Phantasm II – 2 out of 5
Alright, I sat through the awful (but, in a unique way, fun) first film and now I’m on to the second one; Phantasm II. I mentioned in the last review that I never watched any of the other films in this franchise because the first one was so dull and didn’t have any interesting characters or even a captivating antagonist that made me want to see any further adventures. However, since I like to occasionally latch onto a franchise during the month of Halloween and see the films through to the end (if there ever truly is an end to horror franchises…for as much as people complain about sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots, the horror genre has had that trend on lockdown for decades). Well, here I am now at the first of the sequels and I found something that was pretty much equal to the last film…but did have some noticeable advantages over its predecessor.
|On the weekends, The Tall Man's minions hang out|
with the Goblins of Nilbog.
Moments after the first film ended and it looks like Mike is about to be taken by The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and his Jawa-looking minions, Reggie the Ice Cream Man (Reggie Bannister) saves the day and fights off the monsters and escapes with Mike in tow—but not before blowing up the house. Mike is placed in a psychiatric hospital and, after eight years, is released. An adult Mike (now played by James LeGros) reveals that he has had a psychic connection with a mysterious girl name Liz (Paula Irvine) and that she has also been the target of The Tall Man. Reggie tries to convince Mike that none of this exists and that it was all a dream but as the two head to Reggie’s home, an explosion kills his family. The tragedy convinces Reggie to join Mike on his mission. Finding Liz, the trio starts the hunt for the mysterious, otherworldly man and discovers that he is carving a path of destruction along the country as he leaves every small town he visits in ruins and the population killed and resurrected as one of his slaves.
|Yes, Mike, that's the perfect mask to wear into battle. Who needs peripheral|
|Mike has the "Yeah, I see that everyday" look for |
something that one shouldn't see everyday.
For the most part, Phantasm II isn’t really much different from the first film. It suffers from really bad and lazy writing, the plot makes very little sense, the characters aren’t very interesting and The Tall Man still has all these powers that really don’t feel like they fit under one umbrella of a character and continue to come off like writer/director/creator Don Coscarelli just wrote down a bunch of random ideas and decided just to go with all of them. Finally, this one has the exact same ending as the first film—granted, this complaint isn’t too bad because it’s obvious that Don Coscarelli wanted to have the sequel mirror the first but I won’t deny that this element also felt a bit lazy and like he couldn’t come up with anything else. However, despite these problems, the film does have some minor improvements that showcase how Coscarelli has improved as a filmmaker…but these improvements don’t make this film a good movie watching experience, however.
|The Tall Man always looks like he's talking to a child that is lying to him and he |
knows the kid is lying and is trying to catch him in said lie.
|Liz is sensing that she won't be in the next installment.|
One thing I noticed immediately is how a lot of the filmmaking aspects were much better this time around. Shot composition and camera work was noticeably improved (although, I suspect production had no access to tripods because moments that were meant to be static were very shaky and had a habit of swaying back and forth). Another vast improvement in this film is the gore effects. I was genuinely surprised at how good they were—well, relatively good. For example, there’s a moment when Mike and Reggie visit one of the towns decimated by The Tall Man and find who they think is Liz but, in reality, it’s a trap left behind. A macabre visage of The Tall Man rips out of the minion’s back and spits words of grim despair at the duo. It’s a very cool use of practical effects that were the norm back in 1988. However, as cool as it is, it feels fated that something about it would be really wonky as the eyes of the creature chaotically dart back and forth. The gore and the monster look great but this one element of the eyes destroys the whole illusion and it’s hard to not laugh.
|Even with the crazy eyes, this thing is still cool. Gross but cool.|
One HUGE improvement I saw in this film was having James LeGros replace A. Michael Baldwin as Mike. As I stated in the last review, I thought Baldwin was decent in the first film but I genuinely think LeGros is a great actor and he was doing a hell of a job making the very one-dimensional character of Mike work. As it concerns the rest of the cast, not much has changed. Angus Scrimm still isn’t threatening or scary as The Tall Man but his screen presence can’t be denied. Finally, this film decides it wants Reggie to be the comedic relief—possibly this is Coscarelli capitalizing on how Bannister can’t quite seem to nail down the right level for each reaction and emotion he was portraying on the screen in the first film.
|I'm going to hazard a guess that the hat was something Reggie Bannister|
already owned and brought to set.
The only problem here is Coscarelli’s writing isn’t strong enough to successfully pull off comedy, the tone and atmosphere can’t even get a horror vibe going so mixing in some humor is even more impossible, and, here’s the big part, Bannister isn’t funny. It was just awkward watching him fumble around and mug at the camera. Not to be cruel but had he played his scenes straight, things might have been funnier but, as they were, they were just difficult to watch.
|Reggie looks like he's never seen a chainsaw in his life.|
From a story perspective, Phantasm II doesn’t really feel like it is trying to do much different. It is pushing the narrative forward slightly but I feel like it is focusing on all the wrong things. For example, The Tall Man is basically decimating every single town he comes to and I really wish that would have been at the front and center of this tale. Instead, we just see the results with our main characters. Additionally, I know this series has its very passionate fans but I don’t see Mike and Reggie as that interesting of characters. Reggie is really creepy and Mike is too lethargic—and both are one-dimensional with little-to-no depth and neither really has any intimidation factor working for them that make them any kind of challenge to the over-powered Tall Man (of course, The Tall Man is a lethargic bad guy who really never does anything with his abilities so I guess it equals out). Similar to the first film, I found nothing about this movie genuinely entertaining but rather another example of being “so bad, it’s good.” It’s a really dumb movie but one that is kinda fun to watch and giggle at.