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  Phantasm IV: Oblivion The Balls In Their Court
Year: 1998
Director: Don Coscarelli
Stars: A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury, Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy, Angus Scrimm, Christopher L. Stone
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) speeds through the night in a hearse, the barren landscape around him bereft of life, the images of his nightmare existence plaguing his inner thoughts. He doesn't know precisely why The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) wants him, but want him he does, to turn him into one of his undead much as he has done with the population of the world, leaving the survivors ploughing a lonely furrow. Mike shouldn't be alone, but he is: his best friend and guardian since childhood Reggie (Reggie Bannister) was separated from him after an altercation - is he even still alive?

Of course he is, you can't keep a good man like Reggie down, as seen in this, the fourth and final of the Phantasm series which the fans had mixed feelings about. Most of those misgivings were to do with the hopes that this entry would provide a convincing ending to the saga, which originally it was supposed to do, with a script by Pulp Fiction's Roger Avary (a self-confessed Phantasm fan). Alas, even though it was pitched as a low budget movie, they still couldn't raise the funds for it, and creator Don Coscarelli resorted to making this with the footage he had once lost from the first instalment edited into a new adventure.

He did so very well, and it was difficult for those who had followed the series so loyally not to feel the pang of nostalgia as the clips were presented, especially the one used for the ending which if a sequel and conclusion was never made, offered a very poignant, if unresolved, denouement for the three main heroes. There was an obvious effort to hark back to the source with this, as it looked to be made on the same near-shoestring, relying on the ingenuity of Coscarelli and his team to craft the surreal visuals and in this case, a more melancholy mood than the jokier previous part. Reggie still got to be comic relief, but overall this was subdued.

Actually, although the old gang were back together Mike didn't meet Reggie again until the movie was practically over, leaving the former slipping through dimensional doorways and the latter doing his road trip business from Phantasm III. We were teased with a spot of backstory, so Scrimm got to play his Tall Man's apparent ancestor, the one who designed the interdimensional gates many years ago and unleashed the fury of the supernatural beings on the planet. Quite how Dr Jebediah Morningside, for it was he, was connected to the evil incarnation of his later persona was not made tremendously clear, but then it wouldn't be a Phantasm movie if it all added up.

With some necessary innovation on Coscarelli's part such as shooting in a deserted Los Angeles by using the old trick of getting up before everyone else was awake, the atmosphere was stronger in this entry than any since it began, though the spectacle of the movie throwing weirdness after weirdness at the audience was lacking. Probably the most blatant crowd-grabber was to have Reggie in bed with yet another young lady (Heidi Marnhout), supposedly to get some kip, only to see her topless, which would be a bad thing because her breasts were killer metal spheres, not what you would want for any date. It was fair enough this hit the correct marks within its means, though the murderous and near indestructable cop (Bob Ivy) was a little too much of a cliché no matter if it led to pyrotechnics, but the sense of the characters - including the undead Jody (Bill Thornbury), returning from beyond the grave - wondering what had happened to their lives for all these years was surprisingly potent. Music by Christopher L. Stone.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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