Review

Review

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

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Here's what you missed in Phantasm 2: Mike gets released from a loony bin, tracks down his old buddy Reggie, and hits the road in search of the Tall Man's latest activities. He finds the undead bastard in, you guessed it, a cemetery -- which is where much gooey mayhem goes down before we arrive at ... Phantasm 3!

Back behind the camera for a third go-round is writer/director Don Coscarelli, the filmmaker who clearly doesn't mind going back to the series every once in a while. (Phantasm came out in 1979, Part 2 in 1988, Part 3 in '94 and Part 4 in '98 ... so where's Part 5 already, Don?) And if the series ever started running out of steam, then someone forgot to tell the director. Parts 2 and 3 have a lot in common, actually, despite coming from different distributors. The only story-line that Coscarelli seems to need is this: Mike and Reggie continue to search for The Tall Man, only every time they catch up with the metaphysical maniac and his silver spheres, all holy hell breaks out, many bystanders get skewered, and the Tall Jerk manages to live another day.

But you don't watch a Phantasm movie for the stories. You watch 'em for the tone, the craziness, the weird scares, and the "kitchen sink" approach that keeps the series chugging along -- even if the sequels don't manage to pack the primal punch of the original Phantasm. (The first film is like an actual nightmare, whereas the sequels feel more like someone's garish descriptions of a nightmare.) But in a genre that deals with worthless sequels all the time, it's reassuring to know that at least all the Phantasm flicks come from the same guy, for better or for worse. The director's follow-ups get just a bit goofier and more outlandish as they go on, but there's little denying that they're still quite a bit of fun -- if only for the devoted gorehounds out there. Plus the sequels pack in a nifty dose of action and tongue-in-cheek humor amidst all the crazy carnage. I suppose it'd be fun to finally sit down and watch all four back to back ... but Universal apparently holds the rights to Phantasm 2, and they sure don't seem to be in a big hurry where this title is concerned.

But at least we have good ol' Anchor Bay to deliver one half of the undeniably arcane Phantasm series -- and who would have ever expected a release this solid for ... Phantasm 3? (Not me, that's for sure.) The sequel arrives by way of a rather solid anamorphic widescreen presentation ... which looks pretty slick for a low-budget sequel's sequel. Obviously you'll notice some minor glitches here and there, but this is the best I've ever seen P3 look. (Truth be told, though, this is only my second visit with the movie.) Audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 -- the 5.1 is quite good, all things considered.

Just like with Anchor Bay's new release of the original Phantasm, the extras are numerous and quite entertaining -- but they're also all recycled from previous DVDs. If you don't own the slick-looking UK box set, then you've probably never heard the Phantasm 3 commentary between actors Angus Scrimm and Michael Baldwin. Now here's your chance. About ten minutes of on-set home movies are also included, as are a deleted scene and some trailers for Phantasm and Phantasm 3. Obviously this DVD is not nearly as stocked with goodies as the original Phantasm platter is, but hey, it's Phantasm 3, after all. (Here's hoping Anchor Bay lands the video rights to Phantasm 2 and Phantasm 4 some time soon!)

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