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From the B-Movie Vault: Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead & Phantasm IV: Oblivion

March 9, 2022 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead Image Credit: Starway International

From the B-Movie Vault Issue #2: Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and Phantasm IV: Oblivion

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest From the B-Movie Vault. I’m Bryan Kristopowitz.

Last time, we focused on the first two movies in the Phantasm franchise, Phantasm and Phantasm II (check out those reviews here). Now, we continue with the next two movies in the Phantasm franchise, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and Phantasm IV: Oblivion.



The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #401: Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead

The Phantasm Marathon: Week 3

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been attacked by anyone wielding a Frisbee with razor blades attached to it, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and one, the Phantasm Marathon continues with Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, which received a limited theatrical run in 1994 before hitting home video later the same year.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead

Image Credit: Anchor Bay

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, written and directed by Don Coscarelli, is the first Phantasm that was basically made for the home video market. Yes, it did receive a limited theatrical release in a few markets (I read in the Rue Morgue Phantasm book that the movie was released in Michigan as part of a “test” by Universal Pictures), but more people likely saw it when it was released on home video. That’s where I first saw it, renting it from a now long gone video store on VHS. I had no idea that the movie had existed until I saw it on the video store shelf. And when it made its debut on cable TV, man, I watched the shit out of it (it was on all of the time on The Movie Channel). It’s an action packed horror flick that kicks ass from the second it starts until the very end, and what it lacks in budget it makes up for it with gory carnage and pure cinematic insanity. There are people out there who don’t really like the movie because it doesn’t really advance the overall story and is full of comedy that some deem “inappropriate” to the franchise. They’re obviously entitled to their opinion but I think they’re dead wrong. Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is awesome.

Lord of the Dead picks up where Phantasm II ended, with Mike (the returning A. Michael Baldwin) and Liz (Paula Irvine via footage from the end of part two) stuck in the back of a hearse, with the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) driving and Reggie (Reggie Bannister) on the side of the road, beaten and bloody. The hearse suddenly drives off the road and explodes. Reggie gets up and runs to see if anyone survived the crash. Mike managed to survive, but poor Liz didn’t (her face is smashed in, the Tall Man’s demon midgets try to eat her, and the Tall Man eventually decapitates her corpse and throws her severed head around like a football so, yeah, Liz is dead. Which is a damn shame because I really liked Liz). Reggie tries to get Mike away from the Tall Man but the Tall Man and his demon midget minions are persistent. Reggie takes out several of the Tall Man’s minions with his trusty four barrel shotgun (I’m going to assume that he made several four barrel shotguns because I believe he left the one he used throughout Phantasm II in the basement of the mortuary after shooting those four demon midgets with one blast) and then threatens to blow up himself, Mike, and the Tall Man with a grenade. The Tall Man decides to retreat at that moment but tells Reggie that he’ll be back to get Mike at some point (the Tall Man doesn’t want Mike “in pieces”). The Tall Man finally disperses and Reggie tries to get Mike back on his feet. Something is wrong with Mike, though. He’s hurt. Bad.

So the scene then shifts and we see Mike in the hospital, hooked up to various machines and hanging on to whatever life he has left inside of him. He’s dreaming about the afterlife and sees his dead brother Jody (the returning Bill Thornbury) and wants to “go to the light” to be with him. Jody tells Mike, though, that he shouldn’t go towards the light, that bad things are waiting for him on the other side. So Mike “wakes up” in the hospital and is attacked by a nurse who just so happens to be a minion of the Tall Man. Mike fights the nurse, stabbing her in the neck with a needle, which then leads to a silver ball popping out of the demon nurse’s head and menacing Mike and Reggie, who just showed up to visit his old friend in the hospital. After some very gross yellow blood dispersing, Reggie takes Mike out of the hospital and drives him back to his place, which is now out in the desert (when did he get this place? Didn’t his house blow up in part two? Was this a second house he just so happened to have?).

It’s at this point that Jody shows up, “for real,” in Reggie’s living room and tries to reveal how the heck he’s still alive despite being killed, off screen, at the end of the first movie. But before he reveals too much, the Tall Man shows up and Jody transforms into a silver sphere and tries to attack the Tall Man. Since the silver spheres belong to the Tall Man, the Tall Man prevents the Jody sphere from attacking and burns it up in mid-air (the ball goes from silver to black). Reggie tries to attack the Tall Man next but he, too, is smacked down. The Tall Man then grabs Mike and brings him through a space gate. Reggie wakes up in the morning and decides, right then and there, that he’s going to have to hit the road himself and try to find Mike and rescue him. The Tall Man can’t win.

After looking at a map, getting his shit together, and asking for some info from a weirdo at a gas station that also sells guns, Reggie heads towards Holtsville, another small town that’s been conquered by the Tall Man. It’s here that Reggie runs into three scumbags named Henry (John Davis Chandler), Edna (Cindy Ambuehl), and Rufus (Brooks Gardner). The scumbags beat and mug Reggie and steal his HemiCuda, putting him in the trunk in order to dump him someplace else (man, Reggie had two HemiCudas. Maybe that’s why he had that place out in the desert. It was the only place deemed safe enough to hide such an awesome muscle car). The scumbags stop at a house with all sorts of weird stuff outside and figure that it’s a good place to hang out for a little while. Unfortunately for the scumbags, they don’t know that the house is inhabited by Tim (Kevin Connors), a badass kid who has been living on his own since the Tall Man killed and stole his parents. Tim’s house is booby-trapped and Tim is handy with all sorts of improvised weaponry. Tim makes short work of the three scumbags and rescues Reggie from the trunk of the Cuda.

