31 for 31: 'Phantasm II'

We’re now five films deep into “31 for 31,” so here’s a public service announcement: If you haven’t seen the original “Phantasm” movie, what the hell are you waiting for?

Released in 1979 on a shoestring of another shoestring’s budget, “Phantasm” is beloved for its fever-dream like setting and simple, menacing nature of the Tall Man. I love a good horror sequel (and frankly, most of the bad ones, too), but I held out on the first “Phantasm” sequel for a long time.

For starters, it was released nine years after the original. Imagine my surprise when the movie starts off exactly where the first lets off, before quickly jumping six years in the future. It’s a nice trick to explain away director Don Cascarelli’s initial assertion that “Phantasm” was initially a standalone film.

“Phantasm II” is another in a grand tradition of horror sequels subtlety change genres while still maintaining horrific aspects of the original. Much like the horror of the original “Alien” melded into the action-adventure aspects of “Aliens,” “Phantasm II” replaces the mystery and intrigue of the original with cartoonish weaponry, explosions and car chases. Some of this is due to necessity. After all, since the sequel takes off right where the original ends, there’s no need for mystery since Mike and Reggie already have a handle on the craziness that faces them. So too does the audience, but did we need Mike with a full-on flamethrower? Or Reggie blasting away four Tall Man dwarves with a quadruple-gauge shotgun? Probably not, but that supersized $3 milllion budget had to be used for something.

The main plot of the movie finds Mike and Reggie chasing the Tall Man from town to town as he harvests more corpses to turn into his dwarven druids. Along the way, they run into psychics, dilapidated towns and of course, many a flying silver sphere. Much like the first film, “Phantasm II” ends with the door left open for more sequels. “Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead” wouldn’t show up directly on VHS tapes until 1994. The most recent, Phantasm: Ravager,” came out a few weeks ago. Think about that for a second. Five movies, spanning almost four decades, all with the original core three or four actors in each film. Highly impressive for a movie that was supposed to stand (tall) alone.

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By-the-numbers

Death count: 8
Suburban home explosions: 2
Awkward, mostly-clothed sex scenes: 1
Times that the Tall Man refers to Mike as “boy”: 3
Chainsaw duels throughout the film: 1* (*Not enough)

 

Total movie death count: 48
Watched via: Lancaster Public Library DVD
Worth the watch: Yes
Arbitrary rating: 3.5/5 flying silver spheres

31 for 31 viewing list

  1. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
  2. Cube (1997)
  3. White Zombie (1932)
  4. Demons (Dèmoni) (1985)
  5. Phantasm II (1988)
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Posted in Articles, Arts+Culture, Movies

Kevin Stairiker is a features writer for Fly. He is a graduate of Temple University and enjoys writing in third person. When he isn't writing, he's probably playing guitar for a litany of bands, reading comics or providing well-needed muscle at The Double Deuce.

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