Horror fans know the process of seeing a sequel sometimes drags for a bit, and becomes frustrating, those of Friday the 13th now experiencing this, with a new pushback planned, however those of the Phantasm series likely endured the most, with having to wait 18 years for possibly the final installment of the beloved films. Phantasm: Ravager, marks the first film in the series not directed by Don Coscarelli, herein David Hartman, an experienced animator, and having directed pervious television shorts, helms the chair in what one choose to define as a fan passion project. The initial project hatched from ideas of webisodes and then transformed into experimental filmmaking centered on the concept of CGI, with sporadic filming over a series of years. Now, what also separates the movie from many others are the silver flying spheres of enhancing deadly weaponry and of course, the legendary Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), who passed on January 9, 2016, these elements, sold the entire storyline in many manners. Ravager is not without a series of problems, aside from the plot, the rough edges expound exponentially and the determination of dedication to watch the movie to its completion a struggle for any fan.
The story began in mid 1979 with a low budget horror tale of a haunting figure who robbed graves, and since then transformed into a tale woven through four previous maddening films, with confusing dimensions and timelines. Yet each time the fans stayed loyal, though this last movie, likely tests that boundary to the maximum point, as it picks up from part four, Phantasm Oblivion, after all the false leads and rumors, with fan favorite character ice cream man hippie Reggie (Reggie Bannister) wandering a desert in search of his good friend Mike (A. Michael Baldwin). It all returns with him entering from another ‘space gate’ to another strange twisted path, of overlapping worlds of time, existence, but the nightmare of dual realities on mirror worlds perhaps and there lies the confusion, because ideally nothing really makes any sense. For the most part Reggie, the primary focus of the story this time around, with occasional one-liners such as “sorry about your horse” and driving his famed black 1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda. The concepts of Ravager race by quickly, as a full tilt hyper-warp of endless gunfire, morbid fascination, and more blood splatter, all at the hands of the endless fly sphere, and very little of actual Tall Man. Speaking strictly of Scrimm’s involvement of the production appears highly limited, likely ailing health, yet a meaningful speech, which transcends just the script and film, provides some sinister moments. However to explain the plot without giving any spoiler isn’t difficult, as one is not even sure one exists, that is exactly how flip-flopping the storyline presents itself. The viewers learn quickly that hero Reggie, seems assigned to a nursing home with dementia, pushed around in a wheelchair and the next he’s battling the demon dwarves and graver robbers, then back with his team of Mike and Jody (Bill Thornbury) in a modified ‘Cuda. One thing, extremely clear Reggie, still delivers the classic “WTF” facial expressions, and never fails to provide a smile to the fans of the series, after all that is who this movie really finds attraction, and no one else.
Although the production clearly lacked proper funding, the enthusiasm of the director goes unmatched in fact only Phantasm II was ever financed by a studio; otherwise the series had a passion from the filmmakers only. Nevertheless, other aspects do plague this movie more than the others with all the excessive usage of CGI and it shows clearly of a cheap looking cheesy set pieces. Noting the misguided effects of gunplay (no reloading needed) and then the comical visuals of fire, and enormous flying spheres wrecking havoc with laser beams leveling buildings, and it all goes further than that, almost an amateurish finale. Aside from the visuals, very bad framing occurs, poor steadicam, and sound quality suffering through the production.
However, fans of the series don’t fret over the trivial aspects of bad cinematography, or the excessive visuals of CGI addiction, rather the playful humor of Reggie, and a love affair of a comradery of friends battling overwhelming odds of evil forces and most certain death. This movie has the appeal to the diehards of the series, and while none of the questions one has for the existence of the movie find themselves answered, it never really matters, for fans, as the gateway stays open at the end, for another chance Phantasm film.