Thursday, October 22, 2009

Horrorathon Day 21: PHANTASM II (Don Coscarelli, 1988)

The best thing about watching any film from the past, is that you inevitably uncover influences they have had on contemporary cinema. It struck me while watching Phantasm II, a pretty awesome flick, that Zombieland is essentially the same film, just a much lamer version. In Phantasm II, Mike (James LeGros) seeks vengeance on The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) after the destruction of the first film; he lies to gain his release from a mental asylum, and it's the sort of film that doesn't ask to be reasoned, meaning his release is just a means to get him back in the The Tall Man's pursuits. He teams up with older friend Reggie (Reggie Banister). There's a standard scene where they build an arsenal, with chainsaws, quadruple barrel-shotguns, grenades and a custom-made flamethrower. It's a typical scene for an on-the-road action/horror film, but then this film is all about set pieces, not any coherent tone sustained throughout.

And it is indeed the set pieces that make the film worthwhile, given its lack of significance on any other level. This includes The Tall Man's big flying killer balls (does he have a patent on those things?) which deftly impale, suck and drain brain juice, or blood. For some reason, The Tall Man has yellow blood. It's that kind of film; if you get hung up on the particulars, which don't really mean anything or denounce it for its genre elements, such as playful brutality and exploitation, then it could be pretentiously discarded (Ebert, I'm looking at you). But if a stick isn't lodged too far in your ass, you'll have great fun with Phantasm II.

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