Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Phantasm II – After a decade of silence, the ball is back!

  Phantasm II – After a decade of silence, the ball is back!

PLOT - Mike is released from psychiatry, when he agrees with the doctors that the terrible happenings in his past were just in his imagination. But once he's free, he contacts Reggie and they team up to hunt down and eliminate the "Tall Man", who plunders the graveyards and abducts the sleeping with help of his terrible gnomes. A beautiful strange girl starts to appear in Mike's dreams. He assumes she's in danger and needs their help - will they find her before the Tall Man can do her any harm?

LOWDOWN – The original Phantasm is one of my all time favorite movies. As hard as it is to believe, I hadn't gotten around to seeing the original classic until 2008 or so. After a few viewings I was completely hooked and haven't looked back. In fact in the past I've reviewed the original, and like the dork I am posted about my theories of what exactly this series is about.

Strangely enough, Phantasm II was the first movie I saw out of all four.

Years ago I clearly remember renting this movie as a child. I remember renting it simply because the cover looked cool and the tag line seemed interesting. It wasn't long before I was watching this movie in total and complete awe. Never before had I seen a movie so balls to the wall. Having never seen the original, I found myself a little lost but my eight year old self just couldn't seem to not enjoy myself. I mean not only did this movie have a beautiful haunting soundtrack, it featured a kick ass car, chainsaw fights, surreal terrifying scenes, and of course the spheres which were beyond awesome. To me this was the perfect horror movie. It had a plot that my attention span was able to follow closely (which as a child wasn't that good), a wonderful ending, and some splatter effects I couldn't seem to ever get out of my head. This was perfection at it's greatest.

Shortly after I remember that old mom & pop video store closing down and how my mother brought me there to see if there were any good tapes for sale. Lucky for me I was able to snag the original VHS tape still in it's wrapping. Something I still haven't taken out. What I loved mostly about owning this tape was the fact it still had the green Horror sticker on it.

Time passed and finally in early 2008 I remember turning on Chiller (which had really just started out and was still awesome.) and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw part II was on. This was a movie I hadn't seen in years and found myself glued to the screen, strolling down memory lane. Everything that was awesome about this movie came flooding back. The four barrel shotgun, the Cuda, the amazing score, the spheres, the score, and of course that ending. Nearly right away I went out to search and see if it was on DVD. Lucky for me it was even though it's release was bare bones and the cover completely sucked. Still over the course of that spring I bought all four movies and my love for the Phantasm movies began.

Phantasm II is what I would like to call the Sam Raimi sequel to the Phantasm movies. Don Coscarelli was hired by Universal at the end of the 1980's when one of the head studio guys remembered the original film and how much they enjoyed it. Bringing in Coscarelli, the studio expressed their interest in making a sequel to his surreal yet awesome movie made nearly ten years before. It was the end of 1980's which also meant the end of the slasher boom and horror itself for a brief period of time. Wanting to cash in on any horror series they had, they decided to bring The Tall Man back, and gave Coscarelli a pretty impressive budget and gave him the go to make the sequel he had been dreaming up for years.

Sadly there were a few conditions. The main one being, he could only bring back one original cast member. Coscarelli fought tooth and nail to bring back both Reggie Bannister and A. Michael Baldwin. Sadly since both hadn't really appeared in any other movies for the ten year break, the studio firmly put their foot down forcing Coscarelli to choose. Trying to give A. Michael Badlwin a chance he even had him test for the role was he originally played. In fact even a young and up and coming actor by the name of Brad Pitt even tried out for the Mike role. Sadly in the end Coscarelli ended up choosing Reggie since it only made sense. Baldwin ended up being replaced by actor James Le Gros, who as handsome as he was...just didn't seem right in the role. In fact as a hardcore Phantasm fan, I mourn the fact Baldwin didn't come back to play Michael. I mean he owned the role when he was just thirteen or fourteen. I think the studio kicking him to the side was the biggest slap in the face. Luckily when Coscarelli went on to make part III and IV he brought Baldwin back to completely owned coming back to the original role and did it like a complete champ. 

A. Michael Baldiwn around the time Phantasm II was released. (Such a shame) 

I have met Michael before and he has a great sense of humor about missing out on the sequel, and is an extremely friendly guy. In fact just this winter I sculpted him from part III!

The second thing the studio forced was making Michael have a love interest. I have to agree, in the Phantasm universe there simply ain't no time for that shit. I noticed they quickly took care of that problem at the beginning of part III. Way to go Coscarelli...talk about cleaning house!

And the third was pulling away from the surreal dream like theme that was very heavy in the original, making this movie more of a straight up horror/action movie...which believe it or not for this certain movie worked. 

Going back to the whole Sam Raimi thing, I think it's clear Coscarelli had just seen Evil Dead II while making this movie. The awesome action/gore scenes mirror Raimi's classic. In fact I guess Sam visited the set once or twice and was a huge fan of the original. If you look closely there's even a scene where you see a jar of ashes with Sam's name on them. A clever little Easter egg for horror fans.

Phantasm II is a great movie despite a few of it's flaws that mostly huge fans of the series might point out. I feel had they gotten A. Michael Baldwin this movie would have been utter perfection. Still, it was a very awesome movie. The makeup effects are insane. I mean this was what practical effects were all about in the 80's. They took things to a much higher level in this movie and some of those sphere effects are nothing less than insane. In fact while at makeup school a friend of mine was trying to think of his next bust to sculpt. Watching the Phantasm movies was a must-have back there, and more than often we would play my deadly version of the Phantasm drinking game. Here I have my friend the idea to sculpt the sphere through the mouth death, which ended up making my friend think of one of the most bad ass makeups that have ever been done on me. Shortly before my friend graduated he made a Phantasm fan like me have a dream come true with getting killed by a sphere. Here is that makeup in all it's glory!

The spheres really are the star of the show in this movie (sorry Tall Man) they really did steal the show and were beyond awesome.

As much as I rag on the love interest idea, the character of Liz served her purpose very well in the movie and was very beautiful. Seeing Reggie of course back in action was awesome (besides that awkward scene where the girl is ridding him like a cowgirl and remarking on how much she loves his bald head...yeah...)

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the opening, featuring scenes form where the original left off and how Michael was pulled backwards into the mirror. I really gotta hand it to this movie, they did it flawlessly and even had A. Michael Badlwin replaced with a small girl who doubled for him!

A great movie with awesome gore and action. (loved the chainsaw fight!) and of course the sphere slamming through the doors via Evil Dead II. The best of course is the ending in the hearse where Liz and Michael hold each other saying it's only a dream only to be yanked back through the window. The opening of part III is one of my favorite scenes ever in a horror movie since they so smoothly linked this movie and that one together. 

Scream Factory's Phantasm II blu-ray menu. Insane! 

Phantasm II is a wonderful balls to the wall sequel. It's a great movie that deserves more credit and is the big budget action sequel out of the series. Not my favorite, but still a beautiful movie. Loved the haunting score at the end and always get chills at it.

5 Stars!

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