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Mike is released from psychiatry, when he agrees with the doctors that the terrible happenings in his past were just in his imagination. But once he's free, he contacts Redge and they team up to hunt down and eliminate the "Tall Man", who plunders the graveyards and abducts the sleeping with help of his terrible gnomes. A beautiful strange girl starts to appear in Mike's dreams. He assumes she's in danger and needs their help - will they find her before the Tall Man can do her any harm...?
For more about Phantasm II and the Phantasm II Blu-ray release, see Phantasm II Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on March 20, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Angus Scrimm, James LeGros, Reggie Bannister, Paula Irvine, Samantha Phillips, A. Michael Baldwin
Director: Don Coscarelli
» See full cast & crew
Phantasm II Blu-ray Review
"Having a ball: really, really wish you were here in my place".
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, March 20, 2013
Have you ever had a dream where you're dreaming in the dream? Usually these bizarre multi-layered experiences feature some level of lucidity, where you kind of know you're dreaming, and just as often, in the dream within the dream, you'll "wake up", only to discover later (when you really wake up), that in fact you had still been dreaming. Sometimes a kind of disturbing element will occur, where you are completely aware you're dreaming (even after you've supposedly "woken up"), but are helpless to prevent the dream from continuing, even if you are struggling mightily to rouse yourself. There's something akin to that last feeling running rampant through Phantasm II, a lo-fi horror effort from 1988 that was a rather late to the (embalming) table sequel to 1979's Phantasm. Phantasm II attempts to pick up more or less where Phantasm left off, but due to a variety of issues, including the recasting of one central role and an odd decision to not mimic the original film's production design, there's a disconnect in evidence from the first scene that fans of the first film have long had issues with. Those without any attachment to the first Phantasm will probably be more readily able to overlook those particular issues, but they may end up just as dissatisfied in the long run, for the film, while entertaining enough in its own small scale way, is often pretty confusing and convoluted, leaving a host of unanswered questions in its wake, rather like a half remembered dream (or nightmare) that you very thankfully finally wake up from.
Phantasm was a rather unexpected success when it was released in the late seventies, but writer-director Don Coscarelli wanted to prove he wasn't "just" a horror auteur and went on to other genres including The Beastmaster. Even Coscarelli admits (in the commentary featured on this Blu-ray) he wasn't quite prepared for quite how much attention had been paid to the first Phantasm by its rabid fan base, many of whom took issue with Coscarelli both for recasting the central role of Mike (played in this film by a young James LeGros, instead of the first film's A. Michael Baldwin), as well as some continuity gaffes created by not melding footage from the first film very well with new material. What might be more of a head scratcher for newcomers to this franchise is just what exactly is going on with regard to The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), the nefarious mortician who seems to be out to get Mike at any cost. In this film, he's also out to get the winsome Liz (Paula Irvine), a young psychic of sorts who has been having precognitive dreams, including some involving Mike. Unfortunately, Mike has been locked away in the looney bin (sorry, psychiatric facility) since the supposed wrap up of the first Phantasm, since everyone is convinced what happened in the first film took place entirely in the young boy's imagination.
Mike is contacted telepathically by Liz, and he manages to tell his examining psychiatrist exactly what the guy wants to hear, securing his release. Soon enough he has reunited with Reggie (Reggie Bannister) from the first film and ultimately manages to convince Reggie that The Tall Man is indeed after him (as well as Liz) and is making dead people into his slave dwarves (if you haven't seen the first film, just pretend you understand what's going on). There's a certain lack of logic in much of this setup, since it is distinctly at odds with at least some of what went down in the first Phantasm, but lo-fi horror outings like this one are rarely models of precise plotting and rational development.
Meanwhile Liz is absolutely convinced she is next on The Tall Man's target list, and wouldn't you know, she's absolutely right. She and Mike of course meet and pair up in an attempt to recover victims of the The Tall Man (including Liz's grandmother), leading to the convoluted but goofily enjoyable second act of the film, which sees the various characters traipsing around cemeteries, mortuaries and all sorts of mysterious places (including the alternate world seen in the first film). As one of the featurettes included on this Blu-ray mentions, while it's not an overly philosophical film (stop laughing, please), Phantasm II is obviously obsessed with death, and plays upon our innate fear of mortality in sometimes pretty artful ways (the scene where The Tall Man attempts to embalm Liz—who is still alive and conscious—is particularly disturbing).
It's kind of pointless to get too critically "astute" with a release like Phantasm II, because the film obviously doesn't take itself very seriously and is meant to deliver some chills and a few laughs without a lot of portentous content. In that regard, it's a smashing success, though one would hardly accuse it of being brilliantly written, performed or directed. It's a fun film, one which has gained a certain cachet with kids who grew up watching it on tv or in its early home video incarnations. Like a lot of childhood memories, though, revisiting Phantasm II from the perspective of adulthood may not be the completely rosy experience that some will be expecting.
Phantasm II Blu-ray, Video Quality
Phantasm II is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory (an imprint of Shout! Factory) with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Anyone who has ever wondered what the term "telecine wobble" means will have a perfect example in the opening few minutes of this film, rather incredibly including the Universal logo, which in this rendering seems to start on the wrong planet before panning madly to Earth (I exaggerate of course, but not by much). Once those issues are overcome, the elements here are in rather good condition overall. Colors are nicely saturated, and while the film has a general softness (something endemic to a lot of relatively low budget eighties fare), close-ups pop rather well and extreme close-ups offer appealing fine detail. There are some contrast issues here, especially in the many dark scenes, which hamper shadow detail at least a little bit. There may have been some modest DNR applied to this transfer, though fine grain is still quite apparent, especially in outdoor shots where it's readily visible in elements like the sky.
Phantasm II Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Phantasm II features DTS-HD Master Audio mixes in both 5.1 and 2.0. While the 5.1 mix does open things up in some key sequences, and offers some nice panning effects when the "ball" comes into play, overall the 5.1 offering is pretty front heavy, with only occasional foley effects and the score ever significantly penetrating the side and rear channels. Fidelity is very good, with dialogue cleanly and clearly presented, and dynamic range is quite wide.
Phantasm II Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Phantasm II Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I watched two horror Blu-rays back to back over the past day or so, this one and The Collection. Sometimes horror fans have taken me to task for what they perceive is a uniform dismissal of overly violent films, but (with all due deference), they completely miss the point of my critical umbrage. Violence is fine if it's done with a modicum of artistry and context. What I object to is the wholesale use of blood, gore and guts for nothing other than shock value. Few would accuse Phantasm II of being non-violent (though truth be told, at least some of its violence is of the goofy, cartoonish kind), and yet I rather enjoyed revisiting this film again after not having seen it for years. Objectively speaking the film is as full of logical holes as any good slice of Swiss cheese, but it is something that films like The Collection resolutely aren't: it's fun to watch. This Blu-ray offers good if unspectacular video and very good audio, and it comes replete with some superb supplements that should certainly please the film's many fans. With caveats noted, Phantasm II comes Recommended.
Phantasm II Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Phantasm II Blu-ray - January 25, 2013
Scream Factory, the horror-thriller offshoot of independent film distributor Shout Factory, has detailed its upcoming Blu-ray release of director Don Coscarelli's Phantasm II (1988), starring James LeGros, Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm. The release will be ...
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