So Reggie then helps Tim bury the three scumbags in his front yard, Tim tells Reggie what he knows about the Tall Man (an awesome scene featuring two wicked jump scares and one of the greatest kid jumping out the back of a car scenes of all time), and Reggie “agrees” to allow Tim to tag along with him on the road. I say “agree” because, after a few miles on the road, Reggie tries to leave Tim at a house he spots that’s full of kids. Reggie doesn’t want to put Tim in any more danger, and he’d rather fight the Tall Man by himself anyway. Tim, though, wants to stick with Reggie and hides out in Reggie’s trunk as he drives away from the house with the kids.

It’s at this point in the story that Reggie enters a mausoleum where he thinks the Tall Man might be holding Mike. Reggie is quickly attacked by a flying sphere and two women, Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry) and Tanesha (Sarah Davis), who are local survivors trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Tanesha is attacked and killed by the sphere and Rocky tries her damnedest to fight off the dangerous flying object. Tim shows up and shoots at the sphere, killing it. After rescuing him for a second time, Reggie agrees to allow Tim to tag along, for real, to find the Tall Man and rescue Mike. Rocky eventually agrees to tag along, too, although that takes a few minutes to happen.

After some funny attempted sexual shenanigans (Reggie, once again, tries to hook up with a hot babe on the road and it doesn’t end well for him) and a dream where Reggie gets it on with Rocky, Jody shows up again and reveals where Mike is being held by the Tall Man. We find out that the Tall Man has Mike trapped in a box in some weird place where there are incessant strobe light effects every so often. So Reggie, with Jody’s help, rescues Mike and removes him from the weird Tall Man place, bringing him out into the desert via a space gate. The Tall Man attempts to pursue them, but Reggie shuts down the space gate and cuts off the Tall Man’s hands. So then the Tall Man’s hands become killer demon bugs, the heroes fight off the bugs, and it’s time to find the Tall Man’s real world lair and take him out.

Well, that’s the hope. It doesn’t take long, though, for the three scumbags from Tim’s house to show up as killer zombies driving a pink hearse and attack. After a nifty car chase and one of the greatest car flips in cinema history (go ahead and watch that pipe ramp stunt and sit back in awe of it. It’s goddamn insane), it’s finally time to face off against the Tall Man. It’s also here where we find out what, exactly, is inside one of those spheres, what a demon midget looks like in the middle of the demon midget process, and that Mike may not be Mike anymore.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead may be more action packed than part two and is a great example of a director trying to outdo himself with less money than he had for the last movie. It isn’t as badass as Phantasm II but it comes damn close. I also dispute the complaint that the movie doesn’t advance the overall Phantasm story. We find out that Mike and the Tall Man are linked somehow and that the Tall Man needs Mike for some nefarious purpose. We’re not told what that nefarious purpose is, but then that’s what a part four is for. As Coscarelli notes in the Rue Morgue book, most people were upset with the lack of revealed details because they were under the impression that the franchise was ending with Lord of the Dead. If the franchise is ending you’d hope that the last movie would reveal what the hell is really going on. Obviously, Lord of the Dead isn’t the last Phantasm, so you really have to look at Lord of the Dead as the third chapter in a five chapter story. It’s the middle. We find out just enough to keep the story going. And that’s fine and that’s cool. Why the heck did fans believe that part three would be the end? Was there an advertising campaign that mentioned that in some way?

The thing that surprised me about Lord of the Dead is the lack of demon midgets. The Tall Man has plenty of gravers and other henchmen to use, but where the heck did the demon midgets go? We see them at the beginning of the movie, but after that they’re nowhere to be found. Did the Tall Man send all of the ones he had left to the Red Planet? Why would he do that? And how the hell could he run out of them in the first place? People fighting the Tall Man couldn’t have possibly killed hundreds of them at a time, could they?

I love how we see A. Michael Baldwin in the costume worn by James LeGros at the end of part two at the beginning of part three. It helps make the switch from LeGros to Baldwin a smooth process and, to me, it shows that Baldwin could have kicked ass in part two if he had been able to be in it (he doesn’t look ridiculous in LeGros’ clothes). We also get to see some of the deleted scenes from part two in the beginning of part three, something I didn’t realize until I saw the deleted scenes on the Scream Factory DVD of part two. And I love how the deleted scene that shows a new Tall Man appearing through the space gate and disposing of the Tall Man killed at the end of the second movie is explained later in the movie with the cryptic line that “there are thousands of them.” Does that line actually refer to the Tall Man, the killer flying spheres, or both?

