Directed by Don Coscarelli
Produced by Don Coscarelli
Written by Don Coscarelli
Director of Photograpy Chris Chomyn
Music by Frderic Myrow and Christopher L. Stone
Cast: Angus Scrimm, A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury
1994/91 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD
I can clearly remember the summer of 1988, when I anxiously awaited the release of PHANTASM II. Not only was the sequel to one of my favorite films coming, but it was a summer release from a big studio. When the movie came and went without capturing the attention of the general public (and looking back, should we have been surprised?), I assumed that the PHANTASM series was done. So, imagine my delight when PHANTASM III was announced in the early 90s. The movie by-passed theaters as originally planned and debuted on home video. But, any PHANTASM movie is better than no PHANTASM movie, right?
Following a quick re-cap of the first two films, PHANTASM III opens following the finale of PHANTASM II. The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) is not dead, despite appearances at the end of PHANTASM II. Reggie (Reggie Bannister) and Mike (now played by original actor A. Michael Baldwin) escape from The Tall Man. Despite the fact that Mike is injured, an attack by a silver sphere causes Reggie to drag Mike from a hospital bed and take him home. Unfortunately, The Tall Man makes his move and takes Mike. Surprisingly, Mike's deceased brother, Jody (Bill Thornbury), (who was more or less absent from the second film), appears. Jody is controlled by The Tall Man, but has retained his good nature. Jody is able to direct Reggie on which way to go to find Mike.
Once on the road, Reggie meets a young boy named Tim (Kevin Connors), who lives by himself in a ghost town which was ravaged by The Tall Man. Despite the fact that he's a child, Tim can defend himself and assists on accompanying Reggie. While exploring a mausoleum, they discover Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry), a female ex-soldier named and convince her to join their gang. This unlikely trio follows The Tall Man's path, fighting evil creatures, in order to rescue Mike.
Every series has to have its low point, and for the PHANTASM series, it's PHANTASM III. Following PHANTASM and PHANTASM II, calling PHANTASM III anything by a disappointment would be folly. The movie retains the trademark PHANTASM look and feel, but it lacks the originality and dark tones which made the first two films landmarks.
Again, I was quite surprised when PHANTASM III after a six year absence, but it doesn't feel as if Coscarelli spent that time coming up with any new ideas. If any, PHANTASM III feels like a re-hash of PHANTASM II and the fact that Coscarelli transposes shots from one to the other doesn't help shake that feeling. Just as in PHANTASM II, this third entry is a road movie where Reggie travels cross-country in the HemiCuda following the path of The Tall Man. But, with Coscarelli working on a smaller scale, the things which Reggie encounters aren't as impressive. We get the requisite ball to the head, and an attack by the dwarves, and very little else.
And then we have the tone of the film. In short, PHANTASM III attempts to be a comedy at times, and I don't comedy from my PHANTASM movies. In PHANTASM II, we learned that Reggie likes the ladies -- fine, nothing wrong with that. But in III, he's become this super horndog who seems more interested in getting laid than in rescuing Mike. Instead of motivating the story, these scenes appear to be played solely for laughs and they hurt the film. The other odd move in tone are the two new characters, Tim and Rocky. With Tim, one gets the feeling that Coscarelli is trying to go back to PHANTASM with having a young boy fighting The Tall Man. The problem is that Tim is younger than Mike was in the first film and the effect is awkward. And Rocky, well, I don't really know what to say about this nunchuk wielding ex-soldier with a Grace Jones haircut. She simply seems out of place in every scene.
The PHANTASM series remains one of my favorites and I still consider Don Coscarelli to be one of the most inventive filmmakers working in horror. But, PHANTASM III just doesn’t deliver. The movie has some solid moments, such as Tim’s bizarre house and the finale, but the shift in feel doesn’t sit well with me. The movie is still better than most direct-to-video horror, but it’s the low-point in the series.
PHANTASM III flies onto DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fairly good, but it does have some issues. The picture is sharp and clear for the most part, but there is a fine sheen of grain on the image. The image is somewhat dark, which takes away from the clean digital look which the DVD should strive for. The image is crisp, but this dark look reminded me of a VHS look. The colors are fine, although they look slightly washed out in some scenes. There was little video noise or artifacting. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers some very nice stereo effects, which sound very good when action occurs off-screen. However, the surround sound effects are very discrete and there's very little in the way of subwoofer action.
The PHANTASM III DVD offers only a few extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from stars A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm. This seems like an odd choice as this pair appears in the film for only a brief period. (PHANTASM III arguably offers Mike and The Tall Man the least amount of screen-time of any film in the series.) Anyway, the commentary is certainly interesting, as the two PHANTASM veterans talk about not only the making of this film, but they discuss the overall PHANTAMS mythos as well. The DVD has one DELETED SCENE which runs about 10 seconds. It's a scene of Mike and Reggie being pursued by The Tall Man. I'm not sure where it would go in the film. "PHANTASM III: Behind-the-Scenes" (9 minutes) is strictly on-set video showing Coscarelli and co. at work. We get to see how some of the stunts and effects were done. The extras are rounded out by the TRAILER for PHANTAM III and PHANTASM as well.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©
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