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  Phantasm: Ravager Balls Of Steel
Year: 2016
Director: David Hartman
Stars: Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm, Dawn Cody, Gloria Lynne Henry, Stephen Jutras, Kathy Lester, Bill Thornbury, Daniel Roebuck, Daniel Schweiger, Cean Okada, Jon Johannessen, Joe Jefferson, Cesare Gagliardoni, Kathleen Hartman
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Reggie (Reggie Bannister) is all alone now, wandering through the desert with only the clothes on his back, a few bills in his pocket and his trusty four-barrelled shotgun - he was sure he had left is car, a '71 Cuda, around here somewhere, but is forced to draw the conclusion that someone has stolen it, and this does his mood no benefit whatsoever. He can remember when he started hunting for The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), it was back in the late seventies, because this evil entity which straddles countless dimensions kidnapped his younger friend Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), and Reggie refuses to accept he may be dead. Now, a wanderer between worlds that have been ravaged by his enemy, he might have to wake up to the fact that all may not be as it seemed...

Although the Phantasm series was one that prided itself on having a lax attitude to explaining itself in each instalment, and that sense of the first one, back in 1979, had that more or less all of this was being served up purely for effect because its creator Don Coscarelli thought it would look cool, had been continued right up to this fifth and final entry. But Coscarelli did not direct this one, he contributed to the script and produced it to ensure it was of a piece with the other four, though it was Phantasm fan David Hartman who was at the helm, presumably a reason why Ravager came across as a fan tribute that had somehow secured the services of the original cast - and plenty of them showed up here.

As a last hurrah, it disappointed many who were expecting the series to have evolved to something more slick and able to explain its weirdness, but perhaps they were not approaching this in the correct spirit. The second, relatively well-budgeted film aside, these had always made a virtue of their scraping by on meagre resources to bring its effects and atmosphere to the screen, and this was no exception with that signifier of an underfunded production come the twenty-first century, lots of cheap computer graphics, meaning the flying spheres that had become so associated with Phantasm were more often than not superimposed over the live action when they got around to drilling into various noggins.

But if that technology had been around in '79, you can bet that's what Coscarelli would have used to bring his fever dream to the screen, so you could not exactly criticise Hartman for using whatever he had to hand to create the imagery of a Phantasm apocalypse. What he brought that was more interesting was something rarely brought up in long running franchises where the same actors and behind the scenes crew had been working on them for many years, and that was the feeling of time catching up with them. It was no secret that Scrimm, such a gift to these movies as its focus for the mayhem, had died before Ravager was released (though he apparently did get to see the completed result before he passed away, which was good), and you just had to look at the trio of heroes to see that they were all, not to put too fine a point on it, getting on a bit.

This was handled two ways. First, the worry that as your final years are on the approach you look back and wonder what you have done with your time on Earth and weigh up if you have actually been spending it wisely, or if you wasted it with trivial or pointless endeavours, and Reggie, who has spent most of his existence on a quest that he will likely never see completed, has that bearing down on him. This was made all the more explicit in that second manner, as he appears to be flitting between dimensions, one of which offers the long awaited explanation for the strangeness we have seen in each story: that Reggie has been dreaming all this up as part of his dementia as he sits tended to in a retirement home. Understandably, not every fan was going to like that much, it seemed for the sceptics a negation of all the adventure we had been served up over the decades, but as it led to an open ending with Reg going to his Valhalla it would be fairly poignant for those who had been on this journey, and recalled the thrill of seeing those ads for the original, or even got to watch it as kids. If it had to finish, this was acceptable enough; it wouldn't be the same without Scrimm anyway. Music by Christopher L. Stone (with the theme present and correct).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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