The whole “Jody is inside one of the spheres” thing is weird as hell. Why can Jody reveal himself as being inside one of the spheres but no one else can? It sure seems that Jody really isn’t the Jody from the first movie, that he’s been compromised and is part of whatever scheme the Tall Man is ultimately engaged in. I mean, Jody, as a sphere, tries to attack the Tall Man and fails but, unlike the sphere that unsuccessfully attacks the Tall Man in part two, the Tall Man doesn’t crush or destroy the Jody sphere. He just “burns it” and leaves it behind. Why would the Tall Man do that?

Why didn’t we ever get a Rocky spin-off? She manages to survive the movie, one of the few secondary characters to do so, but then what happens to her? Where did she go? I know that something is revealed in Ravager regarding Rocky, but, heck, did Coscarelli and company think a spin-off movie could be made with Rocky? I have no idea who she would end up fighting in a spin-off (maybe a Tall Man minion that the Tall Man allows to be a sort of regional governor of a conquered area?). It would have worked, though. It’s too bad that, after the considerable success of Lord of the Dead, no one funded a Rocky spin-off. But then, heck, you’d think that someone would have given Coscarelli more money than he had for part 4, Oblivion, to make the legendary Roger Avery script or something else. That didn’t happen, though. Lord of the Dead was made for around $2 million, and Oblivion was apparently made for less than $1 million. How the hell does that happen, especially with a proven property?

I’d also like to know why Coscarelli hasn’t done a commentary track for Lord of the Dead. The only Lord of the Dead commentary track that I’m aware of involves A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm. Why wouldn’t someone want to pay Coscarelli to talk about the movie he made? I’d love to hear him talk about the specific issues he had with the movie’s production while watching it. The upcoming boxed set doesn’t contain a new Coscarelli commentary track for part three, does it? (Writer’s note: Coscarelli does do a commentary for the 5-film set DVD along with editor Norman Buckley. I have the set but haven’t listened to the commentary track yet. It’s a damn shame, though, that Coscarelli didn’t do one with the whole Phantasm gang for Lord of the Dead and, really, all of the movies).

That pink hearse flip stunt… man, that’s a thing of true beauty. It really is. And insane.

Reggie Bannister once again kicks ass as Reggie. He handles star duties as a total pro, and it’s fun to see the Reggie character become a full action hero here. He gets his ass kicked multiple times but still manages to find a way to keep fighting. Again, I would like to know why he has that house out in the desert, why he has a second HemiCuda, and where the hell he got that second four barrel shotgun, but perhaps that’s just stuff we’re not meant to know. Lord of the Dead is a Phantasm movie, and, well, Phantasm movies are known not to make much sense. Awesome job, though, Reggie, Groovy and whatnot.

Michael Baldwin does a fine job, once again, as Mike. He picks up where he left off at the end of the first movie and where LeGros left Mike at the end of part two and the whole thing just works. He isn’t the main character this time (Reggie is) but it’s still great to see him back in action. Baldwin definitely makes Mike more sensitive than LeGros did, but then Mike did just go through yet another horrendously terrible ordeal. It makes sense that, after Liz is killed, Mike wouldn’t be as gung ho or as full on badass as he was in part two. Great job, A. Michael Baldwin.

Bill Thornbury’s return to the franchise is welcome as he basically picks up where he left off as Jody. Thornbury seems a little tentative in some scenes, but he does a good job anyway. It is damn cool seeing all three original movie characters together in one scene right before Mike is taken away by the Tall Man. Kevin Connors is excellent as Tim, the killer kid. He comes off as a seasoned pro and his character works brilliantly. It’s also messed up how he kills all three of the scumbags, especially the older one. We don’t see what he does to him, but we sure as heck hear it. It’s too bad that Connors didn’t appear in part 4, Oblivion, or any other Phantasm flicks. Yes, he’d look much older if he appeared in Oblivion since that came out like four years after Lord of the Dead, so it makes sense that he’s gone. But it sure as heck would have been cool to see him, even as an older version of himself, in a later movie. Think about what a Tim spin-off would have been like.

Gloria Lynne Henry is great as Rocky. She’s funny, she’s badass as hell, and she doesn’t take Reggie’s shit. She’s also the only “secondary” Phantasm character to survive through the end of a Phantasm movie. Rocky gets to drive off. What sort of adventures did she have after the end of Lord of the Dead? Why isn’t this plot its own movie, or at least a comic book or something?

And then there’s Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man. He isn’t as viscerally scary in this one, but he’s still pretty dang creepy. The scenes where he’s sitting in the room full of candles and holding the silver sphere in his hand are iconic (that image is what adorns the upcoming Well Go USA Blu-ray franchise set). I was a little disappointed in the way the Tall Man gets it in the end, as the movie doesn’t really try to top the body melt scene at the end of Phantasm II. But then, when you think about the ending used in Lord of the Dead, it’s satisfying enough. The Tall Man doesn’t like the cold.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is yet another top notch entry in the Phantasm franchise. It adds new, cool characters to the story, it brings back old favorites, and it kicks all kinds of ass. If you haven’t seen it, man, you need to see it as soon as you can. It’s well worth it.

See Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: About 10.

Undead bodies: Lots. Demon midgets, the scumbags, a few gravers. Lots.

