Phastasm is a great film – only it’s great because it’s clearly not great at all. It’s all over the place really and makes about zero sense. Nevertheless, it’s a trip that I don’t mind taking whenever it’s on.
Angus Scrimm, who plays the film’s antihero, the Tall Man, gives his own interpretation of its meaning in an interview for the LA Times as, “give[ing] expression to all [young boys’] insecurities and fears” and that the theme was one of loss and how one boy handles it.
Yeah. That could be it. Or it could be a psychedelic horror trip with a ghastly old, tall man of amazing strength who has some bizarre hobbies like robbing graves and using the bodies to construct evil little goblins – jawas pretty much – to serve him. John Muir, a literary critic (of a sort) says that Phantasm II retains the original film’s theme of (air quotes) dealing with loss (air quotes) But what he means by that is that is this time the heroes get to fight with flame throwers and chainsaws and there’s even a golden ball that flies around killing people (in the original film, there was only the silver balls killing people – so this is different.
Phantasm II opens just where Phantasm finished. We’re given a bit of review (because that was required in a time when you couldn’t just watch anything you wanted whenever you wanted) and then leaps ahead some years.
Mike, the center of the story, is forced to bend the truth to a counselor at his psych ward in order to be let out, and five minutes later, he’s in a cemetery digging up graves … because that’s what sane people do. Lucky for Mike, his Ice Cream Truck-driving friend, Reggie, is always there to lend a hand when it’s needed. He manages to remain skeptical for about three minutes and then agrees that it’s time to face the undead (?) with a custom four barrel shotgun.
There’s also some dream communication that might have been explained somewhere along the way, but really… does it matter? Answer: No. It’s really just a fancy ESP way to get laid with someone you’ve never met before in real life.
Somehow Samantha Phillips drops in to seduce Reggie because otherwise he would have to sit around and act like it’s all cool while little Mikey hooks up with the dream girl. Instead, Reggie gets someone who appreciates his baldness and doesn’t care that she’s about as far out of his league as an MLB MVP is from the Bad News Bears. It’s difficult to see any other purpose to her character.
In the end, you might expect this to be the end of the Phantasm franchise – Spoiler: it ends with the Tall Man getting pumped full of embalming fluid spiked with HCl and then having his home burnt down around him, but Another Spoiler: it’s not.
I give the film one Burnt and Mangled Thumb up for it’s disregard of plot or substance. In the end, it actually made more sense than the original without losing any of its power as a half-baked cult film.