Here we have another sequel where I remember virtually nothing about the original. I know I’ve seen it, and I know it was very weird. Little memory fragments did start to come back to me as I watched the sequel at least. Now I look forward to reflecting on Phantasm II in a few years and recalling little aside from the fact that I did indeed watch it, and that it was very weird.
Explaining the concept behind Phantasm is not too easy. With most horror franchises you can sum up the idea quite quickly. Friday the 13th = “dude in a hockey mask creatively kills teenagers”. A Nightmare on Elm Street “a guy kills you in your dreams and then makes terrible jokes about it”. Halloween = “guy in a painted William Shatner masks stabs people…until the 5th movie and then it gets real fucking stupid”. Phantasm breaks that rule though. You see Phantasm is about this demon/monster/alien mortician called The Tall Man. The Tall Man likes to take corpses and then crush them up so that they turn into these little dwarf/Jawa looking things that run around and do his bidding. Also he bleeds yellow. Oh and he also has these metal spiky ball machine things that fly around and stab people in the face. I don’t remember his overall motivations but his methods are clearly crazy fucking complicated.
Phantasm II is a true sequel in that it takes place right where the first movie ends. The first movie ends very close to the original Nightmare on Elm Street so you assume they’ll ignore that and tell a different story, but kudos to the movie, it actually tries to explain the ending to the first movie. I think. I’m still not sure if the whole first movie was a dream but it was a dream about real shit, or whether it really happened or….yeah I don’t know. Shit’s complicated man. So Phantasm II doesn’t give a shit about you if you haven’t seen the first movie as it just tosses you into the mix of all this insanity.
We got our hero Mike and his buddy Reggie (Mike calls him Reg but the subtitles show Redge…that seems wrong to me). Mike has spent the last 9 years in a mental hospital after the events of the first movie. He is released into Reggie’s care, Reggie’s house is blown up by The Tall Man because of reasons, so the two of them hit the road and start hunting him Supernatural style. They put together some pretty kick-ass weaponry, such as two shotguns straped together to make a quadruple barreled shotgun, and a homemade flamethrower.
The Tall Man leaves them messages, like a creepy face that comes out of a naked person’s back who Mike originally believes is this girl who he has been seeing in his dreams. Oh yeah that’s right. There’s another story happening concurrently about a girl who is afraid The Tall Man is going to take her Grandfather when he dies and she is psychically connected to Mike. Eventually they cross paths and then I think they bang. Also Mike has a vision of this brunette hitchhiker they meet, only she’s dead in the vision. She and Reggie definitely bang. Did I mention Phantasm is pretty fucked up?
I would say the overall strangeness of Phantasm II is what makes the movie worth watching. It doesn’t seem to have any rules or logic to anything so any sort of craziness can be whipped at you at any given time. It keeps you on your toes. One second a creepy baby face may pop out of a human back and laugh at Mike, and then a few minutes later you’re watching a flying metal ball bore through a Priest’s face. Also a ball smashes its way into a dude’s back and burrows its way through his entire body and out his mouth. I don’t remember the first movie being too gory, but there is definitely some decent bloodshed in the sequel.
What makes it more interesting is that all of this insanity is played completely straight. The characters don’t crack jokes about anything or throw out one-liners, this shit is played dead serious. There are some goofy eighties touches here and there, such as a montage of Mike and Reggie grabbing a bunch of weapons and gearing up Rambo style. But the whole thing is surprisingly humourless, though I can’t decide if that’s overall a good or bad thing.
I don’t think I have too much more to say about this one. Phantasm II may not be a terrific movie and I’m convinced that none of it makes a damn lick of sense, but it’s certainly not a boring one. There’s always something bizarre happening and they clearly had a higher budget to work with for this installment as the whole thing looks quite good. If you’re looking for something unique, I would say give this one a shot, though definitely watch the first one before jumping into this one as you will be absolutely lost.