Explosions: Several.

Nudity?: Yes.

Doobage: A rehash of the end of Phantasm II with Mike narrating and some deleted scenes from the end of part 2, exploding hearse, face eating, exploding demon midget, three very dead demon midgets, off screen decapitation, a flashing grenade, the afterlife, needle to the neck with gross yellow blood, a silver sphere popping out of a dead nurse’s head, face wiping, remote viewing, transformation, kidnapping, a massive scorch mark, car fixing, an old doll, a mugging, door kicking, dummy shooting, a booby-trapped home, a drop down clown full of knives, tomahawk throwing, tomahawk to the head, a Frisbee with razorblades, throat slitting, a hole in the ground, a flashback, zombie attack, jumping out the back of a hearse, hose to the face, flying silver sphere attack, door attack, bondage, silver sphere to the head with head drilling and blood spurting, nunchuck hooey, a kid driving a muscle car, attempted flirting, attempted bondage, double graver attack, a sex dream, blue laser hooey, space gate hooey, demon bug hand attack, extreme nose picking, demon bug burning, a badass car chase, one of the greatest car flips in cinema history, exploding hearse with two subsequent explosions, a big metal drum full of severed heads, demon midget creating, attempted sleeping, brain removal, some gross fellatio, a room full of dangling spheres, zombie fighting, spinning head removal, shotgun blast to the face, drill to the head, cold spear to the chest, hand melting, a silver sphere that bursts through a dead body, gold sphere right through the head, plunger attack, and a wicked jump scare.

Kim Richards?: Big time at the end.

Gratuitous: Deleted scenes from the end of Phantasm II, A. Michael Baldwin as Mike again, Reggie shooting three demon midgets at once, the Tall Man sitting in a room full of candles, Bill Thornbury, a nurse grooving to some tunes, a gas station with a sign outside talking about gun selling, a pink hearse, a killer kid, a convoy of hearses, a strobe effect, space gate hooey, cooking food in the cremation chamber, and a wicked jump scare.

Best lines: “Hey! Oh, shit!,” “I don’t want him in pieces. That’s the only way you’re gonna get him!,” “It’s all right. It’s natural,” “Stay away from the light,” “Boyyyyy!,” “It was Jody. I saw him,” “Jody? What the hell are you doing here? You’re dead,” “It’s time now, boy,’ “Well, Jody, I guess even you couldn’t stop him,” “What are you doing here?,” “Give me the goddamn gun,” “You’re in trouble! You’re in trouble!,” “Christ, it’s just a kid! Well, he ain’t never gonna grow up!,” “Goddamit! Now you’ve done it you little bastard!,” “So, is this your family? No, the Tall Man got my family,” “They forgot to cover him up,” “Where the hell is that pink hearse?,” “Little kids shouldn’t be playing with guns. I ain’t a little kid anymore, Reg,” “It looks like we caught ourselves a fish, girlfriend,” “What the fuck was that? That’s… kind of hard to explain,” “This town is dead. There’s nothing left but the damn sentinels,” “Come on. We’ve got things to do,” “I hope that ball has a better sense of direction than mine do,” “Picture that, the three of us facing down the forces of evil,” “See the floor. You’re bunking there tonight,” “Come on, Rocky,” “Shit,” “Damn. Where’d they go?,” “Goddamn grave diggers,” “Hey Jody. How’s it going?,” “Tell me something. How does he get you into that ball?,” “I’m too old for this shit,” “That was close. Close to what?,” “Friends of yours?,” “Cold,” “Shit. What the hell are those?,” “Some folks never know when to give it up,” “Smells like something is burning. Just me, baby,” “Down! Much better,” “Welcome home, boy,” “Damn, you’re ugly,” “I have plans for you. Later,” “Hey, bitch! Hands off my boy! He’s mine!,” “Let me release you from this imperfect flesh that ties you to time and space. What is known and unknown to you will be revealed,” “Reg, don’t believe everything you see,” “It’s been nice knowing you boys, but this kicking zombie ass just ain’t my gig,” “Well, keep your balls in the air, Reg,” “Run, dammit, it’s all over!,” and “It’s never over.”

Rating: 10.0/10.0

Image Credit: Well Go USA

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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #402: Phantasm IV: Oblivion

The Phantasm Marathon: Week 4

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never stayed in an abandoned hotel/motel anywhere, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and two, the Phantasm Marathon continues with Phantasm IV: Oblivion, which first appeared on home video in 1998.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion

Image Credit: Anchor Bay

Phantasm IV: Oblivion, written and directed by Don Coscarelli, is easily both the weirdest movie in the entire Phantasm franchise and one of the weirdest movies ever made in the history of cinema. Made for less than $1 million, it lacks the scope and the visceral badassness that was evident in Phantasm II and Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, but it does manage to creep you out with several bizarre sequences, not to mention an ambitious story that sort of explains what the Tall Man was before he became the Tall Man. It’s also a movie that you have to watch multiple times in order to grasp, maybe, what the hell the movie is really all about. I’ve seen it over ten times now and I’m still not entirely sure I understand what the hell it’s about.

