DVD Review: “Phantasm: OblIVion”
Released By: Anchor Bay
Release Date: August 28, 2008
Number of Discs: 1
Approximate Running Time: 90 Minutes
Special Features: Audio Commentary with Don Coscarelli, Reggie Banister, and Angus Scrimm, Behind-The-Scenes Footage, Promotional Trailer
Suggested Price: $14.98
Almost twenty years after the release of the first film, the popular Phantasm series comes to a supposed conclusion with this fourth installment. Following the cliffhanger ending of the third chapter,Phantasm: Lord of the Dead, an injured and disturbed Mike flees into the wastelands with the Tall Man, Reggie and Jodie on his trail. Secrets behind the origin of the Tall Man and his relationship to brothers Jodie and Mike are revealed as a final grim showdown looms on the horizon.
The Fanboy Factor:
In 1979, a unique horror movie called Phantasm took the horror community by surprise and has continued to entertain successive generations. Few film series have endeared themselves to fans like Phantasm has, due in large part to the obvious enthusiasm of its cast and director Don Coscarelli. Audiences have grown up with Michael and Jodie Pearson and their loyal friend Reggie, the ass-kicking ice cream man, as they fight a seemingly hopeless battle to keep the alien known as the Tall Man from harvesting Earth’s dead for intergalactic slave labor.
Originally envisioned as the conclusion of the series, Phantasm OblIVion (the title was changed from Phantasm IV at the last minute when the distributor feared alienating potential viewers with a part four moniker) was a labor of love made on a depressingly small budget. The cast and crew squeeze every penny here and it really shows but who knows how spectacular a film this might have been with the proper funding it deserved. The highlight of this installment was also the deciding factor in getting the film made – stock footage. Don Coscarelli filmed almost three hours of footage for the original Phantasm, including multiple different endings, and these outtakes are put to very effective use in OblIVion. As Coscarelli points out on the commentary track, “…it was pretty cool considering, on the first day of shooting basically, we had already shot twenty-five percent of the movie”.
OblIVion does well as an additional installment but falls short as a final chapter. The Phantasm series has always had a very nightmare-like quality that doesn’t lend itself to concrete explanations. While it is entertaining to watch the talented Angus Scrimm play a different type of character as Jebediah Morningside, a turn of the century undertaker / scientist, the scenes are unsatisfactory in explaining the Tall Man’s origins. The film is at its best when reinforcing the relationship between Reggie and the two brothers that is the very heart of the franchise. One stand-out scene is a brief but touching look at what it might have been like for the three friends if the Tall Man had never entered their lives. This does wonders to remind the audience of the anger they must feel towards this alien and the true extent of the damage he has wrought. Fortunately, it appears that Phantasm V may be in the not too distant future!
The audio and video transfer on this DVD issue is excellent. Considering the limited amount of bonus material they had to work with, due to the budgetary constraints of the film and its direct-to-video release, the extras provided by Anchor Bay are very satisfying. The audio commentary is carried over from the 2005 version that was released in the UK as part of a five DVD set containing all four films and a special features DVD in a sphere-shaped case!
The Bottom Line:
Phantasm is a great film series that relies as much on story and characters as it does on action and special effects. Anyone who enjoyed the original will want to pick up this chapter, even if you haven’t seen the two intermediary installments (and you should!). Now if we could only get a US DVD release of the highly underrated Phantasm II!