Phantasm II, 1988.
Directed by Don Coscarelli.
Starring James LeGros, Paula Irvine, Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm.
Six years later and people are still going missing – could the mortician have returned? Or did he never leave in the first place?
It took almost a decade before audiences were able to return to the bizarre land established in Phantasm (1979), with Don Coscarelli back as director and writer. Phantasm II opens with an attempt to give some sense to the ambiguous ending of Phantasm, but this is a largely difficult process with continuity errors abound. This befuddling opening leads into a plot that is set six years later, and it’s rather pleasant to be back in the world of menacing floating silver balls. Those familiar with Phantasm should be prepared for events to get wacky.
Mike (James LeGros, replacing A. Michael Baldwin) has spent the last six years in a psychiatric hospital, deemed delusional due to his fear that the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) is out to get him. When Liz (Paula Irvine) psychically reaches out to Mike for his help, he quickly feigns recovery and is allowed to leave in the care of Reggie (Reggie Bannister). After a terrible accident which sees Reggie's family involved in a house explosion, Mike manages to convince Reggie that the Tall Man is behind it all and the duo set off cross-country to find Liz and put a stop to the Tall Man once and for all. Much like Phantasm, it's best to not question the logistics of the plot too much and just try and enjoy the madness.
Although Phantasm II is an intriguing film with a much bigger budget than its predecessor, it clearly suffers from studio interference. The plot has lost the nightmarish quality where nothing quite makes the sense it should, and instead we're given a fairly typical horror movie sequel that seems content to overlook continuity. The story, despite a slight stumbling out of the gate, settles into a comfortable rhythm once Mike and Reggie hit the road and it never dares to raise too many questions that can't be answered. Admittedly the pacing is a little slow at times, and I was left yearning for more appearances from the Tall Man, but there are moments of striking brilliance that are enhanced by the increased budget.
As far as horror movie sequels go, Phantasm II is fairly average. James LeGros isn't a particularly great casting choice and the romantic angle feels somewhat tacked on, but it's nice to see Reggie Bannister and the fantastic Angus Scrimm return to the screen. With more money comes an increased expectation, and I can't help but feel that Don Coscarelli played it safe with this sequel. The wild imagination behind Phantasm is sorely lacking here, with the surreal atmosphere giving way to a pretty standard story. Certain questions are still left unanswered by the time the credits roll, but besides offering a more polished and slightly saner version of Phantasm, I'm struggling to really see the point of Phantasm II. The different tone of the film is likely to turn off fans of the first, whilst the effort spent (in vain) trying to tie the plot of this sequel back to the original will possibly leave newcomers confused. It's not that Phantasm II is a bad film, it's just not a particularly good film either.
Flickering Myth Rating - Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★