Phantasm 2 (Scream Factory)
Directors - Don Coscarelli
Cast - Reggie Bannister, James LeGros
Country of Origin - USA
Discs - 1
Distributor - Shout Factory
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 04/10/13
The Film (4/5)
1979's Phantasm was a runaway hit for director Don Coscarelli. The film melded bizarro horror and science fiction into an eclectic film cocktail that audiences seemingly went bananas over. As with any hit film in the horror genre a sequel was all but assured, however, Coscarelli not wanting to be typecast as a horror director wanted to make films in other genres before continuing down the horror route with Phantasm 2. To this end he only ended up making the sword and sandal epic the Beastmaster before making Phantasm 2.
Coscarelli created something truly interesting with the Phantasm series. In a way the 4 entries are almost like Truffaut's Doinel cycle only applied to a mind-melting blend of science fiction and horror. The films follow a pair of characters Reggie and Mike from the 1978 first entry to the 4th entry Oblivion and throughout utilize elements and footage from prior entries in unique and interesting ways to create not just a unique narrative style, but also a certain life cycle for the characters that certainly feels unique to the genre.
It is in this regard, however, that Phantasm 2 is sort of the red-headed stepchild of the series. That is not to say this a lesser film, in fact it maybe the very best Phantasm film following the first film. However, with the casting of James LeGros as Mike (in place of A. Michael Baldwin who played the role in the 1st, 3rd and 4th film), and a more mid-80's action film sensibility at play it certainly stands apart from the other films that run alongside it.
The film is less esoteric, and much more straightforward then other films in the franchise, but it still retains the qualities that make it very much a Phantasm film. That being said this certainly feels like a Phantasm film for the 80's. While the latter 2 films (especially Oblivion) go back to the mind-games of the first. It appears Coscarelli decided to take Universal's money, and throw it all up on screen creating the Fangoria magazine readers version of Phantasm with a good deal of action as stated earlier, but also amazingly detailed practical gore FX from an in there goopy prime KNB FX Group.
Phantasm 2 picks up mere minutes after the first film ends. Jody is dead, and Mike and Reggie make the decision to leave Morningside on a road trip. Mike goes upstairs to pack, but is intercepted by The Tall Man. In an effort to save Mike, Reggie ends up blowing up the house grabbing Mike and jumping out the window.
The film picks up 8 years later. Mike has been in a local mental institution for that time, and has now convinced the higher-ups that he is sane, and the visions of the events that occurred 8 years ago were just in his mind. Of course, upon getting out he begins to dig graves trying to find evidence of the Tall Man. Reggie finds him, and goes to take him home for a special dinner, when his house blows up AGAIN, and the Tall Man wanders out. Reggie and Mike left with nothing in this world but a Hemicuda and each other decide to hit the road in search of the Tall Man, and to stop him by any means necessary.
Scream Factory have presented Phantasm 2 in a truly fantastic 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the films original aspect ratio, and bringing it nicely into the HD age. The film has an extremely nice color palette, decent blacks (there are some minor contrast issues, but overall blacks are nice and solid), and very good fine detail. This is best experienced in close-ups. The only downside to the transfer that I can really pick on is some softness that occurs throughout, primarily in exterior sequences, but it is noticeable elsewhere as well. This does not appear to be a fault of the transfer itself, but more due to the nature of the production, and is very much in line with other films of the time period (I've noticed a lot of 80's films have a certain softness to them, so it's probably the film stock available to these productions).
Scream has provided 2 audio options in the form of DTS-HD Master Audio tracks in both 5.1 and 2.0 (Both English). Both tracks are very good, but for my viewing I tended to stick to the 2.0 track. The dialogue on the track comes through nice, loud, and cleanly. The music and sound effect similarly sound excellent. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Scream Factory have put together a completely fantastic package together for their release of Phantasm 2. The last DVD release of the film was barebones, and so anything would have been an improvement. This, however, is a massive slate for a film that got such an under-whelming treatment on the last go-around. The disc kicks off with a commentary track featuring Director Don Coscarelli who is paired up with actors Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm. We then get a 46 minute documentary on the making of the film entitled the Ball is Back. No gory FX film from the 80's would be complete without something on the creation of the splatter, and here we get a 22 minute documentary featurette the Gory Days that details FX artist Greg Nicotero, and his contributions to the FX on Phantasm 2. We also have some archival Behind The Scenes material, and an Encyclopedia Brittanica Short Film featuring Rory Guy (aka Angus Scrimm). The disc is rounded off by deleted scenes, workprint scenes, TV spots, trailers, and a stills gallery.
Phantasm 2 is both the odd-man out and one of the best films of the Phantasm franchise (probably the best behind the first). The film is an action packed gory, esoteric, and fun ride. The A/V restoration courtesy of Scream Factory is slightly flawed but fantastic, and the extras really push this one over the top. The Blu-ray release of Phantasm 2 comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.