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April 17, 2013

Movie Review: Phantasm II (Blu-ray)

It seems so rare that when a movie that garners considerable popularity such as Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm that you’d almost always expect a follow-up within a year or two of it's theatrical release. For whatever reason, be it funding, not having a strong script etc. it’s not always plausible. Nearly ten years passed before Coscarelli put together the follow-up to Phantasm, Phantasm II. By this time he had directed one more film in The Beastmaster. Was it too late? He does bring back the “The Tall Man” and one of his other leads in Reggie Bannister, and yes, those wonderfully shiny balls as well.

Following the traumatic events, Mike (James Le Gros) is continuing to have very vivid dreams about the The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm, Phantasm series, Chopping Mall). He’s even picked up a new friend via these dreams along the way in Liz (Paula Irvine) who he is psychically connected to.

Mike, after being released from a mental hospital quickly joins forces with his buddy Reggie (Reggie Bannister, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp) to find Liz and eliminate the Tall Man once and for all. Reggie’s even more determined to kill The Tall Man since the psychotic septuagenarian and his dwarf-zombie gang killed his entire family.

Phantasm II definitely has a much cleaner look due to increased budget which allows much more FX. The budget jump from the original really was considerable. Spheres drill their way into people’s heads, burrow into stomachs and blood splatters ever so generously. Amazingly there are some cuts – but you can see them in the extra features which is pretty damn cool. Although it’s not quite as creepy as the original and relies more on the grue, Phantasm II has its moments. The second half is really where it’s at action wise, and it’s a testament to the excellent FX work of Mark Shostrom and the boys at KNB studios.

Shout Factory’s horror label Scream Factory has done their due diligence to produce a Blu-ray, with not only a lovely re-mastered transfer, but an excellent array of extras that are all things Phantasm. We get deleted scenes, interviews with cast and crew, a commentary, a short film with a very youthful Angus Scrimm (as Rory Guy), trailers and promotional items.

The workprint footage is big highlight. Here we get to see some extended death scenes of a couple characters that include the extra juicy ball attack on The Tall Man’s gravedigger. Greg Nicotero is great and has some fun anecdotes about the early days of KNB and from filming during his interview segments. FX videos on the release also reveal how they carry out the amazing practical FX put together by these elite special effects gurus.

Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm and Don Coscarelli reunite for a very entertaining commentary. This one’s unique because Bannister and Scrimm start the commentary off in character. You can truly tell these guys have a nice camaraderie.

Phantasm II is really given the red carpet here by Scream Factory, and then some. It also helps that the movie is one of the better horror sequels to come out of the 80’s. Do not pass this one up!

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