Though not directed by Phantasm creator Don Coscarelli, the fifth and supposedly final film in the low-fi epic phranchise, Phantasm: Ravager, does sport a script co-written by Coscarelli, and it shows. On the page, this is an amazing return to the series that, for the first time, really, is focused entirely on Reggie (Reggie Bannister) and his perpetual mission to try and keep Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) safe while searching for his best friend Jody (Bill Thornbury). The film jumps back and forth between three different realities, although this is Phantasm, so the question of whether they’re realities or dreams is always at the phorefront, where Reggie has either just returned from the otherworldly wastelands he disappeared into at the end of Oblivion, has been rescued by Mike in a Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) -conquered post-apocalyptic future, or is an elderly dementia patient losing touch with reality in a senior care facility. As Reggie has been the audience surrogate in the series since the second film, and his lovable loser/dedicated monster-hunting warrior status has made him a fan-favorite over the decades, it’s nice to shift the focus away from the mysteries of why the Tall Man is obsessed with Mike and just focus on the emotional core that’s at the heart of every Phantasm film: loyalty to family. In fact, Reg is so dedicated to finding Jody and saving Mike, but at the same time is prone to attempting to seduce every attractive woman he meets (when he’s not shotgunning murderous spheres out of the air or yellow-blood-spewing monsters) that he really could be considered an older Dean Winchester. Or Dean is a younger Reg? Something like that. For phans of the series, there’s a lot to love here. Unfortunately, that comes at what might be the cost of new viewers. The film relies almost entirely on the nostalgia and affection that phans have for the franchise as a whole and really never attempts to expand and welcome a new audience (beyond a series of flashbacks at the very beginning which recaps what’s come before). And a new audience might not be willing to forgive the decidedly low-low-budget effects. For me, the lack of polish wasn’t a deal-breaker. I love no-budget horror and sci-fi, and the strength of the script, as well as the enthusiasm and sincerity of co-writer/director David Hartman, really made it clear that this was a labor of love. Plus, I’m one of those faithful followers who couldn’t wait to see Reg, Mike, and the Tall Man again. Angus Scrimm, who died this past January, returns to his signature role with a sense of legacy and just a little bit of pathos this time. Whether it’s because he knew he was in poor health or if it’s just an accident of timing, the Tall Man’s ruminations on death and loyalty are all the more bittersweet knowing Scrimm is gone. He’s one of those classic horror actors I really wish I could have met at a convention somewhere. By all accounts, he was a sweetheart who gave his all to the phans and he is definitely missed. Phantasm: Ravager is one of those films that really only works as a finale to a franchise. Its plot is intricately tied up in the twists and turns of all the films that came before and it’s so rough around the edges that modern horror fans raised on slick CG and multi-million dollar budgets might recoil. But this is ultimately a film about aging and dying; about getting left behind and clawing one’s way back to a semblance of respectability; about friendship and loyalty and the pain of saying goodbye. It’s nowhere near as good as it could have been with a little more money and with Coscarelli actually behind the camera, but it’s still a heartfelt tribute to all that came before. And ultimately, that’s more than enough for me. Phantasm: Ravager is available now in select theaters and on-demand. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.