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John’s Horror Corner: Phantasm V: Ravager (2016), an unworthy apocalyptic end to a once great franchise.

June 27, 2017

MY CALL:  This is the only film in the series I didn’t like at all. Completely uninspired, yet still boasting our favorite characters reunited yet again and some nice ideas that find only the poorest execution.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Phantasm V: RavagerThere is little out there that compares to these films, so I’ll just suggest starting with Phantasm (1979) and Phantasm II (1988)—both of which are far better—and only then perhaps should one venture the subsequent sequels Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994), which paled in comparison to parts 1-2, and Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998), which finally started to offer us some answers to the mysteries behind the Tall Man.

With a filmography almost entirely composed of animated children’s series, director David Hartman (Transformers Prime, My Friends Tigger & Pooh, Jackie Chan Adventures, Astro Boy) is a rather “interesting” choice to follow up the four previous Phantasm films from the mind of writer/director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm 1-4, The Beastmaster, Bubba Ho-Tep).  About now you might be hypothesizing about what talents or perspective he might bring to the table.  I’ll save you the trouble… the answer is none at all.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998) revealed something of a time travel loop, resulting in Mike (A. Michael Baldwin; Phantasm 1-5) being left presumably for dead now that the sphere (with his brain probably inside according to Lord of the Dead) was removed by the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm; Phantasm 1-5, Subspecies, Wishmaster).  Now in Ravager, Reggie (Reggie Bannister; Phantasm 1-5, Wishmaster) has been searching the American wastelands for nearly two decades in search of Mike and the Tall Man.

Toying with the notions of time travel, dreams and alternate dimensions, we switch back and forth between a “possible” future and present (maybe two presents).  In one of these times/dimensions, Reggie is older and senile.  He tries to explain the whole Phantasm story to Mike, who visits him and explains that he was found wandering the desert like Moses with dementia.  In another, he’s joining freedom fighters against the Tall Man, his dwarves and his now giant balls in a post-apocalyptic war zone.

We cover some familiar plot points of parts 2-4—most notably when Reggie picks up a cute hitchhiker (Dawn Cody) much younger than him and tries to sleep with her.  Also, like parts 3-4, there are some rather zany scenes, among them is a neat visit from the Lady in Lavender (Kathy Lester; Phantasm 1 & 3) and a curious sighting of a giant silver sphere.

So now we find ourselves almost 20 years after Oblivion (1998) and despite all technological advancements these evil CGI balls just don’t measure up to the metal spheres of the early films.  Don’t even get me started on the just plain stupid death scenes—all from lame ball impalements and lame ball blood spews that don’t look as good as parts 1-3… or boring gunplay.  Moreover, this is easily the worst written and least inspired installment of the series.  The camera shots are lame and basic, and the “television movie” atmosphere is akin to an R-rated movie on the Hallmark or Lifetime Network.

But let’s appreciate the “good” here.  While, I must sadly admit this is the only Phantasm movie I didn’t enjoy, there were some cool attempts at meshing the same characters across different dimensions along a linear timeline.  I felt that it didn’t work, but the thought was there.  My understanding (from gleaning the IMDB trivia page) is that portions of this were originally a web-series picking up the story after Oblivion (1998), and then they decided to film more content and string it together as a film.  This was simultaneously a great and terrible idea.  Great in continuing to develop the story, terrible in having such a low budget that nothing looked good.

Overall, this was not good.  I found it quite disappointing even as a major fan of the franchise.  The best thing about this film was the ongoing reunion of A. Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm, Bill Thornbury and Reggie Bannister from 1979 to 2016.

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