Thoughts on… Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, 1994.

Directed by Don Coscarelli.
Starring Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, and Angus Scrimm.


The cross-country hunt for the mortician continues as the plot thickens.

After a brief montage which attempts to clue in any audiences that may have missed Phantasm (1979) and Phantasm II (1988), this third entry begins with a slight tweak to the ending of the last film. With the story picking up immediately from the previous movie, Reggie (Reggie Bannister) is revealed to be alive and he quickly discovers an unconscious Mike (A. Michael Baldwin returning to the role). The love interest from Phantasm II is swiftly dispatched, never to be acknowledged again, and it would appear that all the chips are in order for director Don Coscarelli to proceed.

After spending two years in a coma, Mike is visited by Jody (Bill Thornbury), his deceased brother from Phantasm. Mike is sent back to the land of the living where he teams up with Reggie in an attempt to track down the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), with the assistance of Jody who now appears in the form of a charred sphere. If you’re familiar with the previous two movies, you should be aware by now that the story doesn’t always make the most amount of sense – but this is part of the appeal. Watching these films is like taking a trip into a nightmare, where nothing is quite as it seems but there is self-contained logic to the proceedings.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is everything you’d expect from the third entry into a horror film series that has thus far spanned fifteen years in the making. Phantasm II was not successful enough for Universal to agree to fund this third movie, but Universal did strike a deal with Don Coscarelli that they would distribute the film if ever made. This allowed Coscarelli the freedom to tell the story without studio interference, hence the removal of the love interest and the return of A. Michael Baldwin. The story surrounding the Tall Man is expanded a little, but this movie is mostly an excuse for splashing screens with a hefty dose of the bizarre.

I must confess to being quite fond of this film series so far, but Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead does stumble in places. The inclusion of the character Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry), a sassy nunchuck wielding heroine, feels like an idea that isn’t properly thought out, and although it makes sense for Reggie to lead this movie it seems that Mike and Jody aren’t quite integrated into the plot enough – particularly towards the start of the film. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the young Tim (Kevin Connors), a hardened kid who doesn’t annoy.

With every sequel comes understandably lower expectations, but I did find myself enjoying Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead. It is ever-so-slightly better than Phantasm II, and for once the story seems to actually be heading towards a grander conclusion with the final few minutes spent seemingly setting up events for yet another sequel. The goofy humour present in the previous two films is still here, and Don Coscarelli straddles horror, science-fiction and comedy to considerable success. Whilst this isn’t a brilliant movie, I’m pleased to see the balls back for another spin and am curious to see where this film franchise may end up.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★

Liam Underwood

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