1988 - R - 97 Mins.
|Director: Don Coscarelli|
|Producer: Roberto A. Quezada|
|Written By: Don Coscarelli|
|Starring: James Le Gros, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm, Paula Irvine, Samantha Phillips, and Kenneth Tigar |
|Review by: John Ulmer
Quentin Tarantino once said that the reason he dislikes so many films from the eighties and nineties is because of the fact that much of the dialogue always seemed forced, as if it existed primarily to move the plot along.
Now that's an excedrin headache
Such is the case with "Phantasm II," which has some of the worst exchanges of dialogue I have ever heard. Sometimes the actors seem too embarrassed to finish their sentences, such as when Reggie sees his girlfriend pull up in a car right after narrowly escaping certain doom, and whispers, "Okay, everybody, get in the car, Alchemy is here..." and the words sort of trail off amidst the action.
Or how about when the two main characters are at a graveyard, dressed in black and wearing ridiculously silly "Men in Black" sunglasses. "I'm sorry, Reggie," Mike says in regards to those who have died. Then Reggie puckers up his lips into a grimace and says, "Let's go. We've got stuff to do." Watch his face when he says this. He has to keep from laughing.
Then there's a classic scene where Reggie escapes from a car explosion triggered by the villain, gets to his feet, stares at Mike and says, "Let's kick some ass." I nearly fell on the floor laughing. Yep, it's that bad. It doesn't sound very terrible, but with the direction and music overlapping the infamous actors, it's just about horrendous enough that I will cherish it forever. This is the type of scene I wish I could record and label as "One of the Worst Scenes Ever," then tuck away in my video collection whenever I'm in need of a good laugh. This is "Mystery Science Theater 3000" material. I came up with an abundance of jokes just watching "Phantasm II," and if there's ever a sequel to "MST3K," let's hope they pick this to spoof.
From beginning to end it's a huge mess and an affront to all viewers.
The original "Phantasm" was released in 1979, filmed on a low budget and starring a kid named A. Michael Baldwin. So with nine years to get ready for a sequel, one would think that the director -- Don Coscarelli -- might try to improve the visual effects, screenplay, story, etc. Nope. This movie has horrendous visuals; when a girl is thrown across a room, we can see the dummy attached to strings on a small miniature. It's something I'd expect a film student to construct, not a mainstream director (and especially not in a sequel). "Terminator 2" this is not.
The movie's villain, The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), isn't scary or witty or mysterious or any of the qualities that usually describe a good villain. He walks around with a weak presence, as if he's yet another character on-screen. He's supposed to be the unattainable to these characters who seek vengeance, but keeping him hidden in shadows would have been a much more effective technique. One of the biggest rules of the horror genre is that you cannot portray your villains as typical characters. "Candyman" wasn't a great movie, but it was freaky because of how little it managed to show. The Candyman himself was sort of mystical and strange; we never really got a good look at him.
The Tall Man's agenda is to rob graves. In the first movie he got caught up in the life of Mike (now played by James Le Gros), who found out that The Tall Man had the ability to craft super-cool spherical objects that fly around a room with heat-vision, then find their targets and bore drills into your brain, spurting blood out a hole on the opposite side. The same happens here, and the climax of the movie is spent watching the characters run around being pursued by laughably idiotic shiny spheres. You start to feel sorry for poor Reggie Bannister.
"Phantasm II" is quite simply one of the most atrocious horror movies I have ever seen. I'd expect to see something of this quality on a straight-to-TV channel. In one scene, Mike and Reggie find themselves in another dimension, being chased by some sort of mutant baby. This other dimension is filmed using a strobe effect -- the same sort of strobe effect that any average Joe is capable of applying on a handheld video camera.
Sequences like this are what make "Phantasm II" insanely, laughably bad. There are no surprises in store here; all the characters are clichéd, their dialogue is clichéd, the love interests and sex scenes are clichéd. The only thing I came close to enjoying was the very end, which was not only unexpected but kept me thinking for a while afterwards. I wish the rest of the movie were like that.