion until he found out it was for a sequel for Phantasm. It turned out the fire marshal was a big Phantasm fan so he told them to blow the shit out of it. A big surprise for me was seeing what good shape Don Coscarelli is in, this guy is nearly 60-years old, but if I didn't know who he was I'd peg him at around 40 tops. What is this guy's secret? I'm barely over 30 and I look like hell, this guy must be onto something.

    Phantasm II is the first Phantasm film to receive Blu-ray treatment, and Scream Factory have added even more features than the previously loaded Anchor Bay DVD. Picking this release up is a no-brainer for any Phantasm fans. Part II is my personal favorite of the films, it's fast paced and pretty action packed. If you haven't seen a Phantasm, Part II is a good place to start as it fills you in on most of the important details of the first film.

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