Oblivion, like the previous two sequels, picks up right where the last movie ended, with Reggie (Reggie Bannister) being attacked by a swarm of flying silver spheres and the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) just moments away from possibly destroying him. The Tall Man, though, decides to allow Reggie to live because, I guess, he wants to spend most of his time tracking down Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), who is driving alone in a hearse somewhere. So Reggie beats it out of the mausoleum (Tim is presumably dead and about to become one of the hooded demon midgets. We don’t really know because the movie doesn’t get into what happened to him in any way). The story then shifts to Mike driving a hearse, trying to tell Reggie not to follow him via telepathy, and then Mike having a flashback to the first movie.

Now, when I say “flashback to the first movie,” I mean scenes and sequences that Coscarelli filmed back when he made the first Phantasm movie but cut out because they didn’t ultimately work with the actual movie he ended up making. These flashbacks appear every so often and help explain some of the unexplained things from the first movie. We also get to see parts of the original ending Coscarelli wanted to use, an ending that would have been much more subdued than the one he ended up using. That original ending works quite well in this movie that came out almost twenty years after the first one. How often does that kind of thing happen?

So we experience the Mike flashback, and then we see Reggie trying to get the HemiCuda back in running order. The soft top needs to be put back on, one of the tires is flat, the car is messed up. In the midst of doing that Jody (Bill Thornbury) appears, first in sphere form, and then in human form. Jody talks with his old friend, telling him where he should go to find Mike, but Reggie doesn’t seem to be all that interested in continuing on. Reggie is beat, tired of the chase, and just wants to move on with his life. But Jody eventually convinces Reggie to continue on, because, hell, what else is Reggie going to do? The world is turning to shit, the Tall Man is still out there somewhere, and it’s not like Reggie’s old ice cream business is a viable career anymore. Reggie has to find Mike and save him. So Reggie fixes the Cuda and hits the road again.

So then some stuff happens, Mike is confronted on the road by the Tall Man and a hooded demon midget, and then Reggie is pulled over by a cop who turns out to be a giant demon monster. Reggie gets his ass kicked by the demon cop (played by Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead pink hearse driver and stuntman Bob Ivy, who went on to play the Mummy in Coscarelli’s Bubba Hotep), and it really looks like Reggie is going to bite it on the road. But Reggie is a resourceful guy and he manages to find a way to beat back the cop and continue on (this demon cop scene is the movie’s biggest extended action sequence and involves a pretty nifty explosion). We then go back to Mike, who has driven himself out to the desert. And what the heck is out in the desert?

A tree that Mike plans to use to hang himself on. Before he tries to do that, though, he explores various rock formations for some reason and then has a dream about the Civil War. We then see a space gate out in the middle of nowhere. A space gate in the desert? What the hell is going on here?

Mike goes to hang himself. Mike then has a flashback dream to the original ending of Phantasm where he and Jody rig a trap in the woods for the Tall Man that ends with the Tall Man hanging from a tree. The next night, Mike heads out to the tree and finds the Tall Man still hanging from the tree and still very alive. After some back and forth about whether or not you can trust the Tall Man, Mike cuts the Tall Man out of the tree. The Tall Man promised Mike that he would leave him and his brother alone. Of course, that’s just bullshit because you can’t trust the Tall Man. Back in present time, Mike’s rope breaks and the Tall Man shows up to find out what the hell Mike is up to. The Tall Man offers to help Mike continue on his path, but Mike refuses the Tall Man’s help, conjures up his own space gate, and runs through it.

Wait a second. Mike can conjure up his own space gates? How the hell can he do that?

So Mike appears on the other side of the space gate, and he’s now somewhere in the 1800’s. After some walking around and whatnot, Mike runs into an old woman who sort of looks like the fortune teller from the first movie, and an old man who really looks like the Tall Man. The man is named Jebediah Morningside and, amazingly, Morningside knows that Mike is from another time or dimension. As you’d expect anyone to do if they appeared in another time or dimension or whatever the hell is going on, Mike freaks out and runs through Morningside’s space gate, which is some weird as hell steampunk type deal. Mike ends up back in the desert.

The scene then shifts back to Reggie, who is hauling ass down the road in the Cuda. He’s following a hot blonde chick he met earlier (Jennifer, as played by Heidi Marnhout) because, well, that’s what Reggie does from time to time. Jennifer ends up flipping her car trying to avoid a giant turtle in the road, and Reggie rescues her before her car explodes. Jennifer then hooks up with Reggie, and they eventually find an abandoned hotel to hang out in for the night. The hotel is absolutely disgusting, but Reggie and Jennifer manage to clean the place up for the night (the place still has running water, so Jennifer takes a shower). Reggie tells Jennifer all about the Tall Man and what he’s been doing trying to find him and kill him, but Jennifer doesn’t believe a word of it. Now, considering the state of the world at that moment, Jennifer not believing Reggie’s story should be a big tell on who she may be. Reggie should have known, but then he’s in horndog Reggie mode. He thinks he has a chance at getting laid. So after having a weird ass dream where Mike is the Tall Man, Reggie wakes up next to Jennifer in bed. Reggie briefly thinks about opening her shirt and taking a look at what’s going on there, but he decides to just look at her legs and black panties. It’s at this point that Jennifer’s shirt opens on its own and we find out that her breasts are spheres. The spheres launch out of Jennifer’s chest and attack Reggie.

