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Monday, October 7, 2013

31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - Phantasm 2

By Adam Ruhl


Oh the Phantasm series, how you continue to confuse and astound me. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Don Cascarelli’s 1979 horror franchise, but even after many viewings of all four entries; I’m still at a loss to explain just what I saw. There’s a tall man hunting a boy, some murderous silver spheres, and creatures that appear to be Jawas with rabies. This is a master of horror at the top of his game and Scream Factory has given the star treatment to the series second entry with their Phantasm 2 Collector’s Edition Blu-ray.

Phantasm 2
The Film:
In case it’s been a long time since you’ve seen the first Phantasm, let me try to sum it up in one sentence. 13-year-old Mike Pearson joins up with his brother and an ice cream man to investigate a seven-foot-tall mortician “the Tall Man” who is killing people, stealing their bodies, and turning those bodies into alien midgets to serve as slaves on another planet; however in the end he wakes up and the ice cream man tells him it was all a bad dream that mike had to deal with the motorcycle death of his brother, but in another twist the Tall Man reappears and pulls Mike through a mirror.
Whew, and Phantasm 2 picks up right where part 1 left off. This time Reggie saves Mike from the end of the first film (He didn’t get out of the cockadoody car!) however Mike ends up institutionalized for seven years. During this time he transforms into the more heavily muscled actor James LeGros (a demand of the studio to replace Michael Baldwin from the first film) but immediately upon his release the Tall Man bombs the ice cream man’s house, killing his family.

This causes Mike and Reggie (ice cream man) to go on a revenge quest to hunt down the Tall Man and destroy him. The world they inhabit has this amazing dream-like quality as they pass through the film. There is often just a line of dialogue to transition between scenes so like a dream they zoom abruptly between situations. Mike and Reggie also seem to inhabit a world that is perpetually night or dusk, never having the safety of the day to hide in.

That tension is the heart of Coscarelli’s direction, you never feel safe in the world of Phantasm. He brilliant ratchets up the creeping dread until you expect something terrible to jump out around every corner.  Mixed in with that suspense is a twisted sense of humor (check the name on the cremation bag) and some stomach-churning,  silver-sphere gore that is a classic hallmark of the series.


The Disc:
This is the hardest section of this review for me to write so let me start with the honey. There is nothing technically wrong with this Blu-ray disc as far as presentation goes. The image is the best its ever been and it is completely possible to enjoy the movie. However, it looks as though the transfer has been scrubbed clean. I was hard pressed to see a single grain to indicate this movie was shot on film and there was likewise the subtle loss of detail in close ups that suggests digital filters. Most may not notice but if you’re a film purest this is a little distracting.
On top of that there is just slightest jostle in the print most evident during the opening title. There is also a little bit of ghosting during explosions at night. These elements are relatively minor (except for the scrubbing which is a pet peeve of mine) and this Collector’s Edition should be a must have item for horror and Don Coscarelli fans.  

The Features:
  • Audio Commentary with Director Don Coscarelli and actors Angus Scrimm and Reggie Bannister
  • The Ball is Back: The Making of Phantasm 2 – Watch This! Scream Factory has produced a wonderful doc that includes interviews with Director Don Coscarelli and actors Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Paula Irvine
  • The Gory Days
  • Two behind the Scenes Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Workprint Scenes – The workprint footage offers some great shots of effects rejected by the MPAA and the awkward deleted love scene.
  • TV Spots
  • Short film
  • Photo Galleries
  • Theatrical Trailers – Phantasm 1, 2, and 3


The Specs:
·         1080p Hi-Def widescreen 1.85:1
·         DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
·         DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
·         English-only Audio & Subtitles
·         Original Release: 1988
·         Runtime: 95 minutes
·         Rated R

Final Grades:

Story: B+ / Good follow up that delivers jumps and a lot of the creeping atmosphere of the original. I find the repeated cliffhanger ending a little frustrating.
Presentation quality: B- / A new high for the title but I have some reservations about the transfer
Scare factor: A / BOOOYYY!
Gore Factor: B / Silver Spheres making brain smoothies.
Repeat view-ability: B / Everyone should watch this Collector’s Edition at least once a year as part of a Phantasm marathon or just any old time.  
Add Phantasm 2 to your collection, click HERE!
Check out yesterday's Scream Factory review, The Island!

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