Sunday, 19 August 2018

Phantasm III - Lord Of The Dead

Rocky Ball Boa

Phantasm III - Lord Of The Dead
USA 1994 Directed by Don Coscarelli
Arrow Blu Ray Zone B

Okay so... onto a rewatch of the third of the Phantasm films in my revisitation of the series due to Arrow’s new Blu Ray set from last year.

Phantasm III - Lord Of The Dead was not bankrolled by a major studio this time around, although Universal did help by distributing it for Coscarelli once it had been filmed. Which means it had a substantially smaller budget than the previous one, by about half a million dollars according to the IMDB. Now, for many film series out there that wouldn’t make much of an impact but with small budget pictures like this, it’s basically had one sixth of the budget of the previous one slashed from it. Still a staggeringly great amount compared to the original Phantasm (reviewed by me here) but it’s still a big hit to take, I reckon, after the budget of Phantasm II (reviewed by me here).

That being said, one of the positives from that process is that, without studio insistence on recasting, A. Michael Baldwin returns to the role of Mike which he portrayed in the first movie (and all remaining sequels). And, of course, we have Reggie Bannister back as Reggie... and Bill Thornbury back as Mike’s deceased brother Jody. Yeah, I know, it’s a Phantasm film so just because a character is dead, doesn’t mean he can’t be alive as a manifestation inside one of the spheres... it gets kinda tricky in the storyline but ultimately it makes more sense than a lot of the other elements of the Phantasm movies, that’s for sure.

I remember seeing this one for the first time decades ago when a DVD set collecting the first four films came out on DVD and thinking that this third one was pretty poor. Well, I would have to say that, as the years have gone by, they’ve certainly been kind to this movie. Maybe it’s the sense of nostalgia taking over but I found this one a heck of a lot more entertaining this time around. And a lot more interesting too, it has to be said.

The film, despite being shot six years after the previous one, carries on right where things left off at the tail end of Phantasm II and, it does it a lot more seamlessly than I remember, to be honest. After a car crash and the main female lead of the last film being killed... thrown away in a way that really didn’t seem fair to the importance of the character and her perceived role in the storyline, Reggie and Mike are finally reunited... once Mike has woken up in hospital from a coma and survived another attack by minions of The Tall Man (played once again here by the inimitable Angus Scrimm, in the somewhat iconic role which most people associate him with).

However, after the reappearance of dead Jodie in the first of many helpful manifestations, we have Mike once again kidnapped by The Tall Man. Reggie ends up pursuing the trail to yet another small town which has been drained of life by the aliens and encounters three villainous thugs who lock him in the trunk of his own car before driving off in it. They plan to end Reggie’s life but, luckily for our hero, they first go to raid a house which is being defended by a lone kid called Tim, played by Kevin Connors. This really is a Home Alone kind of situation right here because within a few minutes, young Tim gets all ‘our Macaulay Culkin goes up to 11’ on their asses and kills all three in violent ways (they don’t stay dead for the whole movie, of course, as their ‘undead’ forms will provide trouble for the gang later in the film). He’s also a crack shot so when he rescues Reggie, seeing as they’re pretty much in the same boat, Tim joins him in his quest...after some shenanigans where Reggie tries to find him some responsible adult supervision first.

Reggie and Tim’s next stop is... another Phantasm style mausoleum where they pick up another ally, Rocky, played by Gloria Lynne Henry (who apparently returns as this character in some way for the fifth film in the series... unless it’s just flashback footage). After seeing her friend murdered in the classic ‘Phantasm ball, head stick and drill’ routine, she ends up joining our heroes... again, after some more shenanigans which I can only assume are put in to give credibility to the character.

The rest of the film pretty much alternates between battles and rescues involving two or more of the five main protagonists (including Jodie) and various attempts by Reggie trying to sleep with Rocky. The film is actually pretty nicely done with some strong compositions in places and some nice colour palettes from time to time. The performances all work pretty well and there are some interesting moments where the Phantasm universe is somewhat expanded. So we have a ball with a retracting eyestalk, for example... also a golden ‘superball’ with the spirit of The Tall Man in it at one point.

All in all the pace never really lets up, which is something a good B-movie will know how to do and I’m also pleased to say that, like the original film, nothing really ever makes that much sense for that long. Certain scenes might have you questioning things in a good way and others... well, they won’t. But it all feels like the Phantasm brand so there’s nothing wrong here. The director even utilises unused footage from the first movie as flashbacks in some cases here (unless I’m just remembering things wrongly). The music by Fred Myrow and Christopher L. Stone is pretty much a needle-dropped cut and paste job from the previous movies but it doesn’t seem out of place here, to be honest.

Definitely recommended for fans of the franchise but not something I could see you getting hooked into as a jumping on point for the uninitiated. I’m now very much looking forward to rewatching Phantasm OblIVion and then finally checking out Phantasm RaVager so, you know, look out for those reviews sometime soon.

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