The other day I was overjoyed to find that Phantasm: Ravager had been released digitally. The fifth and final film of the series is overall a love letter to the fans of the truly cult movies.
I was lucky enough to see Director Don Coscarelli’s original Phantasm at the 62 Drive-In of my youth. That was back in 1979. So for 37 years now I have followed his series – and totally enjoyed the almost fever dream aspects of his storytelling. The movies constantly keep you on your toes, doubting the very reality the characters are experiencing at every turn.
For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the movies, in a nutshell, it concerns three friends. Jody Pearson, his younger brother Mike, and their pal Reggie. These three cross paths with an imposing character – a mortician that they call the Tall Man.
Almost immediately their lives are in danger as they stumble on the dark goings on at the Morningside Mortuary being supervised by the Tall Man.
The Tall Man has some creepy dwarf assistants – think evil Jawas. The most dangerous weapons at the Tall Man’s disposal though…besides his shape-changing abilities and immense strength, are the sentinels. Those are the names given to the silver and deadly balls he can unleash on victims – probably one of the more iconic visuals from the films.
Mike, played by A. Michael Baldwin, finds himself throughout the series continuously on the run and challenging the dark designs of the Tall Man, played by the late great Angus Scrimm. Now Mike also has some aid and that is Reggie (Reggie Bannister), who has his own bone to pick with the Tall Man. I personally believe that Reggie was the prototype for Ash from The Evil Dead movies.
Now let’s talk about Phantasm: Ravager!
Phantasm: Ravager actually had a shot at being a web based series. Following the adventures of Reggie as he searched for where the Tall Man had taken Mike. They apparently shot it all in secret – finishing principal photography in 2013. This was all done by not Don Coscarelli but David Hartman – a true fan of the films and it shows. The inclusion of these ‘shorts’ fits into the questioning of reality in this outing, fits it like a glove.
A new wrinkle is thrown into the premise of the series in that Reggie wakes up to find himself a patient of a hospital. Mike is there to support his dearest friend. We fans are hit with the information that the film series might actually be a hallucination – a symptom of advanced dementia. Reggie isn’t completely buying this though and to be fair the movie does it’s best to give you reasons to doubt this revelation.
And then once again it leads you to doubt what you might believe to be going on.
There is certainly one thing you shouldn’t doubt. I am talking of course of the acting ability of the main cast – Angus Scrimm in particular. He is in the movie more than you might expect and…look…he could be reading the phone book and sound amazing.
There are some INCREDIBLY emotional moments throughout the film. Director David Hartman and co-writer Don Coscarelli as well as the actors made this for the fans. It is that simple. While it is true the movie is most definitely low budget (series always has been) it is head and shoulders above what is being offered on the SyFy channel. It has laughs a plenty as that is how Reggie’s character rolls plus a few solid scares as well.
In all honesty it isn’t perfect. But it gets right more than it fails. If you like the series I highly doubt you will be disappointed by it. It is available digitally right this very minute – I also think there is a small theatrical run for Ravager starting this Friday. Why not check out the official Phantasm site for the latest information and merchandise?