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  Phantasm III Third Time's The Harm
Year: 1994
Director: Don Coscarelli
Stars: Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Gloria Lynne Henry, Kevin Connors, Cindy Ambuehl, John Davis Chandler, Brooks Gardner, Angus Scrimm, Irene Roseen, Sarah Scott Davis, Duane Tucker, Claire Benedek, Wendy Way, Robert Beecher
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) wakes up in a hospital room after the hearse he was in the back of crashed, piecing his memories together as to what has been happening. His best friend and erstwhile guardian Reggie (Reggie Bannister) is there to help, because it was he who was in the front of the hearse when the woman next to him revealed herself to be a ghoul and ran them off the road, all part of the impenetrable masterplan of The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), an interdimensional being who is intent on keeping Mike for himself. Reggie fought off his minions, but The Tall Man won't be discouraged...

The second instalment in director Don Coscarelli's Phantasm series ended, as its first had, with a cliffhanger, but it took a good five years or so for fans to find out what had happened next, and by that time some changes had been made. Or rather, some things had changed back to the way they were in the original: part two had been backed by a big studio, and though it wasn't blessed with a huge budget it was noticeably more expensive than its predecessor. Part three, on the other hand, returned to the low budget indie roots of Coscarelli's beginning to the franchise, and also reunited its four main cast members.

For that reason, many fans found this one their second favourite after the first, as it had much the same mood and appearance what with A. Michael Baldwin reclaiming the role of Mike from James LeGros, who was off doing bigger things by that stage, and Bill Thornbury, seen dying in the finale of part one, back as not only a ghost, but a ghost trapped in one of those darned spheres. Not that the second one had been a dead loss, indeed for throwing the effects setpieces at the screen it had rivalled the previous entry, but with the cast in place this was more of a Phantasm flick for those who followed such things - the uninitiated would likely be wondering what the fuss was about.

Naturally, of such differing reactions are cult movies made, and though Coscarelli was working on more limited resources he still managed to create a film impressively faithful to his vision. They were all here: the towering Tall Man popping up when you least (i.e. most) expected him, the silver spheres zooming around and drilling into the unwary (though these do show up in unexpected places), all the accoutrements of the business of death, including hearses (one takes an impressive flip in mid-air which can't have been easy to achieve), mausoleums and graves, and a dash more humour this time around. That included making Reggie more fun, not that he wasn't before, but as he quoted Taxi Driver and lusted after his latest companion, he was the source of a good few laughs.

By this stage, taking the characters through the backwoods of American smalltowns growing increasingly abandoned and the lonely countryside surrounding them was bringing the series closer to post-apocalyptic science fiction, or at least during a slow Armageddon orchestrated by evil forces that only a handful of people are latching onto, the others either oblivious in the cities or falling victim to the curse of The Tall Man. As in part one, there was a kid (Kevin Connors) who Reggie acted as guardian to, though the boy was more than capable of looking after himself (see his horror-style Home Alone intro), and that companion was the ex-U.S. Army Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry) who knew a bunch of kung fu moves, handy for dispelling the odd zombie or flying sphere. The feeling that for all the morbidity everyone was enjoying themselves proved infectious, though again this ended on a cliffhanger as audiences wondered when, if ever, the story would be wrapped up.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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