Some have called it “cut and paste,” others, “episodic.” But really, that’s a kind way of saying “incoherent” by people too immobilized by their love for the characters that they’re willing to overlook what is a cheapjack bit of dung.
We get sent cut-rate productions by budding filmmakers all the time. And we’ve routinely seen $50,000-dollar budgets better spent.
It’s amazing to think this is the very same series that produced Phantasm II‘s awesome “hunchback apparition,” a few of the whiz-bang practical effects created by Greg Nicotero (in a movie series not especially known for its effects).
As far as sequels go, that’s as far as this reviewer ventured into the mystical land of the Tall Man, and there was exactly 10X the budget available for that one — lauded in the Chicago Tribune for its ability to “sustain the dream-like sense through…very sophisticated manipulation of space.”
The same could be said of A Nightmare on Elm Street, whose installments The First and Third are clinics in how the dream world should be depicted on film.
But that space needn’t require large $$$s to fill it. After all, the first Phantasm film only set producers back $300,000 and it looks amazing, even more so by comparison to this.
And that’s the key right there. Film.
For as good as the 4K restoration of the original Phantasm is, Phantasm: Ravager is precisely as bad.
In lucid dreaming, the dreamer is aware that they’re in a subconscious state. In Phantasm: Ravager, it’s impossible not to be aware you’re in straight-to-digital hell, a different kind of hell, where the only thing that’ll be possessed is several hours of your time.
The film’s opener shows promise and is pretty terrific: a bedraggled Reggie emerges from the bushes on a desolate stretch of Texas highway. He car-jacks back his Barracuda ride, which is being driven through the desert wasteland by a nebbish who appropriated it.
It’s this kind of surrealism and Reggie’s later chance meeting with the ethereal redhead Dawn that reviewers of the first and second film likened to the surrealist works of Luis Buñuel.
But it’s after he drives Dawn back to her ranch that things go astray. Reg pathetically tries to woo her with a guitar composition, despite being two decades her senior. It’s a piteous metaphor for the film, a sad attempt at recapturing past glory.
When the Tall Man eventually makes his presence felt, it’s jarring (as we’ve come to expect for the series) and the backdrop of an aged Reggie ravaged by dementia, gives the film a sense of intrigue via potential unreliable narrator.
However, it’s when the gigantic spheres begin hovering in the heavens that the effects get pretty terrible, and when Reggie enters another spatio-temporal dimension, the overarching silliness kicks into high gear. Too bad really, as it’s undeniably thrilling seeing the band back together. However, nostalgia and goodwill only carries limited currency. If the instruments and gear are substandard and the set-list ill-considered, the concert will undoubtedly suffer.
The Tall Man deserved a better swan song.
** (out of 5)
[CHECK OUT OUR PODCAST OF PHANTASM]