Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Phantasm II

   Okay, so, this is the extent of my re-watching of the Phantasm franchise. I had only ever seen I and II, but I figured I should brush up before pushing on ahead. I found myself enjoying Phantasm a lot more than I had when I first saw it a few years ago, and I remembered liking Phantasm II even more. So how does it hold up? I'd say half and half. There's a lot of treading water in Phantasm II, but when it gets down to brass tacks, it's a seriously enjoyable ride that has all the trademark fittings of a Don Coscarelli movie.

   Nevertheless, I can't get over James Le Gros as Michael. He does alright in the movie, but seems far too much like a pretty boy action hero. Which is a far cry from the lanky kid Michael was in the first movie. I mean, a decade will do that to someone, but this was pretty extreme. He got buff and better looking, all while 'rehabilitating' in a mental institution? Boy oh boy. The other downside to Phantasm II is that it sucks all the mystery out of the ending of the first movie. It's technically cool how they do it, and how they worked around things- and I liked that, but it's a clear indicator that Phantasm II was ditching the disjointed and dreamlike approach to things.

   I found out this new approach was actually mandated by Universal Studios who was producing the movie, they even insisted on casting a better-known actor in the movie- which is where James Le Gros ended up replacing Michael A. Baldwin as Mike. Phantasm II is left being an all-too straightforward flick, lacking the odd and nightmarish quality of the first one. Sure, Phantasm II is still weird as all get-out, but it doesn't have the element of surprise that the first one did. The core concept of the Tall Man and his minions isn't fresh anymore because this is a sequel. The movie doesn't do too much new stuff either.

   Phantasm II introduces a love interest for Mike that is so mind-numbingly pointless that it hurts. What's even worse is, so much of the story revolves around her. See, her and Mike have a psychic bond. Why? Who knows. For what? Don't know. What the hell? Anyone's guess. Universal's fingerprints are all over this again, as a romantic interest for Mike was yet another one of their mandates. Ugh. So the plot has Reggie and Mike teaming up again to hunt down the Tall Man, find Mike's dream girl, and kick some ass. It's not all bad, not at all, it's just... uneven.

   The movie ends on a high note however when the final twenty or so minutes kick off and things go nuts. There's a chainsaw fight, some more shenanigans with the new and improved sentinel spheres, and plenty of creepiness from the Tall Man himself. The movie is pretty impressively creative, akin to Evil Dead 2 to The Evil Dead. Reggie fashions himself a quadruple barreled shotgun, and Mike whips up a hardware store flamethrower. I love stuff like that. Both weapons get put to good use in Phantasm II, as well as all the scary trappings and practical effects a fan could want from a sequel like this.

   I won't lie, Phantasm II is a lot of fun, but the movie just seems to tread water. It doesn't advance the bigger picture in any significant way which is kind of a shame. Nevertheless, it's full of spooky thrills, buckets of gore, and creative action scenes. Along with a bigger budget are more refined realizations of the concepts Coscarelli started with the first movie. With expectations in check, Phantasm II can be a lot of fun for genre fans. Just don't come looking for anything game-changing.

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