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  Phantasm II Tall Story
Year: 1988
Director: Don Coscarelli
Stars: James LeGros, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm, Paula Irvine, Samantha Phillips, Kenneth Tigar, Ruth C. Engel, Mark Anthony Major, Rubin Kushner, Stacey Travis, J. Patrick McNamara, A. Michael Baldwin
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Liz (Paula Irvine) believes she has a connection to someone she hasn't met yet, Mike (James LeGros) who has his own history with weird supernatural events. When he was a kid, he thought he had uncovered a conspiracy involving a crazed funeral director known only as The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), who once Mike thought he had finally conquered him in a nightmare abruptly returned to try and kidnap him. Luckily, his guardian Reggie (Reggie Bannister) was there to save the boy by blowing up the house with the Tall Man and his tiny minions with it - or did he?

Well, pinning down exactly what was real and what wasn't would be difficult at the best of times in a Phantasm movie, but as the last line tells you, maybe this was the one where all the pandemonium was actually happening, though even that point of view would be undone by the subsequent entries. The biggest difference between this and the others would be the casting, for the plot here was essentially a reprise of the original, rehashing scenes from that with various twists to have them come up fresh as a daisy. Well, maybe not a daisy, probably something a lot more sinister than that, but as a variation on the themes of the first instalment, it kept the fans happy.

That casting might have remained a sticking point, however - apparently the original Mike, A. Michael Baldwin, was most disgruntled when he was replaced, though James LeGros did very well in the opinions of the others, and there was no Jody to be seen, having supposedly been killed at the end of the initial Phantasm. But they brought him back anyway next time around. Hey ho, the fabric of reality was very elastic in this series, and what the followers of writer and director Don Coscarelli's brainchild would want to know was if this lived up to the barrage of weirdness that came before, to which the answer was that the novelty might have worn off, but what they did with what they had remained entertaining.

If you could call something as morbid as this "fun", that was, but with bigger roles for the flying spheres - the tagline was "The Ball is Back!", as if recognising the bit everyone remembered - which not only saw the metal monsters drilling into skulls but also through someone's body to emerge through their mouth, and act as a spare set of keys to the room with the tuning fork-style dimension gateway within. The setting of graveyards and funeral homes spoke to an unease with the trappings of death felt far keener than the average horror flick, which could be why it stuck in the mind longer than its contemporaries, or it could be that Coscarelli's straight faced but bizarre inventions genuinely tapped into a nightmare quality.

This time around there was a road movie plot as Mike, recently released from a psychiatric hospital, and Reggie, a convert to his cause now his family have been wiped out by the Tall Man, take to the highways and byways to track down their foe. They are accompanied by Liz, who they finally catch up with due to her psychic connection to Mike, and a hitchhiker (Samantha Phillips) who Mike has seen on the slab in a mortuary he was investigating, but now seems to be right as rain. There's a DIY tone to their battles as they raid a hardware store to tool up with a homemade flamethrower, quadruple barrelled shotgun and the ever-present chainsaw (which is put to proper woodcutting use, good to see), but not many laughs as our heroes take all this very seriously. Well, there is a part where the hitcher takes a liking to Reggie's bald head in a sex scene, but the character who seems to be having the most fun is The Tall Man; Scrimm was such an enjoyable sight to see as he foils his pursuers endlessly. Music by Fred Myrow and Christopher L. Stone.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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