So Reggie deals with that (he manages to kill both spheres and Jennifer but receives a serious hand wound in the process), and Mike continues to hang out in the desert. Mike interacts with Jody, who attempts to explain what really happened to him when it comes to the Tall Man. Mike isn’t as receptive to Jody’s story as he would have been if Jody had told him the same story in Lord of the Dead and suddenly, you get the feeling that Mike doesn’t trust Jody at all. So then some stuff happens, Mike and Jody go back to the 1800’s to Morningside’s laboratory, and we find out that Morningside went through the space gate one day and never came back. The Tall Man did appear at this time, though, so it’s easy to assume that Morningside became the Tall Man after some stuff we don’t get to see. Mike tries to take out Morningside before he goes through the gate, but Mike fails and, as Mike suspected, Jody turns on him and reveals himself to be just another Tall Man minion.

Back to Reggie, and Reggie is driving through the desert. He finds Mike’s hearse and decides to make his own final stand. Reggie puts on his old ice cream man uniform, loads the four barrel shotgun, and walks off into the desert to find Mike. He kills several hooded demon midgets on the way to finding another hearse and the space gate Mike and Jody used to go back to the 1800’s. And back behind the gate, the Tall Man attempts to perform some weird surgery on Mike. Mike manages to break free, kill Jody with a flying ball with a saw in it, and Mike runs back through the gate.

It’s at this point we find out what the heck the tuning fork is all about (the tuning fork that we haven’t seen since the first movie). Essentially, the tuning fork is a weapon that can be used against the Tall Man and his flying spheres. Why it can be used as a weapon, the movie never really gets into that. Perhaps that’s explained in Ravager?

Back in the desert, Mike and Reggie reunite and the Tall Man comes through the space gate to continue his attack on Mike. Reggie tries to take on the Tall Man but, sadly for Reggie, he’s no match for the bad guy. As for Mike, he reveals what the hell he’s been up to out in the desert: he’s managed to create his own flying sphere using parts from the hearse, and he’s managed to create some sort of dimensional bomb out of the rest of the car. Mike’s ball attacks the Tall Man, and the rigged up car does explode, presumably killing the Tall Man.

Yeah, sure. Killing the Tall Man.

When I first experienced the ending I didn’t know what the hell it was meant to represent. Is Mike dead? Is Reggie dead after running through the space gate to go after the Tall Man? Why did Mike have a sphere in his head? And what’s the deal with the flashback to Mike in Reggie’s ice cream truck and Mike talking about the wind? The wind? Where’s the big jump scare? Where are the demon midgets or the gravers or whatever? What the hell, man? As I said towards the beginning, I’m still not entirely sure what the ending really means or what it’s meant to represent. The quiet, subdued tone of the ending is still shocking because it’s totally unexpected. When I think about it I’m okay with it being the end. I do think I would have preferred a more jarring, holy crap ending, but Reggie and Mike driving off into the darkness is kind of cool in its own way. They’re not dead at the end of the movie, either in the desert or in the flashback. They’re going to continue on in some way. Reggie has gone into the space gate. Mike appears to be dying on the ground, the sphere gone from his head. But he can’t be dead. He’s going to come back in some form, in some way, because why wouldn’t he? If the motto of the story and of the Phantasm franchise is that it’s never over, that it isn’t a dream, that what we’re seeing isn’t quite what you think it looks like, then why would Mike be dead? Why would anyone be dead? So the story is just going to continue, even if we don’t get to see it continue on (before Ravager was revealed as happening, Oblivion was assumed to be the end of the series. In fact, the DVD I have says that Oblivion is the end). That’s kind of reassuring, even if it’s infuriating.

Infuriating? On some level, the Phantasm movies are all infuriating because we’re never really sure what the hell is going on. That’s part of the franchise’s charm. At the same time, with Oblivion being the end, we just have more questions, most of them regarding Jebediah Morningside. For instance, why did he start messing around with dimensional travel? How did he figure out how to travel to other dimensions? And how the hell did he build his own space gate? And, too, what the hell happened after Morningside went through the gate? How long did he survive before he “became” the Tall Man? And why did Morningside become the ideal for the Tall Man? Was Morningside the only person in the 1800’s messing around with dimensional travel and whatnot?

The flashbacks to the first movie are jarring because you spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out where they would have fit in the original Phantasm. You never really figure any of that out, but you do end up doing it, especially if you watch the movies one after the other. I will say that it is cool to see Mike, Reggie, and Jody in their younger forms in the same movie as their older forms. How often do you see that kind of thing in a movie? As for the Tall Man, while he isn’t as physically intimidating as he was in part 2 or 3, he’s still freaky as hell and looks generally the same in both the past and the present. He’s obviously older, but when you look at him in the part where Mike cuts him out of the tree and in the part where he confronts Mike in the desert, he looks almost exactly the same. It’s amazing and terrifying. The Tall Man really is eternal.

