I love the Phantasm movies, all of them, every piece of the five movie collection. I remember first coming across the series when I was working at a video store, but recalled the poster for the second one showing up in a lot of DC comics I was reading in the 80s.
Low budget, or slightly bigger budget, I have a place for all of them in my heart, and while the first film created the characters, the second one really did some world building and shifted the hero focus from Mike (played by A. Micheal Baldwin in the first film, and replaced at the sudio’s behest by working actor James Le Gros) to Reggie (Reggie Bannister) the balding, middle-aged, former ice cream truck driver turned action hero.
There are plenty of things I love about the series, but one of the best things is how each film picks up where the previous one ended, before launching into its own story. So we see how things played out for Mike and Reggie at the very end of the first film, before flashing forward to adulthood and seeing Micheal leaving a mental health facility, supposedly cured of his delusions of The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and his army of tiny robed terrors that seem to stalk mortuaries with the floating silver spheres serving as sentinels, and deadly weapons.
The Tall Man seems to be calling to Mike, and he and Reggie set off on a cross-country trip to track him down, coming across desolated and destroyed towns that clearly fell victim to the Tall Man’s plans. Mike isn’t the only one being called, so is Liz (Paula Irvine) who has been dreaming of both the Tall Man and Mike since she was a child, and has fallen in love with Mike through some form of psychic connection.
While the first film is very fluid and dreamlike, the studio wanted a more linear tale if they were to foot the bill, and so this time out, it’s a bit of a more straight forward story, though reality is played with a couple of times, and we also see where the Tall Man is sending the resurrected corpses that he compresses into his tiny army.
And we are left to wonder what is really going on here?
There’s a little more humour in this iteration of Phantasm, and some of it works really well, Reggie definitely gets to shine because of it, but it’s the mystery, the scares, and the fight with the seemingly unstoppable Tall Man that keeps me coming back.
And as this film races to its cliffhanger ending, I can’t wait to continue the journey with Reggie (and A. Micheal Baldwin who returns for the next film).
I love me some Phantasm!