Phantasm II [Blu-Ray] Don Coscarelli

Phantasm II [Blu-Ray] Don Coscarelli
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This is the release feverish fans of the follow-up to Don Coscarelli's surreal cult classic have been waiting for. Finally available in hi-def, the Blu-Ray restoration of Phantasm II not only looks great, it's crammed full of excellent special features. With the highest production values of any entry in the campy, death-centric franchise, it makes sense that this nightmare road-trip movie is the first to be gussied up for a "Collector's Edition." The further adventures of Mike and Reggie, as they pursue the mysterious, otherworldly undertaker (aka the Tall Man) and his army of demented killer dwarves and other assorted gooey monstrosities across small town America, is subject to the often unfortunate law of sequels: everything is bigger, gorier and streamlined. Unlike, say, James Cameron's Aliens though, this approach was less the director's vision and more a result of studio pressure to make an action-horror picture that would be easier to follow than the non-linear reality bending of the first. Mastermind Don Coscarelli, with contributions from essential players Reggie Bannister (who plays the balding, gun-toting ladies' man he shares a name with) and Angus Scrimm (the Tall Man himself), explains the history of this seminal horror oddity; he minces no words about Universal's strict guidelines in extensive supplemental feature "The Ball is Back." Never intended to stretch beyond the first film, Coscarelli was convinced to tackle this sequel nine years after the original due to fan interest and a friendly climate for horror pictures during Tom Pollock's tenure at Universal. To secure a massively increased budget (a whole three million!), Coscarelli had to make minor concessions in tone (the plot had to be relatively straightforward) and casting (Bannister had to audition to keep his role, and the role of Mike had to go to a working actor). Oddly enough, Brad Pitt auditioned, but James LeGros (Drugstore Cowboy) ultimately got the gig. Most of this informative extra is comprised of freshly shot interviews concerned with production politics, but it also includes a plethora of behind-the-scenes footage involving the film's stellar practical effects. "The Gory Days" goes into even more detail regarding the creative creature design and inventive gore, with a lengthy interview with the head designer: the great Greg Nicotero (of Evil Dead 2 and The Walking Dead fame). Some minor deleted scenes restored from 35mm film are included, along with alternate and extended scenes from the original work print. Still more raw on-set footage is compiled in "Behind the Scenes," including stunt work, additional special effects, the massive house explosion and scenes of the Tall Man in action. Speaking of Angus Scrimm, a rare, old educational film made by Encyclopaedia Britannica starring the iconic horror actor as Abraham Lincoln is randomly included. A few TV spots, theatrical trailers and still galleries are thrown in as well, but it's the feature commentary with Coscarelli, Bannister and Scrimm (as himself and in character as the Tall Man) that will appeal to fans hungry for more loose talk about the film and a few teases about the potential for a fifth and final instalment. Until then, or until the rest of the series is finally reissued, enjoy the definitive version of this bizarre, unique and highly entertaining piece of horror history. (Shout! Factory)