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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead
1994 (2007) - Anchor Bay

The Blank of the Dead title is usually a reliable shorthand that tells the viewer, "Danger: Zombies Ahead". Usually but not always. Sure, there are plenty of resurrected corpses in Don Coscarelli's second sequel to his 1979 cult classic. But as is always the case with the Phantasm series, they play by their own rules. And yeah, I'm kind of stretching the Week of the Dead concept by including this movie, especially since the subtitle Lord of the Dead never once appears onscreen. If this troubles you, write your congressman.

Phantasm III picks up approximately 30 seconds after the conclusion of the prior film. As I mentioned previously, Universal still controls the rights to Phantasm II in the USA and has declined to release it on DVD. But all you really need to know is that Reggie (Reggie Bannister) and Mike (A. Michael Baldwin, returning to the role after being unceremoniously replaced by James LeGros in the second installment) are still being pursued by The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), his weird dwarf slaves and his arsenal of silver spheres. T.M. has a particular jones for Mike for reasons that kinda start to be made clear in this movie, although it's still pretty vague. At any rate, the Tall Man grabs Mike early on, leaving Reggie and a sphere holding the mind of Mike's late brother Jody (Bill Thornbury, also returning after a one-film hiatus) to try and get him back.

Of course, things are never quite that simple in Phantasm-land and Coscarelli veers off on a number of wild tangents that don't seem to have much to do with anything. Reggie has a run-in with a trio of thieves driving a pink hearse. They're soon dispatched in a wild, totally unexpected sequence by Tim (Kevin Connors), a young boy whose parents were taken by the Tall Man. Later on, Tim and Reggie hook up with Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry), a Grace Jones-esque badass whose nunchuks can't save her partner from the spheres. In any other movie, this scattershot approach might be annoying. Here though, it works. The Phantasm movies are all about keeping the audience on their toes. Coscarelli certainly does that here. You could never accuse Phantasm III of being predictable. Whether it all hangs together is debatable. Some Phantasm fans dislike the somewhat jokier feel of this entry. I might have myself if the jokes hadn't worked but for the most part, they do. Plus, Coscarelli never makes a joke at the expense of the Tall Man. Angus Scrimm keeps his dignity and sinister poise throughout, so the laughter stops whenever the Tall Man appears. This is an important distinction and failing to draw that line helped bring about the downfall of Freddy and Jason.

Anchor Bay's release of Phantasm III looks reasonably solid, if a bit soft and washed out. The audio mix is active and quite lively throughout. Extras are a bit skimpier than on the Phantasm release, unfortunately. The behind-the-scenes footage consists of several minutes of raw video material shot on-set. It's marginally interesting for fans but unfortunately lacks the commentary that appeared with the home movie footage on the first movie. There's also a blink-and-you'll-miss it deleted scene that runs a whopping 11 seconds plus trailers for this and the first Phantasm. The best extra is the audio commentary by A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm. It's too bad Coscarelli doesn't appear as well, especially since Baldwin and Scrimm are off-screen for large chunks of the movie's second act. Despite that, the two actors have a nice rapport and are refreshingly well-versed in the movie's production.

Horror sequels are often maligned and usually with good reason. But Phantasm III is a fun, unhinged ride that both lives up to the legacy of the original and makes you want a Part IV. I'd put it up against A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Friday The 13th, Part III on my shortlist of favorite horror threequels.

Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A-/C+

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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