The opening sequence, where we see the Tall Man walking down a mausoleum hallway being followed by a swarm of flying spheres is one of the most badass things you’ll ever see in any movie. And the part where we see Mike and the Tall Man walking around an abandoned big city is pretty awesome, too, especially when you find out how Coscarelli and company managed to get the sequence in the can. The production didn’t have the money to get permits to shut down a section of any major city, let alone Los Angeles, so Coscarelli waited to film all of the “big city” scenes on Thanksgiving morning, when he knew that the city would look deserted. He and everyone involved could have been fined or arrested for filming without a permit. The sequence could have failed due to weather (it could have rained that morning or something). The camera could have malfunctioned. But it all worked out in the end and it’s one of the movie’s best scenes. Check out the Tall Man’s stride. The Tall Man can’t be stopped.

The movie’s “smallness” could put off some Phantasm fans who haven’t already seen it because, again, Oblivion just isn’t as viscerally badass as parts 2 and 3. There are some action scenes, like the demon cop scene, the breast sphere scene, the car flip, and some demon midget killing in the desert, but they’re relatively small looking as compared to similar scenes in the previous sequels. The explosions also don’t look as impressive. The CGI at the beginning of the movie with the sphere swarm didn’t look all that impressive when I first saw it in 1998 and it still doesn’t look all that good. The idea behind it is solid, though, and as long as you look at it in the way it’s about as cool as cool can be. As I said, the Tall Man walk that precedes it is so damn cool and helps makes up for any chintziness that the CGI may project.

The movie’s story is also going to put off people who start watching Phantasm with Oblivion because they’re going to have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on. That isn’t to say that full on Phantasm nerds are going to have any real concrete ideas about what the hell is going on, but if you’re familiar with the characters and the world beforehand you’re going to spend more time on what the story is trying to tell the audience as opposed to trying to figure out what that 1800’s shit is about.

I will say, though, that despite the small budget, Oblivion looks great and at all times “feels” like a real movie. That doesn’t always happen in the low budget movie world. Oblivion could have easily looked like Cage II in the hands of a lesser movie maker.

While Reggie Bannister is listed as the lead star of the movie, A. Michael Baldwin is back to being the real star in a Phantasm movie and he does an outstanding job. Mike is the focus of the story once again and we watch him both try to figure out what to do next and transform into a person that can do some of the things that the Tall Man can do, like move things with his mind. The flashback sequences where we see Mike as he was back in the first Phantasm show what a good young actor Baldwin was back in the day. Mike’s final scene, where we see him on the ground, potentially dying, will stay with you. It’s sort of depressing, sort of confusing, but peaceful. Great stuff.

Image Credit: Orion Home Video

Bannister once again kicks ass as Reggie. He’s on the road, tracking the Tall Man, getting into all sorts of trouble, but before he does any of that he’s disillusioned a bit. I didn’t expect to see that. After everything he’s been through why would Reggie decide that he’s had enough? At least he gets back at it eventually, and he gets to don his old ice cream man outfit again. That’s pretty badass. Now, the scene with Reggie in bed with Jennifer still disturbs some people because Reggie was thinking about opening her shirt and checking out her boobs while she was asleep. People don’t seem to be all that disturbed by the whole “Jennifer’s breasts turn into flying spheres and attack” thing, though. I think you have to look at the scene not so much as Reggie being a pig and men are scum, but as another example of Reggie making the mistake of taking his eye off the ball (pun intended), which is finding the Tall Man and taking him out. Alchemy didn’t work out. Rocky left him (she was the only one who didn’t turn out to be the Tall Man). And Jennifer turned into a graver monster of some sort. Why the hell doesn’t Reggie get it? He ain’t getting laid again, man, even in his dreams (again, look back at his dream with Rocky in Lord of the Dead. Look at how that turned out).

Bill Thornbury does a decent job as the now even more mysterious Jody. We’re never entirely sure what his deal is, even when he teams up with the Tall Man at the end. Was his allegiance with his old friends just part of the Tall Man’s big scheme, or did Jody eventually succumb to the Tall Man’s powers despite trying to fight back? Heidi Marnhout doesn’t stick around for long as Jennifer, but you will remember her performance. That booby sphere sequence will stick with you.

And, finally, Angus Scrimm gives his most mysterious performance as the Tall Man. He’s menacing, sure, and terrifying, but he’s also kind of subdued, which is disturbing because you don’t expect to see that. You expect to see him as the nasty figure he was in the first three movies. The Tall Man is complex, man. He really is. And Scrimm’s brief scene as the sort of kindly/befuddled inventor Jebediah Morningside is shocking because, again, you don’t expect to see Angus Scrimm in a Phantasm movie as anything but the Tall Man. If only Coscarelli had been able to make a movie all about Morningside working on inter-dimensional travel. I bet that movie would have kicked ass.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion is a movie that’s probably going to take some time to love. That’s how it happened with me. I didn’t care for it all that much when I first saw it, but after multiple viewings the movie grew on me. I’m still not sure I totally understand it, but that really is part of its charm. It’s a great, stirring, thoughtful movie that, just like the other Phantasm movies, will stay with you after watching it. A terrific sequel.

