Phantasm & Phantasm III Don Coscarelli

Phantasm & Phantasm III Don Coscarelli
Few horror films, or movies in general, can boast the kind of imagination and fun that run through Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm series. As the title suggests, it’s a psychologically menacing picture that delves as much into the fantasy genre as it does horror. It begins when 13-year-old Mike (Michael Baldwin) explores a funeral home after the death of his brother’s friend. There he observes a sinister undertaker (Angus Scrimm’s "tall man”) and a gang of evil dwarves stealing corpses, and things take a turn for the worse once he is discovered. He quickly discloses the crime to his brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) and friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) and the three of them begin a madcap mission, dodging cranium drilling spheres and giant insects, to stop the evil from advancing. Unfortunately, a larger studio bought the rights to the first sequel and currently is holding it hostage — hence its absence — but Phantasm III is a surprisingly coherent addendum that, unlike its predecessor, brings back the original actors to try and finish off that pesky towering villain. Loopier and gorier, it sometimes falls into the trappings of ’80s horror (i.e., the never-ending chase to kill the baddie, exploiting the franchise’s comedic potential) but with a skullet-sportin’ hero like Reggie kickin’ ass it’s hard not to drop some jokes and have some fun. Debuting in 1979 — the same era as Halloween and Friday the 13th — Phantasm easily got lost but it’s a crucial document of the horror genre, largely because there’s nothing else like it. Original, creepy and amusing at all the right moments, it’s a series that works in odd numbers, making these two films here fit like a glove. The only notable addition to the extras that accompanied 2003’s MGM version of the original is a featurette called "Phantasmagoria,” yet it makes for enjoyable viewing thanks to new interviews with the cast and crew. The reissue of III has a decent behind the scenes featurette and a commentary by Baldwin and Scrimm, yet not the talkative Coscarelli, which feels like a major loss considering how colourful he is on the first. Plus: trailers, deleted scenes. (Anchor Bay)