For the first time, Don Coscarelli lets someone else in the director’s chair for an entry in the Phantasm series (could you imagine a reboot, or a television series rework of this?) though he had his hand in the script as well as producing.
Reggie (Reggie Bannister), Michael (A. Michael Baldwin), Jody (Bill Thornbury) and The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) are back in the fifth instalment in the long running Phantasm series. This is still a world I love visiting, I love the mythology, and world-building that has gone into it, and perhaps that’s why I want to see more set in this universe, or a re-imagined one.
Reggie has been wandering for years, trying to track down Michael. He knows the Tall Man is still out there, and perhaps finding him will lead him to Michael. He’s passed through countless dimensional portals, in his pursuit, but what if none of this is real?
Reggie seems to be slipping from place to place, time to time, a wasteland known as Earth that has been overrun by the Tall Man and his silver spheres, not to mention his tiny cloaked minions, and new terrifying allies, and a mental hospital where Michael informs him he’s suffering from an onset of early dementia.
All the trademarks of the series are there, the dreamlike (though more nightmarish than before) flow of the narrative, the familiar musical themes, the four barrel shotgun, the 1971 Plymouth Barracuda, a cast of eccentric characters, and a glimpse at the Tall Man’s home world (?).
The thing I don’t quite get is the giant spheres, they do look cool, hanging over the city, but I always thought the spheres were nothing more than drones containing compressed human brains slaved to the Tall Man. Are there brains in those things?
It’s the shortest film in the series, which is too bad, because none of them are as long as I would want them to be. And, through it all, we’ve only gotten glimpses of the Tall Man’s plan, though we know next to nothing about his motivations. Things like that fire my imagination in this type of film, there’s so much to be explored. I don’t need it all explained, but I love the glimpses we’ve been given.
It’s hard to believe the way that Reggie has changed, starting as nothing more than an ice cream truck driver, Michael continues to be a curious character, especially the way he seems to be affected by the Tall Man, and the things the creature has done to him.
Is it a great film? No, it’s arguably the weakest film in the franchise, especially when we know it’s also the last one. The effects aren’t great, but the universe just pulls me in. I just dig it. Not the best way to end the series, but it’s what we got. Reggie and the rest are still out there. Is the battle still raging? What happens next?
Having finished all five films, I’ll set them aside for now, but can’t wait to revisit them again sometime in the near future.