See Phantasm IV: Oblivion. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 5

Undead bodies: 3, plus tons of hooded demon midgets

Explosions: 3. I’m not going to count the explosion from Phantasm II that shows up in the opening montage. I’m just not.

Nudity?: It depends on whether or not you want to consider the breast spheres a nude scene. We do see a little of Jennifer through the shower curtain, but can we really consider that a full on nude scene?

Doobage: A car driving through a cemetery, a badass walk in the dark, a badass montage, silver eyes, menacing, a flying sphere swarm, multiple flashbacks to the late 1970’s, ice cream stealing, car driving, off screen dog killing, an almost head on collision, attempted tire changing, multiple demon midget attacks, a lack of brakes, attempted window kicking, coffin hooey, fighting a demon cop on the side of the road, glass breaking, choking, trunk zombie, multiple shotgun blasts through the roof of a car, yellow blood barfing, exploding cop car, exploring the desert, Civil War hooey, attempted suicide, attempted hanging, space gate hooey, a wild car flip, exploding car, scorpion crushing, demon midget crushing, an old knife, clothes smelling, an abandoned hotel, sphere making, sexy black underwear, boob holding, a scary dream, silver sphere boobs, sledgehammer hooey, tuning fork hooey, exploding sphere, off screen sledgehammer to the head, journal writing, an abandoned city, suiting up, exploding demon midget, switchblade hooey, chest stabbing, cranial surgery, sphere saw to the chin, tuning fork theft, sphere to the back of the head, exploding hearse, exploding villain, and a subdued ending.

Kim Richards?: Attempted and implied.

Gratuitous: A. Michael Baldwin, A. Michael Baldwin with silver eyes, a montage of the previous movies, Reggie Bannister, a swarm of spheres, multiple flashbacks to the first Phantasm, a car party, multiple hooded demon midgets, Death Valley, multiple hangings, Angus Scrimm playing two different characters, lemonade, a giant machine that sort of looks like a primitive space gate, a giant turtle, moldy food, attempted comedy, booby spheres, Reggie Bannister wearing his old ice cream man outfit, cranial surgery, and a subdued ending.

Best lines: “Where he came from no one knows,” “Small man. Your end approaches. But not yet,” “The final game now begins,” “Hey, Reg. Goddamit!,” “Well, I guess I know where I’m going,” “The coach will drive itself,” “Damn you to hell! Not possible,” “Fuck you! Ha! Ha!,” “Blow me!,” “Wow. Some cops can be real assholes,” “Where do you think you’re going, boy?,” “Cut me down, boy!,” “You’re killing the world!,” “Boyyyyy!,” “I’ve been waiting for you for a very long time,” “Come, boy. We have things to do,” “Careful what you look for. You just might find it,” “Did you make passage through the dimensional fork?,” “Jebediah!,’ “Wait, I thought cars only blew up like that in the movies? Yeah, me too,” “Hey, brother,” “So what is it with you, brother, are you you or are you dead?,” “Well, it looks affordable,” “In your dreams, Reggie,” “Nightmares aren’t real, and neither is your Tall Man,” “Lady, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can tell you this: that old bastard is going down. I don’t give a fuck what planet or dimension he’s from. His balls are mine,” “Do you want to get it on, Reggie?,” “You go where I want you to go, boy,” “What is this place? You mean when,” “Always sneaking around!,” “When is he coming back? Jebediah Morningside never comes back,” “And so it begins,” “Now, this won’t hurt a bit. Well, maybe just a little bit,” “I died. I died in a car wreck,” “Reg! Mike! Jody’s dead!,” “What do you want? Ice cream man, it’s all in his head,” “It’s time now, boy. Yes, it is,” “No,” “Mike, you’re still alive. I’m dying, Reg. No, don’t let go,” and “Hey, did you hear something? It’s just the wind. It’s just the wind.”

Rating: 10.0/10.0

Image Credit: Image Credit: Well Go USA

Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead

Reggie Bannister– Reggie
A. Michael Baldwin– Mike
Bill Thornbury– Jody
Gloria Lynne Henry– Rocky
Kevin Connors– Tim
Angus Scrimm– The Tall Man
Cindy Ambuehl– Edna
John Chandler– Henry
Brooks Gardner– Rufus
Irene Roseen– Demon Nurse
Sarah Davis– Tanesha

Directed by Don Coscarelli
Screenplay by Don Coscarelli

Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, and Well Go USA.
Rated R for graphic violence and gore, language, and brief nudity
Runtime– 91 minutes

Buy it here or here or here or here

Phantasm IV: Oblivion

A. Michael Baldwin– Mike
Reggie Bannister– Reggie
Bill Thornbury– Jody
Angus Scrimm– The Tall Man/Jebediah Morningside
Heidi Marnhout– Jennifer
Bob Ivy– Demon Trooper

Directed by Don Coscarelli
Screenplay by Don Coscarelli

Distributed by MGM/UA Home Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Well Go USA

Rated R for violence, language, and some alleged brief nudity
Runtime– 90 minutes

Buy it here or here or here or here