A quick search reveals Reggie Bannister’s name has come up on this blog a few times before. It’s because he’s one of my favorite screen presences—the Robert Duvall, if you will, of horror. In the first Phantasm his character (also named Reggie) was relegated to the role of goofy sidekick. This time he’s more or less the star, getting even more screen time than the alleged main character. You’ll see Reggie’s name oft mentioned on horror forums too. There’s just something about his unassuming persona that weirdos like me like to see in movies.
Yesterday I said Phantasm II was my favorite in the series when I was growing up, but most of its creativity was established in the first film, which certainly had enough world-building to spare for a sequel. It’s hard for me to remain objective, however, when Phantasm II has that 80s horror look that takes me back more than any other genre and/or style. This is the first time I’ve seen it on anything other than VHS and the movie looks stunning.
The sequel picks up exactly where the last one left off, concocting a conclusion to the earlier cliffhanger which involves Reggie blowing up his own house in order to save Mike’s life. The film skips forward several years to show Mike (played by James Le Gros this time around) is all grown up now and getting released from a mental institution. Reggie picks him up from the institution, but on his way home his house explodes again, thereby freeing Reggie from the shackles of family and motivating him to assist Mike’s plight to murder the Tall Man. Awfully convenient, isn’t it? Hey, at least the movie doesn’t waste too much time getting to the good stuff.
So Mike’s been having visions about the Tall Man for years. He’s been psychically linked, somehow, to a blonde by the name of Liz (Paula Irvine) who shares his visions. I’m not sure why or how this happened, but the pair have fallen in love long before ever meeting—again, skipping the boring parts of standard films. Meanwhile Reggie, fresh from the funeral of his wife and kids, also finds love in the form of a banging brunette they meet on the side of the road. I love Reggie to death, but this woman is, like, way out of his league and age bracket. Suspiciously so, too.
I was disappointed to find all the great special effects I remember take place mostly toward the end, but once they start they’re a fine spectacle. In retrospect, the movie has paced itself better than the original and it doesn’t blow its wad until it’s good and ready, which is admirable considering some of the try-hard modern shit I’ve seen lately. Phantasm II makes a little more sense than its predecessor and certainly looks better, too, but it’s not quite the milestone the first one was. Neither is it an entirely pointless sequel. The first one was packed to the brim with fresh ideas and this one helps feather out the edges.
I’ll feature the third one at midnight, Central Time.