When I saw “Phantasm” at a drive-in theater in 1979, I didn’t have much sense of what the future held. That’s not really what drive-ins were for.
But if I had thought about the future, I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that there would be a “Phantasm” sequel released in 2016. Here, incredibly, it is.
Part 5 in the series, “Phantasm: Ravager” is appropriately obsessed with the past. If Marcel Proust had written this movie, he’d call it “In Search of Lost Time,” although if Proust had written a “Phantasm” movie, we would be living in a much crazier world than the one depicted on screen.
“Phantasm” creator Don Coscarelli (who also did the hilarious “Bubba Ho-Tep”) returns as co-writer on this one, handing the directing reins to David Hartman. The cast, however, is reassuringly the same.
It’s been a while since 1998’s “Phantasm IV: Oblivion,” so everybody looks older; most of the main actors have been around since the first “Phantasm.” This is pretty effective. Whatever our heroes have been up to, fighting evil has really taken its toll.
We meet Reggie (Reggie Bannister) in a splendidly kick-ass opening sequence. He wanders out of the desert, and in short order regains custody of his ‘71 Plymouth Barracuda. Reggie needs a muscle car like Batman needs a cape.
The film’s story reunites Reggie with old pardner Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) in what appear to be different realms of reality. Maybe Reggie is losing his mind and imagining all this.
Or maybe that’s what the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) wants him to believe. This was one of the last roles for the spooky Mr. Scrimm, who has haunted this series since the beginning (he died in January, age 89).
It is reassuring to note that he is still a formidable source of evil, and that he still looks like his idea of a Sunday outing would be to dig up corpses down at the boneyard.
The treats of this movie are for those who have memorized the “Phantasm” universe. I’m not sure it will actually make sense even for them, but that’s hardly the point. This is all about touching base with old pals, and moving them one step closer to … whatever. Maybe we’ll find out what it all means in another 37 years.
“Phantasm: Ravager” (2 stars)
The fifth installment of Don Coscarelli’s “Phantasm” franchise retains the main actors (although this is the last one for the late Angus Grimm, the ominous villain); it also keeps the bewildering storytelling intact. This one’s for devoted followers only.
Rating: Not rated; probably R for violence, language
Showing: Grand Illusion theater