Friday, October 14, 2011

A Frank Review of "Phantasm II" (1988)

The Short Version? The Balls Are Back.
What Is It? Horror-comedy.
Who Is In It? The usuals, -2, +1.
Should I See It? Yes.

Okay, you've got a low budget movie filmed in 1977, released in '79, and you're planning a studio sequel for 1988 just as the horror boom begins to wane. Today, it would be a remake. If you got Don Coscarelli to do it, and they did, he opens five minutes later despite a studio-forced recasting of one of the leads featured in footage spliced right into the new one. Crazy motherfucker makes it work, so long as you don't look too closely.

The timeline eventually moves forward seven years, which helps gloss over James LeGros taking over as Mike. He's got that thing going on where he's kind of handsome, yet kind of ugly, and his many screen credits would lead you to think his line delivery would be better. Reggie Bannister's gotten a lot better at same in the intervening years, and he's great as the balding ex-ice cream man/monster hunter. It is very clear that Coscarelli had seen the Evil Dead pictures, including a brief shout to Sam Raimi by name, and the influence shows up repeatedly in this film. Few would call that a bad thing, and in fact many of the borrowed techniques are perfectly applied to the deadly spheres that are a trademark of the series. While this may have been one of the cheapest movies Universal Pictures ever released, what got spent is all on the screen. Quadruple-barreled sawed-off shotguns, much improved zombie dwarves, killer ball tricks, far higher quality full frontal nudity... it's a gonzo hillbilly delight.

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