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Phantasm III: Lord Of The Dead (1994)

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Overall Rating 56%
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Ranked #3,710
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Connections: Phantasm

The Tall Man, that imposing menace from Morningside Mortuary, is back and once again haunting the thoughts of the now-adult Mike and his friend, ex-Ice Cream vendor Reggie. The two continue their hunt for the mysterious figure and in his path of destruction encounter a variety of dangerous situations, friends and enemies. --TMDb
Reggie Bannister
Reggie Bannister
A. Michael Baldwin
A. Michael Baldwin
Bill Thornbury
Bill Thornbury
Gloria Lynne Henry
Gloria Lynne Henry
Kevin Connors
Kevin Connors
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Review by Chad
Added: March 09, 2010
It may hurt my "horror geek cred" to admit this, but up until this past weekend, I have never sat down with any of the Phantasm movies. Regardless of the "classic" status of the series amongst the horror community, there just wasn't anything about them that intrigued me enough to pick them up. I recently decided to remedy that, and it pains me to say that it's been a colossal disappointment. The surrealistic stylings of the first movie was enjoyable enough, but a classic? I just didn't see what the fuss was about. The sequel was a fine follow-up and was entertaining in a campy sort of way, but again, a classic? Not in my book. Nevertheless, I popped in the third film today to see if this is where the magic happened, and my word... this is where I just want to write the series off.

We pick up immediately where the previous film left off, where we discover that Reggie (Reggie Bannister) suffered only minor wounds to the face (not the certain death that was implied), Liz is dead ("screw you Universal, I didn't want her in my movie!"), and Mike (once again played by A. Michael Baldwin - "screw you again Universal, I hated James LeGros!") has been kidnapped by The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and his band of merry dwarfs. This prompts Reggie to journey across the state in search of his little buddy, and along the way, he meets up with a few sidekicks who will aid him in his quest. There's Tim (Kevin Connors), a kid straight out of the Home Alone universe who hasn't even hit puberty yet but can drive a hemicuda and score a head-shot from a mile away, and there's also Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry), a black female militant ninja who... yeah, she's a black female militant ninja.

Of course, these new characters who are aiding Reggie convince The Tall Man that he needs to step up his game as well, so he disposes of the cloaked dwarfs and breaks out a pair of zombified, blingified, white trash mobsters and their prostitute girlfriend. This trio will be chasing our heroes across the state, our heroes will hunt down Mike, and yes, there's even a surprise in the form of Jody (Bill Thornbury), Mike's older brother who died in the first movie. His spirit is now trapped inside one of those deadly spheres, but thankfully for Reggie and crew, they are able to tame this particular sphere, carry it around with them, and communicate with Jody's spirit through it.

Now, I'm no novice when it comes to horror, so I know the way the genre works. Somebody comes up with a brilliant idea and makes a movie with it, that movie makes a few dollars at the box office, and the studio bigwigs decide that sucking on that teat a little more would line their pockets. That's fine. The Friday the 13th series is the embodiment of this mindset, and I enjoyed every last one of those movies. These sequels rarely bring anything new to the table in terms of furthering the storyline or fleshing out the characters, but they are at least enjoyable on their own accords. This is where Phantasm III fails: it does nothing to further the storyline of the series other than bringing back a character that we didn't need back in the first place, it's way too silly to be taken seriously, and it's just not a very entertaining movie.

Don Coscarelli is a fan of Sam Raimi, and this showed in the previous film. There were nods to his movies, his style was borrowed in subtle fashions, and yes, his name even showed up on the baggie containing the ashes of some random victim. This is nothing to fault the man for, as Raimi was a fairly big name in the horror genre in those days, and to bitch about every movie that borrowed from his work would get a little repetitive. Here, however, Coscarelli just says "fuck it" and flat out rips Army of Darkness off by mixing slapstick, comedy, and gore together in the exact way that Raimi perfected. I enjoy Coscarelli's work and think that he's a fine director, but he can not imitate Raimi's style. I am a casual fan of the previous Phantasm movies, but the story found in them does not work with this type of material. It's almost as if Coscarelli saw the aforementioned Army of Darkness and thought that combining that style of movie with a beloved horror figure such as The Tall Man would spell serious bucks. It didn't work.

As a final disappointment, the characters do nothing to salvage the film. Kevin Connors should have never been allowed on set, but to be fair, the character that he was playing should have never been written into the script. Gloria Lynne Henry is mediocre at best, and again, her character should have been scrapped entirely. A. Michael Baldwin and Bill Thornbury are back to reprise their roles from the first movie, but both of them are completely phoning it in here. Baldwin in particular was a disappointment: how'd he go from "above average child actor" to "atrocious adult actor"? Doesn't it usually work out the other way around? Reggie Bannister is the only one that I enjoyed watching, but even his character wasn't spared from the bad decision making. You can point to the two previous movies and see that he enjoyed the company of ladies, but his love of the female form is taken to comical levels here. Scene after scene finds his character hounding Rocky for a little "jungle fever", and trust me when I say that it gets old and fast.

Avoid at all costs. The movie does nothing to further the story set up in the previous films and is content to simply go through the motions, and if said motions were at least enjoyable to watch, then maybe I could give the movie a nod. They're not though, and in fact, there's not much positive that I can say about the movie. The gore is weak, the acting is horrific, the story goes nowhere, the musical score is ripped directly from the previous film, and the entire thing left me really not wanting to waste a night on Phantasm IV. 2/10, and I'm really not even sure why I went that high... pity, maybe.
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