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Phantasm II – Have A Ball With The Tall Man

Phantasm II (1988)The term “horror” seems to cross many boundaries, and horror fans often argue what makes a good horror film.  Some fans want to be disturbed, and are not looking for a “pleasant” viewing experience.  Others disregard horror comedies, and others just want some kind of supernatural or slasher element to it.  I just want to have fun with a little gore.  Give me a adventure like Dream Warriors and I’m smiling ear to ear.

Phantasm II has always been one of my favorite films ever.  The film is a rush from the beginning, and gets even better as the characters embark on their epic journey.  Despite being a sci-fi film, it uses many horror elements and uses them well.

Phantasm had a very strange ending as it all seemed to be a dream until The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm in his iconic role) attacks Mike (James Le Gros) in his bedroom.  Phantasm II picks up from right here.  Reggie (Reggie Bannister) hears the commotion and goes to check it out.  He sees The Tall Man and his minions getting ready to drag Mike outside, and he rushes downstairs to get a gun.  He is cornered by the minions, and after battling his way out with an unconscious Mike, watches as the house is destroyed.

Mike is committed into an institution for several years.  A psychic connection has formed between he and Liz (Paula Irvine).  She knows that The Tall Man is coming for her (and leaving a trail of death in his wake).  Mike fakes a “recovery” by acknowledging that The Tall Man is not real, and is discharged.  He immediately goes to the cemetery to exhume his family and is met with empty graves and his friend Reggie trying to protect him.  Reggie convinces Mike to come home with him and forget about it, but as they are pulling up to the house, Mike realizes that The Tall Man has set a trap for his return.

An infuriated Reggie and Mike break into a hardware store and arm themselves for the upcoming war.  They create a 4 barreled shotgun and flame thrower, and hit the road in Reggie’s Triple Black Cuda (which is the perfect car for the mullet headed Reggie).  As they travel, they find signs of The Tall Man, traps that he has set, and pick up a beautiful hitchhiker Alchemy (Samantha Phillips).

The Phantasm series has inspired many horror fans to not view horror just as ghosts or faceless killers.  The Tall Man comes from another dimension, and it has many sci-fi elements to it.  It was one of the biggest inspirations to John Dies At the End.
The Tall Man wields these flying silver balls that impale themselves in victims’ heads and drill directly into their brain.  The minions are created from the recently dead, but are brought back as slaves.  The questions it raises are haunting, and to go through that wormhole will leave you sleepless at night.  How can we grasp the incomprehensible?

Phantasm II has become a cult classic because it epitomizes what many horror fans love:  It’s gory.  It’s campy.  The characters are likable and fun.  We care about them, and we want them to find the answers so that we know as well.  Hell, the new trailer for Phantasm: Ravager came out recently and fans went crazy because it promises “closure for the core characters”.  I recently caught up with Sam Phillips (who has gone on to radio, blogging, and television fame.) on Twitter, and she said “Playing Alchemy in Phantasm II was probably one of my most treasured and memorable jobs I’ve ever done. To this day I still get letters from horror fans near, and far.  Its a huge honor to be a part of cult horror movie history.”  You can currently find Sam on SiriusXM (Channel 102-Vivid Radio) every Wednesday at 10 p.m.

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, but can be terrifying when it wants to be.  The effects are great and just leave me dreaming of the days that practical effects ruled.  The Tall Man is never quite explained, and his onscreen presence cannot be outdone.  The overall uneasiness this film exudes is outstanding.  Alchemy was one of my first horror loves, and Reggie and Mike are iconic in their journey.  We have some fun weapons, and even get a great chainsaw battle.

As the new film has just been announced, these movies should start presenting themselves on television again.  It’s time to get re acclimated with the series if you’ve forgotten.






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